“Leadership is an art, a performing art and the instrument is self. The mastery of the art of leadership comes from the mastery of the self. Ultimately, leadership development is self-development.”

By Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner

Baby Girl Thinking-ID: 157328 © Rhphotos | Dreamstime

Baby Girl Thinking-ID: 157328 © Rhphotos | Dreamstime

I attended a presentation by Barry Posner, Ph. D. on “Learning Leadership.” One thing I walked away with is that we are born with leadership characteristics that we forgot because we developed other characteristics that buried the ones we were born with.

This got me thinking what such characteristics I had as a child that I forgot as I grew up.

Many incidents came to my mind. One of them happened in India when I was about 4 years old.

I was visiting a small village in India with my family and went to a river bank with the maid-servant who was taking care of me. I noticed that some kids were jumping in this somewhat fast moving river and then getting out about a 100 yards downstream. They were yelling and having a grand time.

I wanted to join in. So I jerked out of the grip of the maid, ran to the river and jumped into it, not considering the fact that the river was deep and I didn’t know how to swim. Fortunately, somebody jumped in, after hearing desperate cries from my maid, to pull me out. You may be saying, “Boy, that was a very reckless thing to do!”

This incident didn’t teach me to avoid water. I learned how to swim and developed a passion for swimming and other water sports that continue today. I now try to draw on the characteristics of being spontaneous as a kid.

Many adults have retained the trait of seeing an opportunity and jumping into it without having any idea about how they will accomplish the task. One such person was Steve Jobs. I recall from the movie “Jobs” that he committed to a store-owner delivery of 50 packaged units of personal computers (PC) within an unrealistic short time without having any idea of how he was going to deliver it. People around him then most likely thought that, that was a very naïve and reckless behavior.

If Steve hadn’t succeeded, people even now would consider his decision to be a very reckless one. Steve succeeded in delivering the 50 PCs; and he repeated making similar reckless decisions and succeeded numerous times. Yes, he also failed sometimes.

Steve jumped into the flow of fast moving events, only knowing “What” he wanted to achieve and not considering “How” he was to achieve it. He was possibly driven by his passion.

I have watched my granddaughter learn to walk, or rather develop walking skills and wondered where did she learned the process of developing skills? How did she learned about growing from trial and error? None of the parents consciously teach any such process at that age; although they sometimes hinder it.

I have seen kids dream or imagine some very “crazy” ideas about how to make the world perfect. Adora (watch the video below), when she was six years old, had a dream to publish her book. She didn’t really know that the decision was irrational and all the reasons why she cannot succeed. She just kept trying, falling, and getting up, and trying again.

So what do kids do differently that adults need to learn or remember?

  1. Kids dream and develop visions and use their passion to drive themselves. They focus on the dream and don’t get attached to how to achieve it.
  2. They believe in self and don’t get stopped by any limited beliefs. As a matter of fact, kids have very few beliefs, because they are inexperienced.
  3. Kids are blind about what other people will think of them.
  4. Kids are curious and resilient.
  5. AND lastly kids sometimes behave recklessly and they have fun.

So you can see we have lots to learn from kids.

I would love to hear about incidences when you have made decisions that may have appeared childish or reckless to others that helped you or helped others immensely.

You can watch Adora’s video: How she manifested her dreams and now try to teach adults how to be a kid: