How to Raise Future Leaders

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Gulnar Vaswani on how empowered, independent children lead to resilient “successful” adults. How to raise future Leaders?

how to raise future leaders

In a world of high performers, everyone strives to be labelled “successful” – but few actually take the time to reflect where their definition of success comes from. Did they inherit it, did they infer it from friends and community, or have they truly defined “success” for themselves?

That’s why a recent talk “How to Raise Successful People,” by the godmother of Silicon Valley, Esther Wojcicki (who has raised three highly successful people – three women, I must add) caught my attention. The title of Wojcicki’s talk, based on her newly released book, intrigued me, even though I had just finished ‘raising’ my children, or so I believed, because they are now both in college.

Much to my surprise, Wojcicki’s presentation on parenting reflected so many of my personal parenting practices. As parents, we are the first role models of leadership for our children, and while it’s common practice to parent how we were parented, we also then lead others how we were led. It suddenly clicked with me that when business people struggle with trust and delegation, self-advocacy and assertiveness, accountability and transparency, time management and work-life balance, and other communication and interpersonal dynamic struggles, that many of these challenges stem from a very early age. Shaping high performance in the workplace actually starts with disrupting our approach to parenting at home.

In response to a global epidemic of parental and childhood anxiety, Wojcicki offers parents, educators, and leaders an acronym, TRICK, which stands for Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, and Kindness. These five competencies form the foundation for empowered and independent children who are better able to problem-solve, explore their passions, develop resilience, and enjoy working as a team.


Children who are trusted by their parents, learn to trust in themselves, and in turn others. Children who are trusted to make choices, hold their own beliefs and follow their own path or instinct, tend to be more confident and clear in their leadership vision and direction. Confident leaders do not have to be the smartest people in the room; they lean towards playing to their strengths, and allowing others to do so as well. In today’s economic and political climate, trust is at an all-time low – we need leaders who trust themselves, and will then delegate, empower, and believe in the capacities of their talent. The reverse is a leader who was not raised to trust his/her opinions, or worse not allowed to express them. The result is often visible in leadership behaviours of micro-management, low interpersonal skills, avoidance of conflict, and unclear vision and confusion.


Children who respect their parents appreciate that there are times when their parents have to make certain decisions that are to their benefit, whether they like it or not. Parents who respect their children understand that their children will make their own decisions, whether it’s what they would have chosen for themselves or not. Similarly, respect runs both ways in today’s workplace, which spans as many as four generations in any given company. No matter how old or experienced we are, we all crave respect. Reverse mentoring programmes have grown in popularity in companies who recognise the strengths that younger generations also bring to the table. When both sides respect each other and our generational differences, we all thrive, leading to lower stress and conflicts, and more effective collaboration.


As parents, we want our children to be fully competent and capable of taking care of themselves. In the same way, leaders want their teams to be independent, for individuals to make their own decisions and own their responsibilities. The more we try to control our children, the less empowered they are, and the less confident they are and will be as they develop as the future leaders of tomorrow. By raising independent children who take responsibility for their actions, we also develop better leaders who are able to own their achievements, and in turn create space for others to own their successes.


As companies have grown and scaled to achieve greater success, one of the unintended side effects is a culture of working in silos. The remedy to silos is collaboration. Children who learn collaboration at home – through problem-solving together WITH their parents (and not BY their parents) – are better able to brainstorm, work together in teams, and collaborate towards the innovative solutions needed to face the challenges of the 21st century.


In the changing landscape of the 21st century, many of today’s jobs can (and will be) automated. However, our capacity for kindness, empathy, and creativity are precisely what make us human, and what cannot be automated. In previous times, leaders didn’t have to be liked – they simply had to do their job. However, the ability to be kind is an essential skill for 21st century leadership – not only does it make us happier and more productive, it also makes us better leaders – our performance is directly connected to how much we care.

It’s no surprise that shaping high performance in the workplace starts at home. If we want to disrupt boardroom dynamics, we first need to disrupt our dining table dynamics. What do you think? How has the way you were parented impacted your behaviours as a leader in the workplace? What other behaviours do we need to model and competencies do we need to develop in our children to prepare them to be our future leaders?

BIO: A talent management strategist, board advisor and executive coach to CEO’s, Gulnar Vaswani is re-imagining leadership and the future of work for the 21st Century. She is based in Hong Kong and works with clients across various business sectors and locations in Asia.

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