Saturday, September 10, 2011

Leadership Qualities

Second week of school  has finished and the homework has started in earnest. The boys are very happy with their new teachers this year; both men, both intelligent, funny, approachable and willing to listen to the kids, while still being structured and fair. When I think about it, it's really quite amazing that my guys have the great good luck to get such excellent teachers despite all of the state budget woes, the school cuts and pitiful salaries teachers get around here (though that may be pretty universal, actually).

This week Riley asked me for pictures- one of me and one of President Obama. I said 'ooookay', and he picked some out and I printed them out. He told me he wasn't going to show me why he needed them.
"Well, I'm going to look it over before you turn it in, you know."

His rough draft listed things he considered to be required qualities for a good leader:
-- He/she must be kind and compassionate, and able to understand the needs of the people they are leading
-- They must be courageous, and not afraid to take necessary steps to do things that aren't easy but must be done.
-- They must know fear so that they can make good decisions and know what people are feeling
-- They need strength to make hard choices
-- They need to be organized and able to get things done
-- He/she needs  to be able to communicate really well
-- They need to be good speakers
-- They must be friendly and easy to talk to
-- They need to be able to understand and explain complicated things
-- They have to be firm and fair

And there were others he listed but I don't remember them all. At the top of the page he had stapled my picture alongside Obama, as exampes of people he considers good leaders. These are the pictures he picked out:
He wrote a paragraph on each of us detailing our good qualities. I am (at least in his mind) a good, kind person who listens carefully and tries to solve problems in a kind and compassionate manner (his words). I'm also a very busy person who takes care of lots of things and keeps things organized and running smoothly. (Wonder when he'll see through that one?) Obama had lots of good qualities as well: "He's very patient, a good listener and a good speaker, very busy but organized and able to get things done, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner for crying out loud!!" I told him he probably shouldn't say 'for crying out loud' on a paper like this, so that was later edited out.

So how cool is that?

He explained his choices to Paul by opening with "No offense, Dad, but I think Mom does more of the things needed for leading the family and making things happen than you do so I hope you're not upset..." Paul took it well, I thought. I kept very low-key and matter of fact about it all, of course, helping where asked and not getting mushy or anything.

Okay, yeah, of course it's a cliche to have your kid write about you as a person with admirable qualities, and maybe his teacher sees a lot of that. But it's never happened to me before in this way, unsolicited. It's damned cool, it is. I'm quite chuffed that my kid would pick me as an example of an admirable person who demonstrates good leadership qualities. I don't think of myself in that way, that's for sure. And it's quite humbling to find out that your kid really does admire you; that's a surprising and rather sobering responsibility there, not to let him down.

And everyone has their varied opinions of President Obama and how he's doing as President and all, but Riley's list of why he's worthy of admiration and respect were good ones. Whether you believe the man himself exemplifies those ideals or not, they're certainly qualities that we hope for and want in a leader. Little kids really, really want to believe that our President is a good, kind, compassionate man who understands the fears and needs of everyone whom he represents, and who tries damned hard to serve them well. Riley still has hope, even if we adults are pessimistic and jaded and disillusioned. I hope Riley hangs onto his idealism a while longer, even if/after President Obama and I let him down in some way.
Is it inevitable that his idealism will fade, that he'll decide that his heroes are a bit tarnished? I hope that at least he can hang onto these ideas of his of what makes a good leader, and work to be like that himself.


  1. Word. Quite an intimidating list of qualities to live up to! It might also be necessary to have that discussion about political pressures and hard choices, down the road. And it's no huge surprise if Riley does't have as much personal knowledge about how much daily effort Paul's work is, that might take some years and experience himself.

  2. Wow... that's *very* cool, Beckett! I think it's great that your kid sees so many of the excellent qualities that your friends have seen/heard about, so clearly. Yay you, and yay Riley!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.