The First Manifestations of Leadership

Convincing evidence of leadership sometimes appears during the first year of life. Some infants from the age of six months show assurance in social situations. When placed with other infants of their age they show superiority or dominance. Children also differ in the amount of initiative shown in their activities. By the end of the second year two kinds of leadership can be distinguished in many instances.

There is leadership (1) in which the child dominates by intimidating or attacking his associates, and (2) that in which his domination is secured by inspiring or encouraging them. In these early leaders are found two characteristics or qualities -- the leader preserves his balance in the presence of the other children and leads in initiating and demonstrating any gestures or activities involved in their play. Leaders at these ages are likely to initiate more contacts than other children.

Leaders among pre-school children are likely to be leaders of small groups, usually of two or three children, more rarely of four or more. In fact, one differentiating characteristic of leadership during pre-school and school years is the smaller size of the groups in which the pre-school child manifests this trait. Sometimes a child in kindergarten shows remarkable leadership. He is the center of various groupings of children for various activities. The little fellow of two to five years may initiate a new game, such as a tea-party, playing house, and the like. He may be the domineering type who likes to boss other children, especially the younger ones, telling them what to do and what not to do. Such leadership has little value and the child often learns from his companions to give it up. If leadership is to be a social asset, it must be exercised for the benefit of all and not for the selfish desires of the individual exercising it. This principle is true during the pre-school period and throughout life as well.

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