— Written By N.C. Cooperative Extension


Martin Luther King Jr.  Gandhi.  Abraham Lincoln. Mother Theresa. What makes a great leader?  Is it vision?  Passion?  Integrity?  Excellence? Before we answer that question, let us first recognize that each and every one of these leaders began as we did, as a child.  They lived, loved, laughed, learned, explored, experienced hardships and in many cases, despite great odds, became the best people they could be.  They grew into their best self; more than they ever dreamed. And we all benefited from their transformation. 

As parents, we want our children to reach their fullest potential.  Whether their path takes them to business or other work, parents dream of their children thriving, making a contribution, living a happy and healthy life.  But, as someone asked me recently, “How do I become a leader and how can I influence my child to follow in my footsteps?”  First, consider striving to reach your fullest potential.  Find your passion and do whatever it takes to make it happen. It is never too late to change directions. When things get tough, treat your hardships as an opportunity to be creative and grow. If you receive verbal darts, refuse to react immediately and learn to put a little time between that stimulus and your response. With the extra time you have gifted yourself and the situation, you have the opportunity to choose the best response to obtain the best outcome.  And next, learn the definition of what it is to be a leader. 

Good habits can happen from the moment you wake up.  Most don’t even think about making the bed (or not), brushing teeth, showering, dressing for the day and so forth.  So, what other habits have you incorporated into your life?  When I teach youth the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Teen Ed.), I ask them to write good habits on green Post-It Notes, bad habits on red and habits they would like to form on purple Post-Its.  Some strive to incorporate the habit of excellence by doing more than what is asked of them on school projects.  Others recognize their need to work on accountability. 

Some youth declare they want to work on integrity.  Integrity is the alignment of our inner values and our outward actions. Through our good habits, leaders can become aligned with the greater good through servant leadership.  My 12 year old Boy Scout is serving the homeless at a rescue mission this weekend.  Why is this important?  Because to be a leader, we must be willing to serve.  Great leaders don’t just command others to do work, they roll up their sleeves, get involved and inspire others to do the same.


Rachel Harris Monteverdi is a Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, a division of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University.  The Family & Consumer Sciences department incorporates prenatal to end-of-life programs.  Priorities for North Carolina citizens include:  Family & Parenting Education; Balancing Work & Family Workshops; Academic Success; Elder Care; Active Aging; Planning for the Future; Home Ownership & Housing Issues; Conservation & Environmental Issues; Leadership; Emergency Management and more.  Call 252-257-3640, email Rachel_Monteverdi@ncsu.edu or visit http://warren.ces.ncsu.edu for more information.