How Do I Nurture My Daughter the Leader?

Years ago, I had a freelance job writing for an e-zine published by a well-known leadership expert. I enjoyed the work, but as I wrote book reviews, interviewed authors and scoured other publications for leadership trends and quotes, I’d often wonder: Why am I doing this, really? Is it simply for the paycheck (which certainly is helpful and appreciated)? Or am I doing all this writing about leadership for some future purpose?

Women in leadership

At the time, I couldn’t imagine what that purpose might be. My professional experience didn’t point to some upcoming leadership role of my own, nor did my interests. I have always been more of a freelancer than a team player; in fact, when leadership opportunities come up, I tend to run in the other direction.

Still, my conviction that everything in life prepares us for something else—that in God’s economy, nothing we go through is ever wasted—kept these thoughts alive, at least in the back of my mind.

Then Lilly was a pumpkin in her ballet school’s production of Cinderella, and I started to catch a glimpse of the reason behind all that work.

All the three- to five-year-old girls in the Creative Movement class looked absolutely precious as they danced around on the stage to the tune of “Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.” But Lilly didn’t just look adorable. She was the picture of intensity.

She wasn’t there simply to do her part, you see. She somehow felt it was her responsibility to make sure everyone else did theirs, too. So in the video, you see her frantically gesturing and motioning and trying to move all the other little pumpkins along. (Apparently, it’s difficult to smile when you are busy directing traffic and trying to keep your leaf hat on at the same time.)

This performance was the first in a long line of occasions when Randy and I have had the opportunity to watch Lilly’s leadership skills in action. I’ll write more about this later, but for now, I think it’s enough to say we have a leader on our hands. Not a child with leadership potential, but a bona fide leader girl who understands more about getting people to do what they’re supposed to do than many adults I know.

Some of my past reading and writing about leadership has come in handy as I contemplate the best ways to nurture daughters who are leaders. But I often feel less than prepared to carry out this important assignment. How exactly does a mom proceed when she has actually heard her daughter say that she wishes she could go back to China (where she was born) and become president so she could do away with the one-child policy there?

That kind of drive is not caught or taught, folks. It’s wired in, no two ways about it.

I’m not sure what to do, so I start with Specifically, I’m hoping to find a book about how to help my daughters become the leaders God has designed them to be.

So far, I haven’t found what I’m looking for. Oh, there are books about how to develop leadership in children, but most of them are written by coaches and are not specifically about girls. Books on purity are helpful, but not for this discussion. I’m also not interested in resources that use princess analogies or are mostly about self-esteem or preventing bullying.

I think what it boils down to is this. I wish I could pick the brains of parents with grown daughters in positions of leadership. I want to know what, if anything, these moms and dads did to cultivate those gifts. Did they know when their girls were little that they were destined to be leaders? What did that look like?

Maybe I’m the only mom with a leader daughter who is a bit unsure of how to prepare her for a life of influence. But something tells me other mothers have similar concerns, which is why I’m going to close this post with a rare request for specific feedback.

• Are you a mom of daughters who wonders about the best way to encourage their obvious leadership skills? Have you read any good books about the subject, or are you as hungry as I am for thoughtful counsel about how to do this well?

• If you are a woman who leads (in any capacity), how did your parents help you become the leader you are now? What do you wish they had done?

• And finally, if you are a parent with grown daughters who lead, do you have any words of wisdom for those of us who are following in your footsteps?

If any of these questions resonate with you, please slip me a comment or, if you prefer, use the “contact” section to email me privately.

Thanks, and stay tuned. You haven’t heard the last about this subject from me. (Although I suspect you already knew that.)

Lois Flowers

P.S. Go Royals!!!

P.P.S. I’m linking up this week with Grace & Truth, Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory and Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart.

19 Responses to How Do I Nurture My Daughter the Leader?

  1. I’m the mom to a natural born leader girl myself, and I’m still navigating right there with you! I’d love to know what you come up with, what resources were recommended to you.

    I have a friend that came to mind as I was reading your post. She is a leader in her industry. And a beautiful writer, in fact she wrote a book on leadership. Check my out my friend Gindi Vincent’s blog, Maybe you could contact her and pick her brain 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Alecia, Gindi sounds like a great person to talk to … thank you for suggesting her. I’m still thinking about the best way to consolidate the feedback I’ve gotten … I will probably write a couple more blog posts about this, at the very least. It’s good to know there are other moms in the same boat!

  2. Wow, it sure does sound like you have a leader on your hands! I’m one too, and I think for women leaders, especially, that fruit of the spirit mentioned above is so important. Because women are more easily perceived as bossy and pushy than men are. (I hate to say that, but I think it’s true.)

    I’m so appreciative now of adults who saw my potential and took me seriously when I was a child. I’m not in any huge position of leadership, but I’m an influencer, and tend to use those gifts in many situations.

    I think the best thing you can do is take your daughter seriously, which you are doing. Give her opportunities to exercise her gifts, and PRAY for God to make her calling clear and pour out His Spirit on her!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      These are wise and helpful words, Betsy. I love watching my daughter use her gifts, especially the ones that are so different from mine! And to pray for God to make her calling clear … that is a wonderful suggestion! Thank you for your thoughtful response … I appreciate it greatly!

