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Lead Well, Be Well, Do Well: A Mantra for Parents and Kids

The Haverford School's director of leadership and an educational expert talk about how to help boys excel without sacrificing well-being.

By Bill Brady and Laurie Bodine

Bill Brady, The Haverford School’s Director of Leadership, and Laurie Bodine, Leadership Strategist of START Leadership, presented “Lead Well, Be Well, Do Well” as part of the school’s Best for Boys speaker series. The session provided parents with an understanding of the value of a leadership approach and a toolkit to foster the leadership mindset their sons need to do well without sacrificing being well.

The paradox: The push to be all and do all interferes with the ability to be well and do well. 

In schools, colleges, and the workplace, there’s a growing leadership and engagement crisis — one that executives and educators rank as a top concern. Parents are also understandably anxious, given the increasingly competitive, rapidly changing world in which their kids are growing up. Yet there’s uncertainty about how best to equip kids with the mindset and skills they need to do well without sacrificing their ability to be well.

Research shows that embedding leadership development opportunities into kids’ daily experiences equips them with the language, processes, and skills required to take the lead. This serves them well today while preparing them to engage and lead effectively through college and their future life and career. It has been further shown that these experiences are more productive, constructive, and enjoyable for parents and kids – even in the midst of facing inevitable challenges.

The leadership edge: equipping kids with a leadership mindset and skill set prepares them to lead well, be well, and do well. 

There’s a growing consensus in business and academia that leadership is not dependent upon position, does not require charisma, is not soft stuff, and best of all, can be taught. It’s true in families, too. It turns out the most effective leadership development approach for parents mirrors the most effective approach for professionals – and it’s one we’re all familiar with.
The dynamics in all organizations, including the small, nonprofit organization we know as family, are based on the social, biological, and psychological sciences that govern all human actions and interactions. These dynamics also dovetail nicely with the stages of child development.
The way in which our family functions provides the first, most powerful model of leadership for our kids. As such, we as parents have an opportunity to be intentional about the way we lead our families, and how we teach and reinforce highly valued leadership skills.

Leadership Definitions 

Consider the definitions we use with families that even the youngest of kids can grasp:

“Small l” leadership: Making decisions and taking actions every day that have positive and productive outcomes.

“Big L” Leadership: Mobilizing yourself and/or others to pursue a worthwhile goal.

Attributes of Leaders

Consider the attributes of effective leaders for which the roots are planted in childhood.

Responsible: I know WHAT to do and I take action.

Resilient: I know WHY I’m the one to do it and so I stay with it, even when it’s hard.

Resourceful: I know HOW to do it and how to collaborate.
At Haverford, starting in fifth grade, we use two tools that have proven to be effective in facilitating the intentional development of a leadership mindset and skill set. These foundational tools represent a synthesis of extensive research in the field.

Tool 1: The WIN Map   

In order to build the emotional intelligence and self-directed mindset that foster leading well, being well, and doing well, it is essential for kids to be given the time, space, and guidance to tune into how they’re wired, their interests, and how they can apply both to meet needs in their community.

Tool 2: The START Leadership Process   

This is effective in facilitating both organizational and project leadership. START is a synthesis of comprehensive research organized into five steps that you can use personally, professionally, and with your family:  

S: Articulate Your Strategy — Vision, Values & Goals
T:  Select Tactics to achieve the strategy
AAssess progress to stay on track
R: Establish Routines to link daily work to tactics
T: Embed Training to develop the skills required to complete routines
In our leadership initiatives at Haverford, the faculty, administrators, and families articulate the definitions and behaviors of leadership in an affirmative, productive, and constructive way. Beginning in fifth grade, students use the WIN map and START process to identify their strengths, articulate their interests, and determine how the two intersect to serve needs in their own life, in their family, in their community, and beyond.


All kids are born with the capacity to engage, to innovate, and to lead. In our research and that of the scores of others, we find that the kids who fare best in preparedness and well-being have had opportunities to discover, to practice – celebrating mistakes as an essential step on the path to mastery – and to develop their leadership skills and abilities in many areas over many years.
Given the opportunity, kids learn to take the lead in small and large ways. When experiences are designed to build over time, which facilitates increasing levels of responsibility and independence, kids thrive and prosper. Intrinsically motivated and emotionally intelligent, the kids raised with this model demonstrate more meaningful, engaged behaviors at school, at home, and ultimately at work when compared to the extrinsically motivated kids for whom behaving, performing and achieving, and building a résumé for college admissions are the defining objectives. They experience broad success without sacrificing well-being, and they become the leaders we hoped they would be.

Save the date for The Haverford School’s next Best for Boys event!

Saturday, March 17, 9 — 10:30 am

Paul Assaiante, Trinity College squash coach

Assaiante, the winningest coach in college sports history, believes that it is only through failure that we learn what is important. Among the topics he’ll address:

• How do we raise balanced children in a pressurized society — and how are we as parents contributing to that society?

• How can our children manage their emotions in the face of adversity?

Join the community to hear from this legendary coach, mentor, and observer of human nature about the value of risks and failures in creating resilient, capable, and positive citizens. A book signing of Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear, co-authored by James Zug of The Haverford School Class of 1987, will follow the program.

This event is free and open to the public. 


Want to know more about The Haverford School? Join Us for Look & Learns and First-Look Fridays!

Get an inside look at our campus, including roundtable discussions with our Head of Lower School and Head of Middle School, at a Look & Learn.
November 15:  Pre-K — grade 5
December 6: Pre-K — grade 5
December 7: Grades 6 — 8

Come for personalized tour of our Upper School during First-Look Fridays.
December 18, and 15



Photographs courtesy of The Haverford School. 

The Haverford School, a nonsectarian college preparatory day school for pre-kindergarten through grade 12, provides a superior liberal arts education for qualified boys of differing backgrounds. We are committed to developing the full intellectual, artistic, athletic, and moral potential in each boy, and we aim to graduate young men with strong character who possess a passion for learning and the necessary problem-solving skills to make a difference in the world. The Haverford School prepares boys for life. www.haverford.org