Follow the Leader


This week, Eklund Consultant Lesley Fisher shares how leading children can help us remember the importance of leading adults.

Every May, the elementary school our kids formerly attended holds a University Day for its students. The idea is to expose youngsters to a variety of careers and interests, and the presenters are community members, many of whom are parents.

Several years ago, when I was serving on the local school board, I was kindly invited to speak to the kids about leadership. I love this school. All three of our kids love this school. While I was grateful to be included and happy to fill a need for the fantastic teachers who organize the day, I was leery at best. I couldn’t shake the idea of subjecting this exuberant audience to 40 minutes of lecturing about best practices. With options of presentations including scientists, detectives, athletes, and seeing eye dog trainers just doors away, I feared I would walk into three sessions of small groups, consisting of those who didn’t get their first (or fourth) choices, and ended up in my room by default.

It was time to pivot.

I decided to entitle my presentation ‘Follow the Leader’. Surely, many kids would be interested in playing games. Brilliant. Large numbers signed up and arrived at the session quite eager.

While we do play games for a small portion of our time together (Simon Says is a fan favorite), we primarily discuss what makes a person a great leader.

Simon says great leaders are just born that way…Put your hands in the air if this is correct.

Simon says great leaders are tall…are short…have brown eyes.

Year after year, these 6-10 year-olds NEVER fall for it.

They know. They have already witnessed great leadership. They see it in their parents, their siblings, their coaches, grandmas, babysitters, teachers, and principals.

They teach me about it:

They listen to me.

They tell the truth.

They speak loudly and slowly so I can hear the instructions.

They are nice and encourage me to do my best.

They are proud of me.

They may be young, but they are wise. In my work within schools, the attributes and skills that effective, great leaders possess are no different. Your staff wants you to engage with them, to be clear, supportive, and appreciative.

You have worked hard and well this year. You know your audience and thoughtfully consider what they need and want.

Reflect this summer: Are you a great leader?

If yes, you weren’t born that way. It has taken deliberate planning and consistent practice.

If no, it is time to pivot.