What I learned about leadership from my 2-year old son

It's amazing what you can learn from children... My little boy - pictured above - taught me a valuable lesson about leadership, and the importance of nurturing.

My son's name is Liam, and as much as I hate to admit it, I dont spend nearly enough time with him. However, what time I do spend with him, I try to make sure it is time well spent!

One of Liam's favourite activites is playing with Duplo (Lego for kids). We would often sit down together and he would ask me:

"Daddy. Build tall tall!"

In the past - I would not think twice - and I would start building away, completely oblivious to what he was doing. Then it hit me... Actually, it was my wife hitting me:

"How is that helping him?"

I thought about this for a while, and as much as I hate to admit it, my Wife was right. I was not helping Liam develop his cognitive skills. I was not helping Liam to develop his eye hand coordination. I was not helping to build Liam’s confidence. In fact, the only person I was helping was myself.

The next time Liam asked me to "Build tall tall", I decided to use a different approach by asking him lots of questions, including:

  • What do you want to build?
  • Can you pick out a piece for me?
  • Where should we put this piece?
  • What colour is this piece?
  • What shape is this piece?
  • Why did you pick this piece?
  • Where else could we put this piece?

After 5 or 6 questions Liam stopped looking to me for guidance and started building all by himself. The ‘petrol station’ you see below is all his work!


Now you might be asking, what does this have to do with leadership? Well, the answer is pretty simple... Everything!

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch

Not unlike a parent, leaders have a responsibility to nurture others. They have a responsibility to help those around them to develop their skills and boost their confidence.


Where can you start?

  • Think long and hard about those around you... What are their goals and aspirations? What are their strengths? Where do they need to develop?
  • Have regular coaching styled conversation with those around you and put proper development plans in to action.
  • When members of your team come to you with a problem, don’t just give them the solution... Ask them questions so that they can figure it out for themselves.
  • When members of your team produce unacceptable work, don’t fix it for them...Ask them questions so that they can fix it for themselves.
  • Adopt a coaching / facilitative leadership style by asking questions rather than giving suggestions or barking orders.


At the end of the day, the success of the people around you is the true testimant to your success as a leader.

Thanks for teaching me a valuable lesson kiddo!

© Jim Livingstone. All Rights Reserved.