Parents as Leadership Developers

by  Karin Hurt  |  Self Leadership
Parents as Leadership Developers post image

Parents are well positioned to be the first leadership developers of their children. And yet, many parents do not take a deliberate approach to growing leadership in their kids.

Parents work to give them an early start in music, sports, and reading, but for some reason wait until they are older to talk about leading.

It is never too early to help your kids understand that leadership involves service, communication, teamwork, and helping others to grow.

Conversation Starters

It can feel awkward to speak to your kids about leadership if you feel like the pressure’s on to always be in active teaching mode. A good place to start is just weaving some leadership discussion into your every day conversation. Over the dinner table or as a part of your bedtime routine is the perfect place to start.

Don’t worry if you have the perfect question to ask to reinforce a particular skill. Instead get really curious about what’s going on with your child, ask open-ended questions, and see where the conversation goes. Without a doubt, you’ll not only learn about the way your child sees the world but also open yourself up to some very meaningful conversations.

In case you’d like some ideas on how to start a conversation about leadership skills with your child, here are some ideas.


  • How were you kind today?
  • If your child tells you a friend was not kind ask: What happened? What could have been different?


  • Why do you think we need to be honest?
  • How do you feel when you’ve been caught lying?


  • What one thing did you learn today?
  • What else do you want to learn about this (topic)?


  • Why do you want to give up?
  • Why do you think it matters that you try again?


  • Why do you think it’s important to respect your teacher?
  • Do you think that people that look different from you really are different inside?


  • Who is the most creative person you know?
  • What makes them really, really creative?

Problem Solving

  • What do you do when you feel really stuck?
  • What’s a problem you’ve solved recently that makes you really proud? How did you make things better?


  • What makes you a great leader?
  • What areas of your leadership are you looking to improve?

This post is co-authored with Alli Polin and includes excerpts from our free e-book A Parent’s Guide to Leadership. You can download a free copy here.

You can hear about developing leadership in children in my interview on Mukesh Gupta’s podcast Pushing Beyond The Obvious.

Alternatively, you can learn more in this curation of thought leaders, including some insights from children: Parents As Leaders: Frontline Festival.

How have you inspired leadership in children? We would love to hear your stories.

About The Author

Articles By karin-hurt
Karin Hurt is a leadership speaker, consultant and MBA professor. She’s a former Verizon Wireless executive with 2 decades of diverse cross-functional experience in sales, customer service and HR. She was recently recognized on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Speakers for your next conference, AMA’s 50 Leaders to Watch in 2015, and Trust Across America’s 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Kartic  |  28 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Fantastic. Great insights. Thanks Karin.

Karin Hurt  |  29 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thanks so much!

Paul LaRue  |  28 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thank you Karin! You’ve struck a chord that sometimes we as parents fall short on. We are leaders at work, but often take off the leadership mantle when we come home.

In order for leaders to develop and be effective in the future, we must groom children today. If we see the value in our children’s lives as leaders, they will carry that belief their entire lives.

An excellent read, thank you so much.

Karin Hurt  |  29 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thanks, Paul. Always appreciate your insights.

Brian D Barton  |  28 Oct 2014  |  Reply

It is very important that leadership starts at the youngest of ages and that parents play a key role in this development. However, the issue that many parents face is that they aren’t able to teach leadership because they may not be practicing it in their own lives. They are employees under the control of their bosses, they are lambs of the church and when given the opportunity to take leadership roles they opt to let someone else take that role.

The most effective teachers of leadership are those who are taking active leadership roles that could be examples and re-enforcements that supplements teachings such as you’ve mentioned.

I remember seeing coaches trying to teach their players how to hit and they would say stay back, swing level, and be balanced; but how do they actually teach that. I learned that apart from just giving advice, many coaches do not possess the ability to actually show what they mean.

Thank you for the insight and the first start.

Karin Hurt  |  29 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Brian, you really raise and excellent point! The best way to teach your kids about leadership is to model the way. I’ve written about that too ;-) http://letsgrowleaders.com/leadership-in-children/teach_kids_about_leadership/

Cynthia Bazin  |  29 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Really love this Karin! Great conversations to have with our kids. I am sharing this and definitely saving this article. Thank you! Excellent….

karin hurt  |  31 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thanks so much Cynthia.

Erin Schreyer  |  29 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Great post! The questions are super. Thank you!

karin hurt  |  31 Oct 2014  |  Reply

Thanks, Erin!

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