  3. Devi says:

    I don’t have daughters, but I was one of three girls, and my sisters and I are all strong, intelligent, resilient, proactive, leading women. I honestly think the best thing my parents did was to surround us with good books and to encourage us to work hard at developing our gifts. They saw our talents as something to celebrate. They also lived a life of leadership, both my mom and dad are highly intelligent people who went back to school later in life to get multiple post graduate degrees. This happened in my teens, and it showed me that you never stop learning.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      My parents did the same thing for me and my six siblings, Devi. Especially the part about books and reading … I don’t think there’s any better way to develop intelligent, articulate children than to read to and with them. I love that your parents returned to school when you were a teenager … what a great example! Thanks for sharing your perspective on this today.

  4. Christine says:

    Hi Lois

    Didn’t you write a while ago on the fruits of the Spirit? I think leaders will be leaders regardless of nurturing, but nurturing your daughter in the fruits of the Spirit will ensure that she becomes a good leader. You can see it in girls at school who are leaders, that if they are not encouraged in the ways of God, that their influence can so easily be bad and can even result in bullying. But a girl who is reminded to be loving and joyful, to seek peace, to be patient, to show goodness, kindness and faithfulness, that’s the girl who will think about what is best for others.
    But that is already what you are doing with your girls.

    A great book I read a while ago is “Do hard things” by Alex & Brett Harris. Its not really about leadership, but it is about standing up and doing things in God’s service. It’s written for teenagers, by teenagers, partly to counteract the idea in society that teenagers can take life easily, and party, until they get older and more responsible. But the authors point out that “now” is the time to serve God, and there are lots of examples in the book of young people who have been great leaders. Great for anyone to read, adults and teenagers alike.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I think Lilly has read “Do Hard Things,” Christine. I seem to remember she was inspired by it, too. I could not agree more about nurturing our girls in the fruit of the Spirit. Character makes all the difference, even in younger leaders. Of course, as the mom of girls who are almost 14 and almost 11, I am realizing that there are stages of development when certain fruits are (how shall I put this diplomatically?) less obvious, but that’s when I need to pray even harder for those traits to grow in their hearts! This is wonderful feedback … thank you so much!

  5. I just watched Michael Hyatt interview his wife, Gail, for the Influence and Impact Summit, and it was very good. They have five daughters, and one of the things they talked about was how she nurtured them to be the awesome young women they are today. That part starts at about the 21-minute mark (the whole video is about 33 minutes), but you will want to watch the whole thing!

  6. Lydia says:

    Great thoughts, Lois! Among the many wonderful things about Lilly, I love that she thinks BIG! 🙂

    From my experience, I can tell you that a leader appreciates hearing specific ways that her efforts have helped someone or made a difference somewhere, so she knows it’s worth it.

    I strongly believe that the church needs to affirm the leadership gifts of women and girls. A pastor friend shared the following article on this subject just yesterday:

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Lydia, I love that about Lilly, too. 🙂 You make a great point about encouragement … especially true for those of us (like me and Lilly) whose love language is words of affirmation! Thanks for sharing this article … I like the step-by-step way the author explains his perspective, and what he says makes a lot of sense too.

  7. Funny, I was just watching a webinar today featuring the very leader whose ezine you used to write for.
    (I know you will write a book about this topic someday.)
    If you have time to watch a few videos, the Influence and Impact Summit interviews (Michael Hyatt and about 20 entrepreneurs and leaders) will be available until Thursday night. The content is EXCELLENT.
    I’m not sure it would help with your particular question, but there are some strong women on the list. It’s FREE, although you do have to register with your email address.

  8. Kristi says:

    Gosh, I wish I had great feedback for you, but it’s small at best. Spiritual mentors ~ I would place them on a list of folks necessary in a leader’s life. 🙂 It’ll be exciting to hear how your daughter grows into those gifts God’s given her. I love that you’re “on top” of it, noticing the talents in front of you. Praise God.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Kristi, I don’t think your feedback is small at all … spiritual mentors are hugely important. I am so grateful for the women over the years who have invested time, wisdom and love into my life, and even more grateful for those who are doing the same for my girls. Thank you for your kind words!

  9. Julie Gumm says:

    Sounds like YOU need to write the book you’re looking for 🙂 Seriously, I think we need it!

    It’s hard to put a finger on what my parents did to cultivate leadership. I think, like you said, a lot of it is just nature. I do know that I never felt pressure from them to take leadership roles. My mom, knowing I was a strong-willed child, probably realized that if she pushed it I would back away. They always told me how proud they were of me but they didn’t push. They let me find my spot.

    I think today it’s easy as parents to push. As a mom of 4 teenagers and working in higher education I know that I’m often thinking “what will look good on a college application” – but I know that leadership is a lifetime role.

    I’m seriously interested in any research you find. I hope you’ll write about this more!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s great to hear from you, Julie! It sounds like you have some wise parents. I know what you mean about pushing … I’m prone to the same thing, even though I don’t think my parents did much of that either. Maybe it’s a generational thing? And yes, the “write-the-book-you-want-to-read” adage might apply here … we’ll see how it goes. 🙂

  10. Linda Stoll says:

    Oh Lois … this fascinating! How exciting that God knew way back when who your daughter was going to be … and that you’ve had the keen insight to see her giftedness and bent.

    Ruth Haley Barton’s early books focused on women in ministry leadership. They might shed some light on the path ahead.

    Can’t wait to hear what God does!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thanks for the author recommendation, Linda! I’m not sure where all this will go (the blog posts about leadership AND the daughters who are leaders), but thankfully, I’m not the one directing all the steps. 🙂 Blessings to you today!

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