The other day my oldest daughter Riley received a letter from school saying that she’s been nominated to serve on our school’s newly formed student council. It’s an honor to be nominated by her teacher, and now over the next few days she has to win the support of her peers. Anyone who has spent time around a group of 7 year olds knows that’s a fickle group of constituents. Sure, they may be easily compelled by promises of recess or candy, but this is an opportunity for Riles to figure out what they really need and determine how to advocate for that. This is what good leaders do.
I’m actually really excited (perhaps more so than Riles?) for this opportunity. Obviously my own political experience and interest play a role here. I’m going to enjoy the process of helping her craft a campaign simply for the sake of the exercise. But I also have to caution myself not to drift too far into living vicariously through my daughter. Let’s face it, just because I lost my race earlier this year doesn’t mean helping her win hers will change things. Besides, Riles is a different kind of leader (and person) than I am. She’s quiet, soft spoken, and leads first with her actions than her words. It’s likely one of the reasons she was chosen. I’ve noticed that people tend to follow her simply because they like what she’s doing, not necessarily because of anything she’s said. This is also something that good leaders know: leadership is more caught than taught.
So as I begin to help her over the next few days, what I’m most excited to learn is what kind of leader does she want to be? Why is she even interested in rising to the challenge of leading her peers? My wife mentioned to me that she’s already a little nervous about having to give a speech (which I consider the most fun part of the process!), but I’m not surprised. Riley’s a very articulate young lady, but she doesn’t prefer the limelight. In some ways I’m more nervous though for her as her dad, because I know the risk of failure involved. I’m just so proud to see her try something outside of her comfort zone regardless of the result. It’s going to be a fun way to get to know my daughter better as we spend quality time working on her campaign. I’m looking forward to what I learn.