Follow the Leader


There’s a game I played as a kid and maybe you did too. “Follow the Leader” is pretty simple. You can do it inside or out, with a couple of friends or many. First, you pick a leader among the group. The objective is for everyone else to follow behind that leader doing exactly what they do. By exactly, I mean, if they scratch their nose, you have to do the same. If they cough, you cough. If they ride their bike over a stick, then you have to ride over the same stick. For the leader, the objective is to try to eliminate the followers by coming up with tasks that are so difficult they can’t mimic them or that are so complicated they forget one of the steps.

In the game of life, the objective of a leader is quite the opposite. Whether you are the leader of your own children, grandchildren, neighbor’s kids, youth group participants, foster children, or your children’s friends, you want to make following your lead as easy as possible. You want the example to be worthy and upstanding. People don’t always know the influence they have over others at the moment they are with them. You may recognize the effect right then and there or it may be identified later in life. With your own children, however, I guarantee you are impacting their life daily whether it’s positive or negative, depending on your lead.

Think about today. Is your lead a positive example? If your kids did what you did, said what you said, or disagreed about what you disagreed with, would it make you proud? Not everyone can answer yes to that question, at least not today. But why not decide right now to change or at least be more aware of your example to others? There are a lot of ways you can do that.

Watch where you go. Certainly, as an adult you have the right to go anywhere, but are the places you visit places you think are appropriate for your children (at whatever age they are now or when they become adults)?

Watch who you hang around with because you will become like the people you follow. Haven’t you given this same advice to your teenagers? It’s possible you didn’t have a good example to follow when you were a child. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to deviate from the way you were raised. You have no obligation to follow a path that you know leads to pain. Are there friends in your life that aren’t the best influence for your children to be around? Maybe they’ve been a good friend for a long time, but you’ve changed and they have not. Either cut the ties or speak to them about their behavior around your children. That includes family members.

Watch for what you put in your mind. What you read or watch over time can influence your behavior. You may start repeating lines from a movie or television show that may be funny to you, but are not appropriate for your children to hear. Movies, books, and television shows can have such a subtle impact on your behavior that you don’t even notice until your children act out in an inappropriate way and you realize that they learned it from you.

The next time you do something in front of your children or anyone else’s, think about the leadership skills you are living out and whether or not they are worthy of being followed.