Want to Raise Natural Leaders? Take a Cue from Nature
Leadership can be a tricky subject, especially when talking to young kids. They’ve probably heard about leaders in the news and at school (Who’s the next line leader this week?), but it’s not always easy to explain what leadership means. The best way to start is by showing them simple examples of leadership and what qualities make a good leader. We can do this using picture books. Specifically, nonfiction books about natural leadership in the animal kingdom.
By using these types of books, you can focus on basic characteristics of a good leader, how different leadership styles and skills work in different environments and how every great leader starts off small, just like our little readers.
For instance, in the Leads series, which you can find on Make Momentos, we follow the journey of the elephant matriarch, the mighty silverback gorilla and the teamwork seen in a gray wolf pack. We see that leadership looks different in each case.
In She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch, readers see that this female leader is smart, strong, caring and protective, and without pushing a “you can do this” lesson, they still see a female leader works so well for this group that travels great distances in the savannah.
In He Leads: Mountain Gorilla, the Gentle Giant, readers see how, even though the silverback is strong enough to flip a car, he is still gentle, protective and even playful. He’ll avoid conflict to keep his family safe and hidden in his dense forest, but when necessary, he’ll use his awesome strength. He is more than just his size and athletic ability.
In They Lead: The Wolf Pack, readers get to see how teamwork, structure and rules are needed for the wolves to be successful. They also see that a wolf pack is just a family. The “alphas” are simply the mother and father, aka the breeding pair, who set out to find their own territory and raise their young. Though they sometimes adopt lone wolves into their pack as well. Together they are stronger than they could ever be alone, protecting their territory, raising young and hunting creatures much larger than themselves.
In different environments a leader must behave in different ways and hone different skills. What works on an open savannah wouldn’t work in dense forests. There is no one perfect leader, or one way to lead. The leaders are not always the biggest in the group, or the strongest in the group, or even the offspring of a previous leader. Different styles work best at different times. Each leader is multifaceted and unique. And by using nature, we share these ideas without bias.
Nature also shows us how different communities works. The extended family of elephants is very different than the troop of mostly unrelated gorillas, and different still from the simple family structure of a wolf pack.
Overall, there are reoccurring themes about leaders that care, protect, teach and guide. At the end of each book in the series is the young of that animal. Because ever little reader should know, the only thing every single great leader has in common, no matter who they are or where they come from, is that they all started out small, just like them. One day, they will lead!
About the Author
June Smalls is the author of fiction and nonfiction for children including Odd Animal ABC’s, the Leads Series, and Hear Them Roar! She resides in northern Virginia with her family and an ever growing number of pets. Find out more about her books and for educational resources at junesmalls.com.