I’m a newbie in the world of leadership and parenting, and the correlations are just too strong to ignore.
Leadership largely as a study is an exploration of self. During formal study, you explore what it takes to be a leader and many determine, in fact, that they don’t really want to be in a leadership position. Much in the same manner as some friends in the past who determined that they may not aspire to parenthood after spending an afternoon at a friend’s little kid’s birthday party. So, what is it about leadership that so relates to parenthood?
First and foremost, being a good leader and a good parent is about the development of those around you, whether they are called your employees or your children. Being a parent is about guiding your child through the walks of life, even when it’s a matter of being the bad guy, aka the disciplinarian (my least favorite role in this position). Being a leader means guiding those around you to grow professionally under your wing. The adjective of “good” often stems from the “why”, which just so happens to be my three-year-olds favorite word at the moment. Do you do it because you have to as a part of your role, or do you do it because you love to watch others develop and grow? I believe the root of our motivation correlates with our success. Whether it’s a matter of parenting or leadership, if you’re hearts not in it, it becomes quite obvious to others.
Another correlation of leadership and parenthood is the simplicity of success. Many times, we tend to overcomplicate things; at least I can speak for myself! Sometimes when everything hits the ceiling and my toddler is ranting and raving and tearing up the house, the solution is as simple as to turn off the television or perhaps to just put her in her bed. Moments like these hit me hard, especially in the wake of actually attempting to talk to her to calm her down or some other adult type of rationalization in the moment. Leadership is often similar. Leaders don’t necessarily have the singular role of motivating, leading, and developing their employees; they often have that dual role while upholding the business operations as well. So, life at work gets complicated. There are orders to be met, customers to keep happy, employees to manage, and bosses to answer to. Often, the simple reality of humanity underneath every function and operation of the business can be overlooked. That’s why I tell my management students probably 40 times in a semester class, “No matter how complicated your affairs may become, never forget that you are working with people, people who have lives outside of here and who have feelings dominating their beings and blood running through their veins.” I personally believe that much of what makes dissatisfied employees is that disconnect of humanity with management.
Finally, I’m not sure there is one right or one wrong way to be a parent or a leader, nor is there a textbook that will teach us what experience will. Different situations call for different styles in both situations. Nine months of pregnancy and endless books, blogs, websites, and chatting with other mothers could not have prepared me for what happened once my child was put into my arms. The moment dictates my actions. Sure, if I have a moment to ponder (rare), I can recall information about the situation that I had read in the past, but instincts kick in. The first look into those eyes and the promises start rolling – safety, happiness, vacations, strength, courage, manners, life’s lessons. I think a leader should take a similar approach with a new employee or team. The leader should promise to them what she brings to the table and what she hopes to help the team or individual create and become. In essence, this would be equivalent to the “Leader’s Charter”, a wonderful mission statement for any leadership position written by Art Petty and Rich Petro in Practical Lessons in Leadership. Start out simply knowing where you want to go, how you want to treat your people, take advice and lessons from life and books, and stay focused in the tough moments.
I have a little secret to confess: when I was a high school teacher, I used to secretly thank my students’ parents for the practice in becoming a parent. Human beings are sometimes tough to manage, especially in those difficult, hormonal years of self-exploration, and I got a crash course in teenagers! Again, the several adolescent psychology courses that I had to take certainly became a foundation of my knowledge but rarely could I ever recall a particular theory when in the moment of chaos in the classroom. Leading a classroom of teenagers or a team of adults or a child through the walks of life all have much in common, and I think the key to it all is to try to have an empathetic approach to everything. I say it and know in the same breath how challenging this can often be. But, the attempt to put yourself in another’s shoes itself, even if unsuccessful, proves the heart in you as a parent and a leader and the presence of the answer “because I care and want to help you” to the never-ending question of why.
7 thoughts on “Leadership 101 = Parenting 101”
I couldn’t agree more Laura! The parallels between leadership and parenting are unmistakable. I only have toddlers for now, but the comment you made about practicing rings true for me too. My wife and I led a church youth group for a couple years and had numerous opportunities to learn the ropes of dealing with teenagers… an invaluable education!
Thanks so much for your comment, Curtis! I’ve had this title in my mind for quite some time now and am glad that you could relate to my message! I remember moments when my daughter was newborn when I would look at her and think to myself, “I don’t even know this child, and she’s mine!” Even we, with the strongest and most dear bond known on the earth, had a learning curve with each other, with much yet to come! I look forward to continuing to share in our leadership and parenting adventures!
Hi Laura! We are teaching my teen to drive so this hit home with me. I thought you might find this related post from the Wall Street Journal interesting –
Thanks for the great reading reference, Melissa! I really liked the managing-as-parenting idea that there’s usually something bigger behind office tantrums than the issue at hand itself. A “leave your personal life at the door” policy is so prevalent and expected in the workplace, yet the human part of us makes it hard to do sometimes. Managers need to be there not just for the business of the business but truly for their people, too.
Laura! I truely enjoyed reading you article! As you know with my 10 kids (his ,mine, ours) and 19 grand kids (one of then a great), this hit close!
We as parents never stop being leaders even after the kids are grown and gone! I strongly believe that it all begins at home! My dad was my leader, my advisor, my backbone! I know what I know because of him and his ways and I find myself using alot of what he taught me with them 🙂
It makes me smile when I hear my kid say “papi always said” or “papi would do it like this” or ” mom you just like papi”! 🙂
Cant wait to read more!!!!!!!!
Susy! Thanks so much for the visit and reply! You just continue to wow and amaze me with what you have on your plate and the great spirit that you embody so wholeheartedly! I miss you and truly hope all is going well for you, neighbor!