Who is your most influential leader? That is the first question I ask my students in one of the leadership classes that I teach at Army University. We struggle with that question for a few minutes thinking about the dozens or even hundreds of people who have been influential to us over the years. Then we dive deeper by thinking about how and why they influenced us. It is always an enlightening and transformative discussion for the students, and I have made some observations of my own.
My classes are generally made up of 18 students. The registrar does a wonderful job of diversifying the classes by gender and commands. The average class consists of 50% males and 50% females. This allows us to get an optimum mix of perspectives across the leadership spectrum.
Knowing that my class is gender diverse, we enter our exercise, identify your most influential leader. Even for those who struggle with who to choose, roughly 75% of students select a family member. Father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, and uncle aunt are the usual responses. In my last class a gentleman chose a family member that I had never heard before, in over five years of conducting this exercise with roughly 1,500 students. I will share that in a moment.
Since I’ve begun observing this phenomenon several months ago, 3/18 students choose their mother as their most influential leader. ½ of students identify their father as their most influential leader. I have not attempted to measure the percentages of male vs female student’s choices, but I have not noticed any glaring differences. From these six classes, on average, 6 more students chose their father as their influential leader than those who chose their mother.
I just cannot help but wonder who the next generation of students will choose. If the government continues alienating fathers/parents from their children’s lives. I am not implying that more students will choose their mother, or that there is even anything wrong with that. I am concerned that they will not choose either parent, but instead opt for some lame government official who “saved” them from their “evil” parents.
We aren’t there yet; thank God. I was moved by one gentleman who identified his eight year old daughter as his most influential leader. He shared a story with the class that was about taking his daughter out dinner. Like many eight year olds, without a tablet, she did some coloring and drawing while waiting for her food to arrive. Once they had eaten, settled the bill, and were leaving his daughter shoved her hand into her daddies from pocket, and would not let him take it out. Generally when my daughter does this, she is fishing for money. She finally removed her hand and they left. Later that night, after he had dropped his daughter back off at her mother’s house, he found a note that she had left in his pocket. The letter thanked him for being such a great daddy and said the words “you inspire me.” Needless to say that incident surely influenced and inspired him, I think it impacted the class too.
How are we influencing and inspiring our children; our next generation of leaders? Letting the courts and government rule us on a personal level is not the way that I want to inspire my children. I want them to understand that they can figure out, fix, and handle conflict on their own. Be responsible adults. Stop letting the court decide winners and losers, and continue dividing us. We can fight back, but not through the court or the government. We have to be personally responsible for ourselves. I will if you will.