Leading with Childlike Wisdom

September 21, 2023

Leading with Childlike Wisdom

Embracing Child Development Strategies for Better Leadership

Imagine if the tools we use to raise and nurture children could also refine leadership skills. Well guess what? Many principles of child development can be applicable for leaders seeking to grow and enhance their capabilities. Let’s explore how leaders can embrace these strategies:

1. Growth Mindset

Children are often encouraged to adopt a growth mindset, believing that abilities can be developed through hard work and effort 1. Leaders can benefit by viewing challenges as opportunities rather than threats.

Example: If a project fails, instead of viewing it as a reflection of personal inadequacy, a leader with a growth mindset would consider it a learning experience and seek ways to improve.

2. Active Listening

Parents are often advised to practice active listening with their children and validating their feelings without immediately offering solutions 2. Leaders can employ this by truly hearing team members’ concerns and ideas, fostering an environment of respect and understanding… but make sure this is done out of true curiosity instead of a patronizing approach.

Example: When a team member brings up an issue, instead of quickly suggesting a solution, the leader could respond with, “Tell me more about that,” allowing for deeper exploration.

3. The Power of Play

Play is fundamental in child development, promoting creativity, problem-solving, and emotional well-being 3. Leaders can integrate play into their routine, perhaps by holding brainstorming sessions in a relaxed setting or encouraging team-building activities.

Example: Host a monthly team board game night can foster camaraderie, creativity, and innovative thinking.

4. Reframing Failures

Children learn from making mistakes. Instead of punishment, constructive feedback is more beneficial 4. Leaders can adopt a similar attitude, viewing failures as learning opportunities and offering guidance rather than criticism.

Example: If a team’s marketing campaign doesn’t go as planned, a leader could say, “What can we learn from this? Let’s analyze and learn for the next time.”

5. Boundaries and Consistency

Just as children thrive with structure and consistent boundaries 5, teams function best when expectations and roles are clear. Leaders can reinforce that while there’s room for flexibility, boundaries have to be maintained.

Example: If weekly team meetings consistently run over time, a leader might set a strict end-time and group topics to discuss later so as to ensure the meeting ending on time.

6. Encourage Curiosity

Children are naturally curious, asking endless questions to understand the world around them 6. Leaders can foster a culture of curiosity, encouraging questions and exploration.

Example: During team meetings, set aside a “curiosity segment” where members can ask questions or share new knowledge that can spark innovation.


If we tap into child development strategies we will discover many different ways for leaders to foster environments of growth, creativity, respect, and innovation. It might just be that in seeking to become effective leaders, a touch of childlike wisdom can make all the difference.

If you are interested in exercises that can foster this mindset, read our Activities: Leading with Childlike Wisdom article.



  1. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.
  2. Ginsburg, K. R. (2007). The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bonds. American Academy of Pediatrics, 119(1), 182-191.
  3. Singer, D. G., Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2006). Play= learning: How play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and socio-emotional growth. Oxford University Press.
  4. Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback. Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81-112.
  5. Siegel, D. J., & Bryson, T. P. (2012). The whole-brain child: 12 revolutionary strategies to nurture your child’s developing mind. Bantam.
  6. Engel, S. (2015). The hungry mind: The origins of curiosity in childhood. Harvard University Press.


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