Leadership: Kids Playing King of the Hill

By | December 13, 2020

[December 13, 2020]  Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in actions.  Sometimes, you learn this the hard way as an adult, better to learn it through play as a child.  I’m reminded of the summer of 1963 when a group of us boys played King of the Hill on a gravel pile left on a vacant lot.

When we got hurt, mom pulled out the 48-cent bottle of Mercurochrome.  When we tore our clothes, as kids playing with rocks often do, mom sewed a patch on.  Then we got our butt spanked.  It would surprise us boys later in life, but we learned some valuable leadership lessons from playing King of the Hill.

  1. Take action immediately.
  2. Take care of your body.
  3. You’ll be surprised by people’s ingenuity.
  4. You’ll be scared to do things, but do them anyway.
  5. Play well with others.
  6. Only those who know how to adapt, win.
  7. Sometimes you will not be OK, and this is OK.
  8. You will not always win.
  9. Regardless of how good you are, someone will be better.
  10. Good friends make King of the Hill fun.

When we were on the school playground, fights would break out about who got to play Superman, Captain America, or the Incredible Hulk.  They’re just a few of the best characters ever created.  We learned how to never be alone on the playground, no fun in being alone.  We would rather get hurt playing on gravel piles or the monkey bars than sit in our room, read books, take piano lessons, or do homework.  But, we all turned out okay.

“The true object of all human life is play.  Earth is a task garden, heaven is a playground.” – G. K. Chesterton, English writer, and philosopher

Some of my childhood friends would tease me occasionally about joining the U.S. Army.  They all knew I eventually would join.  “You were one of the best at King of the Hill,” my best friend Wilson would tell me.  I was wiry and fast.  I was quick to make a decision, and it was usually the best choice.  The military would be about conquering the King of the Hill.  I always wanted to win, and the army of the United States gave me that chance.

I won many of those “manly” contests but lost more than I won.  In King of the Hill, I learned to lose gracefully and to congratulate the winner.  That way, we stayed friends and always wanted to come back in that summer of 1963.  1963 was also the year that U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement were growing, and the first man to spend a day in space is launched on the final Mercury mission.

The year 1963 was a year of a great many lessons.  The lessons from playing King of the Hill stayed with me.  Those who ‘almost won’ by knocking the top guy off the hill were not winners.  Only the boy standing at the top won.  There was no second or third place trophy for us.  Either you won, or you lost.  Period.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

16 thoughts on “Leadership: Kids Playing King of the Hill

  1. Greg Heyman

    Now, this was a really interesting article because it reaches back to HOW we develop as humans. We do that, beginning with childhood and learn lessons for adulthood thru play. That is true, I presume, in nearly all animal species. Just look at kittens and puppies as an example.

  2. Valkerie

    Hi General Satterfield, another wonderful article that has you as a child, learning about being a leader. 😊

  3. Jake from Illinois

    Fabulous, did I say ‘fabulous.’ I may be new on the comment forums but I’m a regular reader. Thank you folks so much for making my day pleasurable and so fabulous. I just love reading about leaders and what they do.

    1. Yusaf from Texas

      Hi Jake, great to hear from you. Since you’ve been reading the comment forums, you know the basic rules. Be good, be tough-skinned, and make a logical argument. Please keep commenting.

  4. Kenny Foster

    Excellent article for a Sunday. Lessons as kids help us develop as adults. Those kids who did not play well with others growing up, mostly don’t do well as adults. Why? They haven’t learned to be “likeable.” Anyway, that is what one of the themes are on this leadership website.

      1. José Luis Rodriguez

        Good point guys. Thanks. This is why I like to also read the forums where folks like me can make a comment and not get subject to stupidity and insults. If I do make an argument, others will help me develop the argument to make it better.

      2. Fred Weber

        Yes Wendy. I’m happy you support what Kenny wrote. This is, often, one of the ideas that Gen. Satterfield helps get across to us.

  5. Otto Z. Zuckermann

    I always had fun playing ‘king of the hill.’ But what I got out of it was a tough body and faster thinking brain. It served me well over these years and I wouldn’t trade those times with good friends for anything.

    1. Eric Coda

      You got that right. And, the spinoff is that we gained something from the fun.

    2. Lynn Pitts

      Yep, and I do expect that all of us gain from the games we play as children. Maybe games we play as adults too — like poker (don’t flinch or give your cards away). Lessons are learned from games and that is all there is to it. Maybe it’s something we humans developed over the millennia or its inborn. How doesn’t matter so much as we have it and its valuable. 👍
      Oh, great article, Gen. Sattefield. It’s always fun to read your articles about when you were a kid.

      1. Dennis Mathes

        You bet. Good comment, Lynn. Yes, Gen. Satterfield has a series of things he learned as a kid that helped him as an adult. I would suspect that is true of us all.

    3. Deplorable John

      Otto, you da man. Me too. I also played the game growing up and have no long-lasting injuries but did learn a lot.

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