Playgrounds: Proving Grounds for Leaders

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to motivate leadership behavior. Reading time 3:57.

                                                                                       Playgrounds are proving grounds for leaders.

     a playground2   On the playground, these emerging leaders  engage their followers: they get other kids to play with them with something more  than simply a suggestion “Hey let’s play tag.”

      They also lead by example.  They are  quick to model the behavior (“You’re it!), tagging and running off.

       And soon others congregate, collaborate and innovate around the make-believe camp fire and share the warmth of their collective sharing and caring together, their leadership for and with each other.

      But then the emerging leaders on the playground take their game to the next level. They embrace change. They leverage change. They anticipate a need to change.


          No wonder these emerging leaders  become leaders long before they have anyone reporting to them, notes Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management professor Harry Kraemer.Kraemer . They assume a leadership position, a sense of initiative and a vision to engage others.

      These emerging leaders  define the change with exacting skill, reflecting the needs of the followers because in fact they are both part and parcel of the playground community at large and the leader.

       They learn to play TOGETHER on the playground. They learn how to choose sides, how to negotiate rule changes, and how to  win and and lose gracefully. Leaders on the playground learn to stir the  imagination and provide the tools to achieve the mission.


marshmallow melting in a camp fire

marshmallow melting in a camp fire

    That’s why  the most effective leaders know they must light a fire AND provide the sand pails and shovels in the sand box or the marshmallows and sticks to draw more than a crowd to the proverbial camp fire.

     Leaders on the playground   lay the foundations of a more personal, more real, more authentic following where the ensuing sand castles or the camp fire are ethical as much as exciting; truthful as much as thrilling and soul-centered as much as sexy.

     And these leaders on the playground help others comprehend not merely apprehend. They help others grasp what could be not merely grab what is.

       In comprehending, leaders grasp for meaning in the everyday issues that make a difference. Consider the opening sentence in Edward Gibbon’s classic: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire :

                “In the second century of the Christian era, the Empire of Rome
the fairest part of the earth and
the most civilized position of mankind.

         The Empire of Rome COMPREHENDED –not conquered — the fairest part of the earth. The Empire of Rome COMPREHENDED –not conquered –the most civilized position of mankind. The Empire of Rome COMPREHENDED–it grasped the meaning, the significance or the nature of according to the dictionary definition of comprehend.

        But then the Romans became complacent and greedy. They began OVERstating more and UNDERstanding less. They crumbled under their own weight of arrogance  —an arrogance that breeds ignorance, an arrogance that spawns strife, an arrogance that fosters insolence,  an arrogance that erodes and undermines meaning, and an arrogance that destroys comprehension.

    And without comprehension, there can be no leadership.  When you comprehend –beginning on the playground in your leadership career– you begin honing your ability to inspire, your ability to collaborate with colleagues and your ability to focus intensely on the needs of customers. Those skills  are the keys to effective leadership, according to a  survey of 1,700 CEOs from 64 countries by IBM.

      No wonder future leaders emerging from the playground will be  more than ready to apply for –and comprehend the demands of– a leadership role. They will do more than respond to the help wanted ad seeking leaders.

     They will COMPREHEND it.  Help Wanted: Leaders. Playground experience required.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Maintain a playground mindset to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

SUBSCRIBE: Have a Leadership Mint delivered to your E-mail every Tuesday.
It’s free. Just click the SIGN ME UP box in the upper left column.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.