Leaders learn leadership by leading life

Aditi Mathur and Ratnesh Mathur

If we want to become leaders, then why not start with ourselves? If we are all leaders in some form or other, then why not let children lead themselves? If we want children to lead themselves, why not we adults step aside? If we want them to learn leadership, then why not let them teach us leadership? So here we are celebrating leadership in children by the children themselves – three stories by three children on leadership. Each with their own perspective on leadership, their style, their grammar and their ideas to lead.

Leading learning by Misha (16 yrs)

Caloethrew another crumpled piece of paper over her shoulder. She was doing algebra; it was impossible. She wanted to slap the person who was clearly deranged when they mixed letters and numbers together. Sighing dramatically, she face-planted on the table. She was drowning in stress, with waves populated by equations and the sound of her teacher screaming nonsense reverberating in her eardrums.

Wiping a few tears from her eyes, Caloe fled from her room, scrambled to her garden, dropped to her knees and took a few deep breaths, desperately trying to calm herself. Gently, she began watering her plants, attempting to steady her shaking voice as she whispered to her saplings. In no time, she was skipping around her flora and sprinkling manure like confetti.

“We have spinach, petunias, a couple of strawberry plants, and then there are the succule – THE SUCCULENTS?” Caloe dived into her patch of succulents, carefully inspecting their leaves. She couldn’t believe it. They seemed to follow some kind of pattern. Detective mode activated.

Caloe scooped up one before carefully planting it into a pot. She then raced over to her bicycle, plopped the pot into the cycle basket and bolted to the library. After locating a cozy seat and table, she immersed herself in reading, finding out more about her succulent’s structure. At the end, it turned out to be something pretty mind blowing. It was algebra. Specifically, the Fibonnaci sequence. This time, Caloe thoroughly enjoyed the math behind it, spending the rest of the afternoon diving into books. As the sun started to set, she went back to her room, unable to believe what she had done. She had spent a whole evening doing and learning math. Willingly.

Her mind was officially blown. She was learning something she actually wanted to, for a change. Taking charge of her learning, that’s what she was doing.

Fire-fighting leader by Mishti (9 yrs)
“Daddy, is my party ready?” Little Sophie pouted and asked, “Of course dear. Well, almost,” said her dad, Mr. William. “Oh, oh, ohhhh… I am just soo… excited, daddy,” Sophie said, her tone making it clearly evident. “Ha,ha… I know Sophie,” laughed Mr. William. “Oh look, daddy…look! Linda is here already,” Sophie shrieked. “Hi Sophie,” Linda shrieked back. She was as excited as Sophie.

More kids trooped in. They just kept coming and poor Sophie was pretty overburdened with something like a mix of excitement and joy. The party started…. There was dhamaka everywhere. And everything was going very well until the fire dance.

A rather clumsy child called Petunia was using sanitizer and was dangerously close to the fire. She was careless and quite a few drops of the sanitizer fell on the floor. Without any warning, the sanitizer caught fire. It started spreading like, well, fire.

Sophie started commanding and forming groups. “Lucy, Luke and Emma, with me! We will start getting the water! Gabriel, Charlotte, Petunia and Daniel, go and get the fire extinguishers! Quick! Ovie, Kaya, Leo and Jackie! Start pouring the water as soon as you get it! Chan, Brendan, Dixit and Casper! Find some clothes which fire cannot harm! Come on guys! We can do this! We don’t need the help of any fire fighters… do we?” shouted Sophie. “Nooooo,” came the reply. Well then, what are you waiting for… Charge!

After the friends-of-Sophie vs the-dangerous-fire battle was over, (and by the way, the friends-of-Sophie won) Mr. William approached his seven-year-old daughter. There was a glint in his eye. He then engulfed poor Sophie in such a hug that you could literally hear the sounds of her bones popping from her back. “Hey…it wasn’t all me,” Sophie turned very modest. She calls all her friends and demands a group hug. And guess what… she gets it!

I lead me by Srijani (15 yrs)
Mom shouting,
“Be active, Lilly, wake up! It’s a new day to lead the world. Get ready, your cousins are arriving soon.”
“Yep and you’re the host.”
“Come on, Lilly, you should start being a leader.”
“Uhhh!” growled Lilly.
“Here you go, pancakes are ready. So what are you planning for today?”
“Not decided yet.”
“You should be well prepared, Lilly, maybe walk them through our home. Organize some games.”
“Why don’t you host, mom?”
“I already told you, you should be on the frontline Lilly. Don’t step back. Oh! here they are. Hello, happy to meet you all. We are glad that you made time for us. Okay Lilly, why don’t you start by showing our house.”
“Ya sure.”
Everyone walked around and Lilly tried to lead them.
“Okay Lilly, take your cousins to the garage and they will assist you with that desk project.”
“Okay, mom.”

After a few hours, the relatives left.
“Lilly, I heard Pinky saying she didn’t really enjoy working with you but enjoyed working with Shama.”
“Yaa, I told them to watch me.”
“Oh Lilly, you should have given them some work to do, energize and teach them.”
“Haa, but I am not that kind of a person, mom.”
“Ya dear, you might be an introvert but you should be a leader or the other leaders will suppress you.”
“Enough is enough, mom, stop pressuring me to be a leader. Who said I am not a leader? I am a leader but not for others but for myself. I am the one who encourages me, allots work, organizes my thoughts and most importantly communicates with myself. I get a good control of laziness, procrastination, negativity and influence and I motivate my productivity, hard work and positivity and ya, you are right, I should be a leader ‘cause others might take up the lead, but I am fine with that as I am not interested in it. But please don’t criticize me for that and being a follower is nothing less. I will be a leader when I feel I am ready and when I am a good leader of myself. I am just saying that if I am able to lead my naughty monkey brain, then I am pretty sure that I will lead others too. Please give me some time, mom.”
“Oh dear, Ms. Leader of Lilly, come, we will eat our lunch.”
How would it be if all the children started leading all of their learning and growing?
How would it be if we turned followers, rather than co-passengers in their journey?
How would it be if we realized that leadership is not about others, but about each of us leading our own life, in our own way, to fulfil our own dreams?

The authors run Aarohi, an Open Learning Community for learners of all ages, open to all kinds of interests, abilities, styles and content areas. Learning by doing what one wants, how one wants, and self reflection. It is a community to co-live, learn and support each other. Aarohi’s campus is in a village near Hosur in Tamil Nadu (55 km from Bangalore). To know more about Aarohi visit https://aarohilife.org.

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