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Leadership Takes Self Control: Here's How to Model & Teach It At Home & In Class

The Big Idea

In their HBR article Leadership Takes Self Control, Professors Yam, Lian, Ferris and Brown report the profoundly positive impact self control has on leadership at work when it’s present - and the negative impact it has when it’s absent.

These findings are directly applicable at home for both you - maximizing how you can best model self control and experience the leadership benefits that result, and for your kids/students - maximizing the opportunities you create for your kids to learn and experience the positive impact self control has on leadership for themselves.

The Key Research Findings

“At work, leaders with higher levels of self-control display more effective leadership styles – they are more likely to inspire and intellectually challenge their followers, instead of being abusive or micromanaging.”

"(T)here are three main reasons why people occasionally lose self-control

1) self-control is a finite cognitive resource

2) different types of self-control tap the same pool of self-control resources and

3) exerting self-control can negatively affect future self-control if it is not replenished."

"(T)he keys to avoiding self-control failures are to

1) allow the body to rest and restore self-control,

2) reexamine existing organizational policies that might inadvertently reduce employees’ self-control and

3) create a culture that deters negative behaviors in moments of reduced self-control."

Apply the Research at Home

In a rapidly changing, highly competitive world, equipping our kids with the mindset and skill set they'll need to thrive and prosper now - and as adults - offers an edge. As is the goal in all of our work, the START Leadership approach supports parents in creating conditions in which kids can discover, experience, articulate, and apply what they're learning about WHO they are, WHAT they care about and WHY, and HOW to take the lead in "work" that has value.

A Note on Leadership: Leadership takes many forms. We review the foundational elements of leadership we use in the work we do with families in this overview post:'t-Wait-To Teach-Your-Kids-Leadership. The concepts are equally applicable in class.

With respect to leadership in action, four primary styles used by effective leaders in a wide range of successful organizations have been identified. They represent a continuum from greatest involvement and direction by the leader to least .

The four prevalent leadership style themes are Command, Coach, Collaborate, and Champion.

In academic, business, and organizational leadership research, A Complete Leader has been shown to be one who is adept, through self control (one of the four elements of Emotional Intelligence, EQ), at identifying the appropriate leadership style in any situation to achieve the best short-term and long-term results.

By using these leadership styles appropriately and with consistency, our research shows that parents create a culture that enables their kids to observe, learn, and master these styles and to develop the self control/EQ required to use them effectively as they take the lead in their own lives and work.

The following diagram includes examples of how to use each style. Each of these styles can be used by you at home or in your classroom to optimize your effectiveness as well as to model and teach leadership and to reinforce the development of leadership skills in your kids/students.

How You Can Take Action

As identified in this HBR article, effectiveness improves with self control (EQ). Assessing and identifying how you lead along with the factors that contribute to and interfere with your ability to lead at your best will lay the foundation for you to maximize your self control (EQ) and leadership effectiveness.

Step 1: Self Reflection Over the next few days and weeks, assess the leadership style(s) you use most often at home and the circumstances in which you use them.

Step 2: Situational Reflection Note the effectiveness of each of the styles you use in the variety of situations that arise that require your leadership and management skills.

Take note of the factors that may contribute to the times when you're most effective, including when you have

  • Ample Time

  • Clear Objectives

  • Opportunities to Collaborate

and when you are

  • Well Rested

  • Well Prepared

  • Calm

Step 3: Action Plan Identify two or three things you can do to maximize the positive factors linked to the times you are most effective and minimize the negative factors linked to the times you are least effective.

Share the process by talking out loud about the work you're doing to maximize your effectiveness with your kids/students. Doing so provides a model that they can use to apply the process in their own life and work.


When used in concert with the WIN Map and the START Leadership Process, you have the foundational tools you need to create an environment at home where your kids/students can discover, develop, and become their best selves as they learn to take the lead in their own lives. In the process, you'll not only give them an edge, you'll contribute to preparing the next generation of leaders our organizations and communities need.

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