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2 Types of Leaders

A critical task for parents, coaches and teachers is to nurture leadership qualities in kids. Yep, all of them—the “super kids” and the “slacker” kids. I’m suggesting we help them see themselves as leaders. I made a discovery over the last thirty years. I have found when I cast vision to them to be a leader; when I furnish them with a leadership perspective—they begin to realize the potential that is inside of them.

Consider this. There are two kinds of leaders in the world, and every one of our kids fit into one of these two kinds. They are either HABITUAL leaders or SITUATIONAL leaders. Habitual leaders are the ones who lead out of habit. They’re the kids who take over the kickball game at recess. Whatever group they are in, they tend to take charge. I believe they represent about 10-15% of the population. The rest of our children are situational leaders. These are the kids that assume they’re not really leaders at all. However, when you put them in the right situation—one that matches their gifts, passions and strengths—they know what to do. They seem to have intuition about that area. They are comfortable and confident. And they have influence. I believe we must help our children find their situation—the area where they gifted to have influence. In fact, our role is to enable kids to discover their optimal:

  • Situation – The environment where they feel most at home and intuitive.
  • Strength – The environment where they can use their primary gifts.
  • Style – The environment where they can serve in a manner that fits them.
  • Subject – The environment where the issues matter to them.

As coaches, teachers and parents, let’s guide kids to find the environment where their leadership can qualities can flourish!


For more ideas on this topic, check out Nurturing the Leader Within Your Child.


  1. Davidgeraldscott on May 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

    Wow, Tim. Great, insightful article. I work with young people in the church and, with your permission, will be printing this out to use with my volunteer leaders.

    • Tim Elmore on May 9, 2011 at 8:13 am

      So glad you found this helpful, David. Excited to hear that you’ll be passing it along to your volunteer leaders!

  2. Brian Shiroma on May 5, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I love the distinction you make between habitual leaders and situational leaders. I never really could buy into “everyone is a leader” (it didn’t seem to match my experience), but I do see situational leadership lining up with reality.

    • Tim Elmore on May 9, 2011 at 8:16 am

      I hope that is a helpful lens to view leadership through. Helping people find the situations where they lead well is crucial for reaching their full potential and identifying/developing their strengths.

  3. timage on May 5, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Tim…great distinction.

    I would add another “S” word to the list. Following your format, I encourage students to discover their optimal:

    Story – The environment where they connect to something greater than themselves.

    I believe students will feel a deeper sense of significance and purpose (and perhaps, motivation) when using their influence in something that will make a lasting impact.

    Blessings your way and safe travels!

    • Tim Elmore on May 9, 2011 at 8:17 am

      I love it! I may have to add that one to the list. I, too, believe that students need help connecting to a story that is bigger than themselves if they are going to find a lasting sense of purpose.

      Thanks taking time to add to the conversation.

  4. Charles Flemming on May 6, 2011 at 7:48 am

    Tim, I really like this. Temperament exclusion is one of my pet peeves in leadership development. I see it everywhere I go, especially among leadership development “gurus.” One of the causes of this, in my mind, is the inclination of most folks to take the short-term and outward perspectives on things. We’re inclined to identify as leaders charismatic personalities who a) may or may not know where they’re going and b) may not be able to last the whole trip.

    I get on my soapbox about that here:

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Tim Elmore on May 9, 2011 at 8:21 am

      I relate with that. I’ve definitely found that making the distinction between habitual and situational leaders relieves a lot of that tension by freeing people to really lead in areas that they are truly gifted in.

      Thanks for taking time to comment!

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2 Types of Leaders