People that know me would probably be surprised to know that growing up I was an introvert. I never sought the limelight, to be looked at as a leader nor did I have a desire to lead. But somehow I became a leader.
I spent a lot of time on self-development and participated in formal training, I sought a mentor and did everything I could to learn about this important role. To lead people was a privilege, and I still believe it is. And I constantly look for ways in expanding my thinking.
But little did I know that my greatest teacher would come into the world at 3.50pm on November 7th, 2013.
The photo attached to this article is that of my daughter, Ava. In this photo, with her being only hours old, I remember thinking, 'I will always show you the way, be a teacher and not judge you and respect your decisions'. What I did not know at the time was that this little person was about to teach me far more about myself and how I lead than I initially realised. Now this does not mean that I did not know these things, but the manner in which I engaged in these areas has most definitely changed.
So what has parenting taught me about leadership?
Both parenting and leadership require vision. As a leader and a parent, it's your job to transmit hope for the future, to hold out a vision of success. Your children and your employees will look to you for support in making that vision becomes a reality. You need to believe that your employees and your children can develop their intelligence and their skills and become productive individuals who will contribute to a greater good. You need to transmit that belief to them. They will rely on you to keep that hope and belief alive even in stressful times. You are their pillar of strength. They pick up on your energy. So you must be able to create and sustain a positive vision for them that contains the possibilities of all that they can become.
Both parenting and leadership require passion, determination and commitment. As a parent and a leader you must be committed to the growth and development of your children and your people. This requires determination on your part - it's not easy to make sacrifices and to stay committed when so many other issues demand attention. Having passion about your family and your work provides the 'juice' that's necessary to keep your determination and commitment batteries charged.
Both parenting and leadership require the ability to motivate and inspire children and employees to accomplish their goals. At home, as well as at work, research indicates that positive reinforcement rather than punishment is the best way to motivate and inspire. As a leader and a parent you need to understand what motivates your employees and your kids so that you can interact and communicate with them in a way that reinforces their belief in themselves and inspires them to do well.
Both parenting and leadership require trust and integrity. Your children and your employees need to trust that you will do what you say you will do. They need to feel confident that you will support them and give them what they need. They need to believe that you are grounded and confident, and that you have good boundaries which they can't take advantage of. They need to trust that they can count on you to act with integrity regardless of the situation. If you act with ambivalence, avoid issues of significance, or dance all over the place, you do not impart integrity and you will slowly nip away at your kids and your employees ability to trust you. They are watching your behaviours to learn from you.
Both parenting and leadership require clear, consistent, two-way communication. As a leader and a parent you need to listen to what your employees and your children are saying, to hear between the lines, to understand their perspective, to act with empathy, to encourage and champion them, to set expectations with great clarity, and to give immediate constructive feedback. Your actions need to match your words, so it's your job to listen to their needs, to be consistent in the messages that you give, and to back those message up with appropriate actions.
Both parenting and leadership require emotional intelligence. Whether you are a parent or a leader, you need to be intelligent about emotions - your own and others. When you act with emotional intelligence you know how to control your own emotions and you know how to handle the emotions of others. This requires a great deal of self-awareness and self-confidence. When I first became a parent, I read Dr Shefali's 'The Conscious Parent'. She writes:
"When your children show you their most vulnerable aspects, and you show up ready to meet who they are, you indicate to them that they are worthy of being respected and received. If you betray them through your own self-absorption with the way you imagine they 'ought' to be, you convey to them that they are unworthy and that the world is an unforgiving place. They then become fearful of stepping out in life. By exercising the courage to own their errors, children learn to respect their fallibility and limitations, while demonstrating faith in their ability to move on."
And this is also true of our employees.
Both parenting and leadership require a positive attitude, as well as flexibility. As a leader and a parent your kids and your employees will respond better to you if you have a positive attitude, are upbeat and approachable. People respond better in happy environments where they feel safe and respected. You need to demonstrate flexibility and a positive, can-do attitude in adapting to whatever a situation might present. Even during difficult times, they need to know that they can count on you to see the positive and guide them through turmoil. As a parent and a leader you need to create safe environments.
And finally, parenting and leadership requires authenticity. Whether you are a parent or a leader your values impact the people who depend on you. If you are not in touch with your values and living and working according to them, you will send out mixed messages. When we don't operate with authenticity, we don't find happiness and fulfilment. We might end up appearing successful on the surface but we won't be successful in our own hearts. If you're not authentic in your parenting you'll screw your kids up in some way. If you're not authentic in your leadership, you'll screw your team up in some way. You might not understand why and you might blame your kids or your team for what's going wrong, but the real cause is your own inability to operate according to your values and to impart those values to the people who depend on you.
'Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you'd have. It's about understanding that your child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And if you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.'
So for these lessons, I thank the best teacher I'll ever have.
Publish Date: February 14, 2016 10:56 PM