Kids who become leaders have parents who teach them 8 things, according to science

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Do you want to take out an insurance policy on your future? For that you’d need a leader that you and others can trust. Why not teach your own children to become the trusted leaders of tomorrow that others will want to follow?

What is the one quality that distinguishes a great leader from the rest? Great leaders are able to formulate a vision and communicate it clearly and effectively. In other words, great leaders are able to persuade others to follow them.

Is this a skill that can be taught?

Contributing editor Jeff Haden at has these suggestions for parents who want to teach their children to become great leaders.

1) Teach you kids to start with small “wins”

Teach children to take propositions that they are fairly sure others will agree with. Each agreement builds on the others and builds confidence. As Haden puts it: Build a foundation for further agreement. This is supported by research that found that reaching agreement has an enduring effect, even if only over the short term.

2) Teach them always show confidence

It is a shortcoming of humans that we are fooled time and time again by people who show a lot of confidence. In fact, research shows that we put confidence above expertise!

Don Moore from Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Behavioral Decision Research has published research showing that we prefer advice from a confident source, even to the point that we are willing to forgive a poor track record.

Teach them to state their opinions with utter conviction. People are naturally drawn to those with confidence because it makes them feel safe.

3) Teach them to adjust their rate of speech to their audience

Have you ever been bamboozled by a fast-talking salesman? There’s a reason for that. If an astute salesman senses that you are going to disagree with him, he will speak faster so you don’t have time to form your own opinion. If he senses that you might agree with him, it makes sense to speak slower in order to give you time to evaluate his arguments.

“The combination of your reasoning plus their initial bias means they are more likely to, at least in part, persuade themselves,” says Haden.

So, teach your children to gauge their audience smartly.

4) Teach them that the odd swear word is acceptable

Sometimes, when you need to deliver a punch, it won’t have any effect if you do it softly and politely. “Go kick their ass!” doesn’t sound very professional, but it will get the guys worked up and ready to do the job.

In short, says Haden, teach your kids to be themselves and that might mean using colorful language at appropriate occasions. It is a natural thing for most of us to do. It’s part of being authentic and authenticity is always more persuasive.

5) Teach them to know how their audience prefers to process information

Some people need time to process a new idea. If you put pressure on them to decide immediately, you lose them. Others don’t want long explanations and are bored by data and figures. So again, teach your children to sense when they can push for an agreement and when not. This will of course come with experience, but it won’t happen at all if you don’t make them aware of it.

6) Teach them to focus on describing positive outcomes

It is always better to deliver a message in a positive tone and with the focus on positive outcomes. Nobody likes to hear that they have been wrong in their behavior and must change, but they will buy into positively phrased messages.

A positive tone also builds credibility. Teach children that when they are positive when communicating with others, it can make a huge impact on their reactions and support. Researchers have found that the emotional tone of a leader delivering news made more impact that the news itself!

“So if your kids are trying to create a change, tell them to focus on sharing the positives of that change. They want to take their audience to a better place, not tell their audience what to avoid,” says Hayden.

7) Teach them to share the good and the bad

This is about teaching kids that they have to present the whole picture, not just their preferred version. Sharing the opposite viewpoint is another credibility creator. After all, ignoring the opposite points of view won’t make them go away.

Teach your kids to study the opposite arguments just as well as their own and to be ready to address any opposing views directly.

8) Most of all, teach your kids not to just say they’re right. Teach them to be right

You can only persuade others if you know that you are right. You can also only be confident if you know that you are right. Teach your children to check and recheck their data, to arrange their arguments in a logical manner and deliver a complete message.

Pearl Nash