Leadership Wisdom From My Daughter

by Alli Polin on October 1, 2013

Leadership Wisdom - Leadership Isn't Complex

There are a lot of leadership writers, gurus, consultants and coaches out there but sometimes it feels like we’re making leadership so complex that it’s impossible to be a great leader.  How many posts have you seen that sound like this:

  • 30 Must Do’s For Every Leader
  • Top 10 Rules to Amp Up  Your Leadership
  • So You Want To Be  a Leader?  Start with these 50 Tips and Tricks


It’s Spring Break here in Australia and I thought what better way to simplify leadership than ask someone who feels it in their heart, and knows it when they see it – my daughter.  She’s 10 years old and here’s what she has to say about leadership.

What is a Leader?

A leader is a person who is brave with their learning.  They are always learning new things and taking risks.  If something is easy for them, they want to make it harder so they can learn more.

A leader never says you can’t play to others.  Everyone is included, not just three best friends; everyone.

You’re not a leader just because you get the most votes for Student Council.  You still need to listen to other people and not just say what you think, but ask and share what others think too.

What Does a Leader Do?

When a leader is done their work, they come around and help others to do theirs.  They want to make sure other people understand what they’re doing too.

Leaders are kind to other people because other people matter, not just themselves.

The leader is not the most important, we’re all important.  Leaders don’t act like they are the only ones that are important.  Leaders let other people say their opinion and decide together.

Decisions can be good for everyone, not just for one.  (Click to Tweet)

Why Do Leaders Matter?

Leaders are important to the world because it’s important to help other people and even more, they can make the earth a better place when they do what’s right for everyone.

Leaders show us what it looks like to always do their best.  They don’t always have to get “A’s” but they do need to try their hardest.  They don’t give up!

Instead of just getting their work done and going to recess without caring for the people who are left behind, they help others get their work done too so everyone can enjoy recess together.

Leaders help other people who are hurt because their pain makes them sad too.  Leaders care.

Can Anyone Be  a Leader?

Yes.  Everyone can be a leader, not just you or me.  You  have to listen when other people are talking and give others a chance to speak.  You also need to be helpful not only because someone asks you to be, but also because you want to be helpful.  Most of all, you need to care about what you do and make good choices.

Leaders have really big hearts, they do more than tell you what to do, they love you too.

What’s Your Advice for Leaders?

Let other people join in!   Stand up for other people and for what’s right.  Don’t be afraid – step up.

I think she’s spot on (not that I’m biased).  What about you… what do you think makes a leader?

For coaching, consulting or speaking Let’s Connect!

{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Chery Gegelman October 1, 2013 at 6:13 am

Alli -Please give your daughter a huge hug! Words cannot convey how much I LOVE her heart and her wisdom!!!!


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 8:45 am

I love her and her wisdom too! I think that once she got out of her head, and in touch with her heart her words began to really flow. She’s one special girl and it shows you’re never too young to “get” leadership.

Thanks so much, Chery!


Dave Bratcher October 1, 2013 at 6:41 am

Excellent. Simplicity is always the thing we must use to cut through the noise and complexity in life. A leader must be equipped and willing to go first. If not, why should anyone follow. Enjoy Spring Break and make some special memories!


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 8:48 am

So often it seems like we thrive on complexity! When I worked in large orgs, I can remember very few times that we rolled out new processes and procedures that favored simplicity over rigidity.

We’re just chillin’ over Spring Break and enjoying a low key week here. I’m sure some adventure awaits!


Carl October 1, 2013 at 6:55 am

Alli, I think your daughter is spot on also!
I did laugh at the “30 rules”….”Top 10″…..”50 tips & tricks” – rarely, rarely will I bother to look – if something takes 50 tricks to do, I’m off doing something else.

Thanks for sharing,


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 8:52 am

Posts like that kill me, Carl and there are a ton of them! If it takes 50 steps I think we’re all in trouble.

Thanks so much for your comment, Carl! She really did get it and makes me proud not only today but every day.


Jon Mertz October 1, 2013 at 7:10 am


Agree! Keep this post and always reminder your daughter of the points she made, as it will be important to keep them through her life. The point is: We cannot lose this essence of leadership as we age.

