What my children taught me about the different flavors of leadership



Lately, I have been very impacted by my children and all their colorfulness. I have four children, and what I have found is that each has his/her unique way of moving through life. They remind me of the types of leaders we might encounter in our workplaces too.

There are many different flavors of leadership. You might see yourself in my children, or you may not. I hope you can take time to gain more clarity into your leadership style.


The Principled Leader


I have written many articles about my oldest who happens to be my only girl. She is 15-years-old and full of the attitude that normally comes with that age.

Despite her edge, she has always exhibited very strong leadership traits. Even though she had health and learning setbacks for much of her life, she constantly impresses those around her with her tenacity, resilience and desire to be more than she is now.

Even though she is the oldest and the only girl, she is not particularly nurturing.  Having said that, I have noticed that she has a pure view of what friendship means to her. She expects consistency in her relationships. She provides that level of consistency to her friends.

She has zero tolerance for those who either don’t exhibit high morals, or are not consistent with being respectful to others. She is honest and likes to follow a set of rules.

I am very proud of who she is becoming. I look to her in many ways. When I am looking for clarity on something, I often mention something to her and in her matter-a-fact way makes the answer clear. She may not be the popular one, but when others need to know the right thing to do, they go to her for advice.

I see in her a leader who has a quiet presence, but she is the “get it done” type who will stand on her principles and stick up for those who are excluded.

She teaches me that actions speak louder than words any day.


The Nurturing Leader


My 13-year-old son is only like my daughter in that he is not an extrovert. He is the quiet, engineer-type who takes time to process everything and openly shares very little.

Paradoxically, he is the most empathetic of my children. He has been known to cry during a touching commercial.

He reminds me of the most caring manager I have ever met. He senses when I am not operating as my best self and verbally and visually checks in to make sure I am doing well. He cares for the needs of his siblings when they are down, or just need help.

He takes his friendships seriously and refuses to snitch even if it benefits himself. I have noticed that he is very selfless. In fact, I have had to tell him many times not to give up his seat or his food for his siblings.

When I think of the person I would want to go to war with, it would be him, because he would protect me no matter what. This is exactly why I am very nervous about him ever entering the military.

I have not ever met an adult as selfless as he is. I have been fortunate enough to have two managers with some of these tendencies. I notice how his two younger brothers look up to him and follow him. They trust that he will “take care of” them.

He teaches me that when you advocate for the needs of others, you will be respected.


The Courageous & Bold Leader


My 11-year-old son has always been an independent kid who challenges authority and takes risks. The one gift that surfaced in the last few years is his deep desire to cook for the family.

Yes, my 11-year-old consistently and confidently whips up dishes for our family. He was making omelets at 7-years-old, and has graduated to sauting spinach, leftover roast and carmelized onions as a way to quench his thirst to provide for the family.

I have to admit; our schedules have been a little over-extended over the past year. He has come to the rescue many-a-times, calling me when I am on my way home and asking what’s for dinner. He, then, takes it upon himself to come up with something so that I don’t have to worry about what we will cook.

He got the cooking bug from my husband, but I think he took the desire to challenge those around him from me.

He is an independent-thinker who has very little fear and picks up the pieces when others are having a hard time doing it all. He doesn’t really ask for permission often, but if challenged about his intentions he is the most honest person I know.

He has been my rock.

Unlike his older brother who can cry for any reason, he rarely cries, but when he does, we pay attention.

His strength is inspiring as he is not easily broken. I love that about him.

He teaches me that independence, dependability and courage are great attributes to have as a leader.


The Charismatic and Competitive Leader


My 7-year-old son is, in many ways, just as you would think the youngest of four might be. He is dependent on others to do things for him, he is a little lazy, he makes excuses for not doing his part and blames his brothers for everything.

Nonetheless, he has his own leadership style. It is evolving, but evident. His older siblings often follow him.

At the age of 2, he would act out the role of a priest, complete with a full Mass at our home.

It was very cute.

The most interesting part is that he always demanded to be the “leader.” He would often tell me that he would be a bishop or the Pope not just a priest. As the years roll on, he has changed what he wants to be when he grows up, but no matter what, he always has to be the best or the top of his game. He wouldn’t be a soccer player, but the most successful one. He would not be a firefighter, but wants to be the fire chief.

He wants to win in all he does and doesn’t take loss easily. Lucky for him, he has great charisma. He’s cute and sweet and uses this to his advantage. We often coach him that he will sometimes have to follow others.

He cringes at the thought.

He doesn’t mind competing just as long as he wins-with a smile.

He teaches me that sometimes people follow leaders simply because they either demand it or provide no other options for others to lead. It’s hard to say “no”, especially when they are also charismatic.


I often consider the different ways people have either led me or when I have chosen to follow. It’s interesting to uncover the types of people who lead others. My children provide rich examples of just a few combinations. There are probably hundreds more. Let’s go on this journey of discovery together.


Thank you for reading this article. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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