Leadership begins early in parenting. As early as a few months of age, the parent has already developed a working relationship with the child, where the parent gives the child the beginnings of structure, while acting on feedback from the child to insure that needs are met.
Needs change with age, but the need for structure, limitations, teaching, and a role model is always present. Good parenting means that the way in which those things are done will grow and mature as the child grows and matures, in an appropriate way.
Leadership is more than just ordering or controlling. It involves careful teaching, and it always takes the individuality of the person being taught into consideration. The way in which a parent leads one child may vary radically from the way in which they lead another. When special needs are involved, those differences become more pronounced.
A good leader sets the standard, and then insures that those who are following are capable of meeting that standard. This includes both encouraging them to reach beyond their own expectations, and kindly helping when necessary to avoid feelings of failure.
H. Normal Schwartzkopf said, "Leadership is a potent combination of character and strategy, but, if you must be without one, be without strategy." This applies to parenting, in that if you are consistent, and teach well (strategy), and combine that with setting a good example and demonstrating integrity (character), your abilities as a parent will be more successful. But, if you can ONLY set the example, it will be more effective than if you say one thing and do another..