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Zack Gallinger-Long

3 Leadership Lessons From Children's Books

You're never too old to learn something new about leadership and you're never to young to start.

Here are 3 books that can help children (and adults) discover important life lessons about leadership, communication and relationships.


If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

This classic story describes a series of events that occur after giving a mouse a cookie.

  • Once the mouse has the cookie he asks for a glass of milk

  • Then he asks for a straw and then a napkin

  • He continues to make a series of additional requests

  • Each new request comes as a result of the last request being granted

This needy little mouse shows us what happens when requests are granted unconditionally. It's not that the requests are bad or that granting them is the wrong decision, it simply reveals how a seemingly small request can snowball into something much larger. The wisdom in this story can be applied in variety of areas: from project management to team leadership and even personal relationships. It is a simple but powerful lesson for leaders of all ages.


Stone Soup

Stone Soup is a folk tale about three hungry travelers passing through a famine-ridden village where the people are unwilling to share their food.

Cleverly, the travelers decide to make "stone soup," which is not soup at all, it's just water and three round stones.

As each villager inquires about the pot of "soup" the travelers convince them to each contribute an ingredient such as potatoes, carrots or spices. In the end, the entire village unknowingly donates enough ingredients to make an entire pot of soup and the three travelers get to enjoy a warm meal for their efforts.

There are several lessons to be learned in this book: from the resourcefulness and creativity of the three travelers, to the leadership characteristics it takes to persuade people to work together. This classic story is a wonderful example of what we can accomplish when we all chip in.


The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree is a classic Shel Silverstein story that follows the life-long friendship between a boy and an apple tree. The tree is very "giving" and selflessly sacrifices to provide for the boy throughout his life. However, eventually, the boy takes all that the tree has to give.

Depending on how you look at it, the book can be viewed as a tender story of unconditional love or as an unsettling tale of selfishness.

I choose to view it as heartwarming generosity with an undertone of warning similar to the lesson in "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie". We see the result of unchecked requests being granted while at the same time understanding that the tree gladly gave everything it could to the boy out of love. All ages have something to learn from this story of selflessness as well as the importance of conservation.


Looking for more book recommendations?

Read this article on The Top 5 Books on Innovation

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