Thanks! Jon


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 8:56 am

I think you’re right, Jon. This is one to save and remember. When we first started talking about it, she struggled because she didn’t think that she had anything smart to share. When she just thought about people and what she knows is true, she no longer had any problems sharing from her heart.

Absolutely agree that this level of understanding is one to cherish and hold on to.

Thanks, Jon!


Joy Guthrie October 1, 2013 at 8:46 am

Alli, your daughter’s words are awesome! She’s a great visual thinker too! Thank you for sharing her words of wisdom.


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 8:57 am

Thanks, Joy! So interesting you say that she’s a great visual thinker. She’s not a strong writer (she told me these words and I typed word-for-word) but she has always loved art as a way to tell a story. I should (and will!) show her some of your awesome work!


Lolly Daskal October 1, 2013 at 8:47 am

She is ten? WOW

She is spot on! You should be very proud!

Her ideas of leadership is the message of leadership we need to hear…

Thanks for sharing


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 8:59 am

I’m incredibly proud of her, Lolly! She gets what so many others have stopped noticing – leadership isn’t only in big acts and titles but in everyday actions that connect people together.

I love her tons!

Thanks so much for sharing and commenting, Lolly!


Samantha October 1, 2013 at 9:44 am

Wonderful post Alli and what a brilliant daughter you have! : )

There are days when I see so many leadership posts on SM that I almost feel like my skin is going to break out in hives. (allergic reaction) It’s one of those topics (labels) that have been so overly used and abused to the point I’m not sure I can take much of it seriously any more. Most of it comes across as a fad…a gimmick..a popular this is the IN crowd clique to belong in and you should be too…if you want to be a leader and learn how to do it RIGHT!

Meanwhile….back in the real world….

: )


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 10:25 am

Yes! That’s where leadership lives – in the real world! When we think we’ve got leadership down to a science (and a long to do list) I think we’ve missed the point. It’s our way of being with others that inspires and not throwing around smart sounding jargon with rules and regulations to match.

Love what we can learn when we truly listen to our kiddos!

Appreciate you, Samantha! Thanks for sharing here – means a ton to me.


Cynthia Bazin October 1, 2013 at 10:34 am

Absolutely love this Alli!!! Such wisdom. Such great reminders.


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Thanks so much! Amazing what kids know when we ask them to share 🙂


Michael October 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

Wonderful Alli! This is very refreshing and…colorful. You’re right. We make leadership too complex. We notice leadership early, perhaps right away. Where and with who? Looking forward to more! Thanks and thank your daughter. Michael


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Michael –

Thanks so much for your comment! It is about noticing, isn’t it? She thought that she didn’t understand leadership but truth is that she noticed leadership in motion.

Greatly appreciate you!


Susan Stitt October 1, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Love the post and sentiment to simplify leadership. And that you sought and shared the wisdom of your daughter!
These days my simplistic view on leadership is this: Be you, unleashed!
Leadership is a unique expression of you – your vision, values, beliefs and strengths. It takes courage, self-awareness and other people to help you really see yourself and appreciate the impact you have on others. You’ll be the best leader you can when you are pursuing a vision you are passionate about and you are putting your strengths and values to work every day. Helping leaders discover themselves is the most important work I do and I love it!


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Susan – I’m with you! Both of those words and sentiments appear on my homepage too! The start to unleashing leadership is showing up as our full selves at work and in life. Thanks for sharing your insights here too! Greatly appreciated!


Terri Klass October 1, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Your daughter is already a great leader beyond her years, Alli! Tell her she has great wisdom and should always believe in herself.

Thank you for sharing her views and counsel!

Enjoy the school break!!!


Alli Polin October 1, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Terri –

That’s my goal – to never let her give up on herself and always believe that she can do it – even when it’s hard and feels like a climb. It’s one of her gifts – she is really resilient and willing to work hard.

I think that the thing that made my heart smile the most was that one of the first thing that she said is that leaders are brave learners. I agree.

Thanks so much for commenting, Terri. I appreciate you, my friend!


Lalita Raman October 2, 2013 at 6:35 am

God bless your daughter Alli. Sweet and simple and human and she has expressed it so well.


