Leadership points to ponder for teenagers are just as relevant to adults, especially new leaders, viewed via a father’s letter to a teen.
A Father’s Letter
Today you turn 13 years old. I am amazed at how quickly this time has gone and the next 10 years will fly by as well. Then you will be well into your 20’s, however there is a lot that you will see, hear and be tempted by during this time. Much of it will be wonderful, inspiring and of great benefit to you and how you are seen and interact with others.
There will also be some potential pitfalls and challenges, many of which you will not see coming. That is OK. Our job is not to wrap in you cotton balls or bubble-wrap, protecting you from what are ultimately learning opportunities. Our role is and has always been to help you through these times, to support you (always!) and guide you where we can.
1) Keep talking to us. Even in those times when you are angry, frustrated or disappointed, we will always listen to you and provide help where we can. If you don’t want to share with your Mum or I, then seek help from others – whoever you feel comfortable with. Don’t dwell on issues or let them fester.
2) Choose your friends wisely. Who you spend your time with reflects on you and will certainly influence who you become, both good qualities and bad. You have some lovely friends now. Support them, be kind and know that with all relationships, just like ours, you will have ups and downs along the way. That is OK – in fact it is expected. It is during these times that you will learn who your good and true friends are and also how you are perceived by them, which will be revealed through your actions and theirs.
3) Keep a broad level of interests in many things as you already have shown and put into practice. The skills, passion, diversity of thought, leadership exposure and opportunities provide one of the great bases for much of how you will make choices in coming years.
4) Don’t worry about trying to be cool or liked. It is a bit clichéd in the adult world now, unfortunately, but it does not take away from the fact that ultimately being respected is harder to achieve but has greater meaning and purpose.
5) Know what you are passionate about. As an adult you will know that passion is critical, however many people of all ages struggle to define this. One of the first questions I ask my clients when coaching is: what are you passionate about? It is surprising how many people cannot answer this easily. Follow your passions; make sure they form part of what you do and who you are and if you can, build it into your work-life as you get older. This may not be clear for some years, which is OK, but keep it in mind.
6) Role model the best behaviours. We do not expect you to be perfect. Neither your Mum or I are, as you know. We all have strengths and faults, but none of them should stop you from trying to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do. I have found over the years that putting other’s needs ahead of your own is one of the most fulfilling aspects of life and most rewarding behaviours you can possess. Others will respect you for it.
7) As much as possible, remove assumption from situations and your thinking. Consider alternatives and think broadly – make this a habit. I see too many people place their own ideals and values on others and fail to see the bigger pictures and/or other people’s perspective. This relates to emotional intelligence and empathy – both things we will talk more about later.
8) Speaking of values and trust, earn the trust of others through what you say and most importantly back it up with what you do. If you commit to do something, do it. Meet your deadlines and continue to challenge yourself. Over time, learn what is most important to you (I will continue to help you with this) and maintain these values through how you portray yourself and decisions you make. Values are the absolute platform to work from as a person – know what yours are and develop a solid base to build upon as you reach adult-hood. Know who you are and stay true to your values!
9) Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. There are many benefits to the modern world, however one of the downsides in my opinion is the exposure to so much, so quickly. There is no doubt that 13 is the new 16 when I compare your life now to my childhood and teenage years. My big tip – not everything that is fun and worth doing has a screen attached or needs to be plugged in. Get outside often. Try new things.
10) Communication. It would be a surprise to some of your age that communication initially was through symbols and eventually the spoken word. Technology and newer methods of communication continue to challenge effective communication. As a result much of this is changing, however the written word remains a core component and has abundant power and authority. Also, continue to develop your speaking skills. They will hold you in good stead throughout your life. You have learned to spell and use grammar correctly. There is nothing more off-putting than seeing the poor English skills all too prominent online. Sadly, this is often reflected in important text such as resume’s and business documents. I thnk u no wat I meen!!!
11) Reading is the gift that keeps on giving. We love that you are a keen reader. Knowledge and understanding has always been and will be one of the great attributes. It enables you to form your own views and opinions based on various aspects from different perspectives. Just because it is written does not necessarily make it true. What it does do is provide depth of knowledge, varying perspectives and counter-arguments. I love my Kindle as you do too…but keep on interspersing the traditional, physical book occasionally with the eBook, as you already do.
12) Finally, much of what I have mentioned in this list comes down to values and respect. Respect for your family and how we love one another because we are family but also because of how we treat each other. Continue to work on this – both how you respect yourself and others. Respect property – your own and that of others; respect the opportunities provided to you and those earned by you; do not take anything you have in this world for granted – there are no guarantees they will always be there and many people are not so fortunate.
We hope that this list, although not definitive, makes sense now and in the future. Life is wonderful. Life is challenging. These points may assist you and will probably become more relevant and meaningful over the next few years.
Do what you will with the words – words that have real meaning to us, more than just script on a page – and understand they will continue to form the themes for how we will support and help you, as we have in your first 13 years.
Mum and Dad xxx
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