Respectful care is the basis of leadership

At different times in our lives we will all be expected to stand up and show leadership in some way or another. Leadership is about being able to influence others to work together towards meaningful and worthwhile outcomes.

You might not have the official title that says you are in charge, but you can still be called upon to show leadership. It might be about working with others to find a way ahead when they are feeling down, losing hope and thinking that they have lost their way.

Sometimes it is just about standing up for what is right. Leadership is not about being able to boss people around. Instead it is about getting people engaged and involved in useful efforts that have wider beneficial outcomes.

As parents we can prepare our son or daughter in some important ways to develop his or her potential as a leader and just as importantly to be able to work constructively with other people when they demonstrate leadership. A fundamentally personal quality for effective leadership is the capacity to care for others.

In children we see this quality as empathy for others and a capacity to relate to others at an emotional level. Empathy is associated with compassion for others and a capacity to relate to what they are experiencing.

An important parenting behaviour is looking your child in the eye when you are experiencing emotions, whether positive emotions when rejoicing in some good behaviour or negative emotions such as disgust with bad behaviour.

The other fundamental basis for leadership is respectful self-care. This is not about self-love, but rather about having a positive self image and sound self esteem. Children need to learn to accept themselves and be able to express their natural personality with confidence in social settings.

As parents we need to accept our children and encourage them to have the confidence to grow and build on their natural strengths and interests. Positive self-esteem means that we learn to deal realistically with the challenges of life and accept ourselves as a real person rather than craving for some escapist dream or Facebook image, or even trying to live out some unrealised dream of our parents.

At the end of the day, leaders are able to influence followers because the followers see that the leader has self-respect and respects others as fellow human beings. It is from this basis that the leader-follower relationship begins.

Do build and support your child’s:

  • confidence in working out how to tackle everyday challenges.
  • capacity to support his or her friends in a genuine way.
  • willingness to take on new tasks or challenges.
  • ability to learn from setbacks and mistakes.
  • capacity to be in touch with his or her emotions and to be able to communicate how he or she is feeling in an appropriate way to others.
  • capacity to work out what is right and what is wrong.


Dr James Warn



Dr James Warn is a registered psychologist, a Member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and the College of Organisational Psychologists. James has work experience as a school teacher, Army officer, organisational consultant, psychologist and as a university lecturer and researcher. He has published articles on leadership and is currently writing a book on responsible leadership. He is the father of a daughter and a son.

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