Alli Polin October 2, 2013 at 8:05 am

When I first asked for her help to write the post, she was pushing herself to have the right thing to say. I assured her that I only wanted to hear her experience, and there was no right answer. She smiled and knew right where to look… within.

Thanks, Lalita!


D. Scott Smith October 2, 2013 at 9:56 am


I often hear discouraging thoughts about the future. In hearing the the words of your daughter, I am inspired.

She has wisdom at age 10 which will change lives. We will be in caring, capable hands when we turn this world over to the next generation.

Thank you for sharing!


Alli Polin October 3, 2013 at 3:42 am

I’m inspired too, Scott.

Moving overseas was a big move for her (and her brother) and immediately she showed me that she was excited, positive and embraced the adventure. She is happy wherever she is and always looks for the good. She absolutely has many qualities that I need to emulate more in my own life and personal leadership.

Thanks so much for sharing your positive hope for the future too!


al gonzalez October 2, 2013 at 11:39 am

What a wonderful post Alli! As I am completely consumed with the topic of inclusion, the following line is my absolute favorite:

A leader never says you can’t play to others. Everyone is included, not just three best friends; everyone.

Please thank your wonderful daughter for me and, as always, thank you for all the great insight you share!


Alli Polin October 3, 2013 at 12:41 am

Al –

I love that was something that her school taught when she was very young “you can’t say you can’t play.” An important lesson for leaders across the spectrum!

A sincere thanks for your comment and I’m with you – inclusion creates stronger communities, organizations, families and relationships.


Lori King October 2, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Times have changed and it is obvious in this message from your daughter, Alli. Children are now seen and heard! I am not surprised that this is from you 10 year old because I have one too and I learn from her EVERY DAY. Age shouldn’t matter: wise words can come from the young and the old and everyone in between.
All we need to do is stop and listen.
Thanks for sharing her wisdom!


Alli Polin October 3, 2013 at 12:37 am

Lori – I agree with you! Even a few years ago my mother-in-law came over and said that when she was young children were definitely seen but not heard! She was aghast that mine left the table to leave the adults to finish their meal in peace and we definitely heard them in the other room!

Ten is a wonderful age, isn’t it? My daughter is caught between wanting to be a teen and all grown up and be my little baby. I learn from her too EVERY DAY. She is willing to share her heart and share what she believes and I adore that about her. She doesn’t see herself as a leader but after I captured her words, and she read them back to me, she realized that she indeed has the heart of a leader.

I’m with you – EVERYONE has something worth sharing and we need to stop long enough to listen.

Many thanks for sharing here, Lori!


Dan Forbes October 2, 2013 at 3:27 pm

“…And a little child shall lead them.” – The Bible.

I’d say you have a great leadership development project underway there, Alli. Please tell your daughter how proud we all are of her.


Alli Polin October 3, 2013 at 12:42 am

I’m so proud of her, Dan. She is positive, resilient, a hard worker and cares deeply not only about herself but also others – all qualities that will serve her (and others) well over her lifetime.

Thanks, Dan!


Tony Vengrove October 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm

What a wonderful post, Ali! With such positive feedback, I presume she’s working on designing her own blog? 🙂


Alli Polin October 3, 2013 at 12:45 am

Writing isn’t her greatest strength so I doubt blogging is in her near future (and I’m OK with that!) but she loved collaborating with me on this one! I’ll have to tap into her wisdom again in the future to share on the blog!

Thanks, Tony!


LaRae Quy October 2, 2013 at 6:44 pm

You’ve hit a home run with this one, my friend! Your daughter blew me away with this “A leader is a person who is brave with their learning. They are always learning new things and taking risks. If something is easy for them, they want to make it harder so they can learn more.”

I love that attitude and wish more adults would have this same attitude!

Can’t wait to see what the future holds for her!


Alli Polin October 3, 2013 at 3:39 am

LaRae – My daughter is absolutely a brave learner. She pushes herself to find her own boundaries and we’re so proud to see that when she gets things wrong, she doesn’t get frustrated but instead has an ah-ha. Learning is tough for her but she has something going for her that will serve her forever – a positive attitude and a willingness to work hard and truly caring about others.

Thanks so much, LaRae!


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