Leadership and the 7 dwarfs
“There is no greater leadership challenge than parenting” — Jim Rohn
As a father of 7 and an ever evolving, passionate leader, it begun to occur to me that there are a number of transferable leadership traits between parenting and leading in the workplace and beyond — some parallels, some lessons, some hugely rewarding experiences and many challenges….. “Are we there yet?” — Patience :),
here we go..
1. A grazed knee is often ok!
In my early days as both a father and a leader, I was concerned with making a mistake, a fear of failure, of doing something wrong. This would lead to a fair amount of over thinking, anxiety and a micro focus — not an enjoyable or aspirational place to be.
Over time, as I grew, developed and honed my skills, I learned that it was ok to let them climb that jungle Jim, to ride that skateboard, to take on a new project or role outside of their comfort zone and experience level, safe in the knowledge that they may fall off now and again…but a band aid applied, some encouraging words and coaching, then back on they go.
Give the freedom, autonomy and space to experiment, grow, push boundaries and have fun — it is worth a grazed knee here and there!
2. I love Lego, he likes footy
Our kids have a varied and broad range of likes and interests. For instance, one of the boys loves any game involving a ball outside. He could find endless hours of enjoyment, kicking, passing or hitting. On the other hand, another loves nothing better than hanging out indoors, Lego, drawing, painting and technology.
Recognising and appreciating their individual differences and needs, having awareness that different activities motivate and engage them, enables me to tailor my approach, my coaching to bring them balance and enjoyment to grow in the right ways.
Similarly, good Leaders recognize that their people are individual with individual likes, goals, career aspirations and personalize their style to motivate, inspire and connect.
3. Give it a go, Jo
Our son’s prep class has a saying, a motto if you like, designed to encourage the class to participate throughout the year… to ‘give it a go, Jo!’. This is about the children taking a chance, getting out of their comfort zone and understanding that it was ok if it doesn’t work out.
Many of us in the grown up environment have aspirations, ambitions and plans to grow and evolve. These can also often mean getting well outside of our comfort zones (generally the right place to be), often not being successful, at first.
Good leaders can not only help identify and expose such opportunities, but encourage and coach their people to take that chance… to embrace that outcome, however it lands. Instilling a win or learn mentality!
4. When I grow up, I’m going to be just like daddy
As a dad, setting the right example is paramount. Kids will mirror behaviours, language, attitudes, tone of voice and much more. I got a stark reminder of this sometime back — a car caused us to break abruptly and my 3 year daughter shouted expletives, mirroring exactly the tone and words I had used a day or 2 before. Lessons learned!
Just like being a leader, teams are taking cues from the leaders actions and communication style, observing and echoing. These behaviours play a significant role in setting the tone, the norms and the culture of a team.
Great Leaders are very aware that they are role models, demonstrating behaviours designed to cascade and bring out the best in their teams.
5. Today I’m going to be…
I often watch my kids playing, admiring the freedom and imagination. One minute they are flying through the air and the next out slaying witches, with a light sabre. There are no barriers in their thinking, no limitations, they are not constrained by logic.
Successful leaders have the ability to embed and develop such thinking in their teams. Thinking BIG, thinking about what could be possible and not be initially constrained with thinking about the how, is powerful.
6. It’s alright, daddy’s here
Like most children, my kids get frightened now and again. Maybe a film with a few monsters, add in some creative imagination, nightmares and floor walking at bed time ensues. A hug, some reassurance that daddy will protect them calms and provides security to settle and drift off to sleep.
Great leaders make their people feel safe. They provide the air cover and support for their teams. The space to explore and try new things without the fear of retribution. Feeling safe, can help create and build the environment, for teams to do their best work.
Both paths are continuous journeys filled with learning, both challenging, both have the potential to be extremely rewarding and fulfilling.
When the toys are put away for the last time, when your desk is cleared for the last time — think about what type of parent and leader you want to be remembered as. Be the leader. Be the daddy. Take accountability of that outcome, now.