I was staying with my sister when I was visiting my family last week. One of her neighbors has two girls aged 5 and 7, Rita and Meeta. These two girls are the most adorable children I have ever met. They spend their entire evening at my sister’s house, after she and her husband get back home. One of the evenings, we were chatting and having fun with the kids when the younger girl, Rita whispers something in her sister, Meeta’s, ear and tells her don’t share. “Keep it a secret, ok promise.” She then looks at me from the corner of her eye with an abashed look. By then, Meeta, however reveals her secret. The secret being that Rita has a friend in school who loves her. Rita looks at us sheepishly and says he keeps saying I love you. But I don’t. So my sister asks her, so why don’t you tell him what you feel? Oh, but I have only over heard and he hasn’t told me directly. When he tells me directly, I’ll let him know. My sister asks her how would she tell him, and I was surprised with her response. She said, “I love my parents and my sister, and as of now that’s it.”
Mind you, this is a girl who is barely 5 years old.
What lessons of leadership can we learn from children?
- Clarity – Rita was very clear in communicating about her experience, what love meant to her and why this boy’s behavior made her uncomfortable. Even at that age she was crystal clear and did not mince her words. She was confused and her mind was possibly wrestling with what she should do. She in her childlike innocence revealed her secret to her sister. Leaders often know what is needed but many times get lost in their mental chatter. Often the solution lies in mindfulness and following the heart and not laboring the mind. The time to act is not when you are confused.
- Emotional Intelligence – Rita had overheard this remark but she had the EQ not to react to that boy, because that comment was not yet made directly to her. She had the emotional awareness to not react immediately but prepare herself if and when that happens. As leaders, of utmost importance, is striking the right balance between IQ and EQ. Many times the team may consist of people who may not have understood what is required of them or may be preoccupied with some other thoughts. A leader will do well to recognize such situations and not publicly humiliate team members who err or consistently seem preoccupied. Leaders can navigate through challenging times if they have a high EQ. Being self-aware and empathetic is critical.
- Discuss and Ask for Help – Rita was feeling embarrassed to discuss what was troubling her in front of my sister and I, but my gut feel is that she told Meeta realizing that she would tell us. Rita did that because she wanted to discuss and see what we had to tell her. As leaders, you can’t be expected to know everything. If you are not sure of something, ask, discuss and clarify. No one can fly solo all the time. It is better to ask for support rather than make a mistake and lose the trust of your team members.
How many times have you been in awe at the questions that children ask ?
Have the questions that a child asks made you reflect?
What have you learned from observing children?
Children are always curious, they never stop asking questions. They are on a never-ending quest to learn, to share, to try out new things. They follow their heart and lead from within though they may be too young to realize this.
Don’t we as adults and leaders need to learn a thing or two from children?