Wellness Pearls

10 October 2016

Teens Caught Partying Are Deftly Handled with Servant-Leadership

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.                                    Anne Frank

Late one night, a client of mine was called by the police to pick up her teenager and his friend whose parents were out of town.  They were caught drinking and smoking pot by the police, but no charges were pressed.  When she retrieved them, she held her tongue, and only expressed interest in their safety with them on the ride home.

On waking the next morning, she prepared a full breakfast for them and told them they were going for a ride in the car.  She asked them to tell her everything that went wrong, challenging them to lay out the consequences of their actions, the could-have’s and what they plan to do about all of this.  She told them  she wanted to hear it all from them and if they left out any details, she would fill in any “holes”.  On that ride, she was taken aback with their insight, and how they were able to articulate the series of bad decisions and potential disasters that could have unfolded.  They were so remarkably thoughtful and reflective that she did not have to say anything else.

This was a huge parenting win, in that this client approached this problem with a mindset of servant- leader. The leader takes great care to make sure that other peoples’ highest human needs are met: autonomy, promoting their competence, and keeping the relationship on good terms.  By sharing power, the servant-leader puts the needs and growth of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.  When we give people power, it drives up motivation and self-regulation.   While this applies to organizations, it is hugely helpful with teenagers, who need to feel in charge of their own lives.  This need for autonomy, in my experience and practice is hugely under-valued.   So the next time you are faced with an emotionally-charged problem, be it at work or home, consider asking yourself these 3 first-aid questions which will dramatically sharpen your Emotional IQ, and show respect for the other person’s competence:

Does it need to be said?

Does it need to be said by me?

Does it need to be said by me, now?


To go wrong in one’s own way is better than to go right in someone else’s.       Dostoyevsky

Leave a Reply