For this post, I want to write from the perspective of a parent. I believe there are many characteristics in parenting that flow into leadership and vice versa. Below are some thoughts on how parenthood and leadership share similar characteristics. My hope is that the leaders who read this will find value in how they might relate to their employees. And for the parents who read this, I hope you find value in how you choose to treat and raise your children.
Children crave attention. They want to know they are loved, valued, and cared about. Children seek out their mom and dad for time. They want to hear they are doing well and doing the right thing. Children also want to find safety in mom and dad. They want to know that nothing they do will ever change the way they are loved. How much does this differ from the wants and needs of those we lead? Employees want to know they are cared about and valued. They want to know that leadership is a safe place to go to have serious, meaningful conversations. They want to see leadership take time and invest in them. Employees want to know that when they mess up, they still have an opportunity to try again.
Parents and leadership set expectations. As a parent, I set the expectation for my children; how they should act, how they should respond, how they manage their emotions and feelings, etc. Leadership sets expectations for employees in how they should act, how they should represent the company or organization, how they should deal with problems and issues, etc. Ultimately, if parents and leaders do not live by example, then don’t expect your children or employees to follow the expectations. In other words, if you are going to hold someone to a specific set of standards, you better be the first one to be held to those same standards.
Some will say, “Children are not employees.” To that I say your are correct. But that’s not the point. Children are observers and learners of you; the same with employees. How we treat each of them will determine how successful they will be. If leadership in a company expects different expectations from their employees than they do themselves, then the trust and desire to do better will be lost. The same goes for parents. If parents expect children to act, respond, and do things a certain way, but do not follow their own expectations, then a child will have no foundation to build on. Hypocrisy destroys credibility. As leaders and parents, credibility is vitally important.
The characteristics between leadership and parenthood are uncanny. I challenge you to reflect on how you are parenting your children. Are you investing into them? Are you leading by example? Are you holding yourself to the same expectations you are holding your children, or do you need to start holding yourself to better expectations? I ask the same questions for leadership. The most important question being, “Are you holding yourself to the same expectations you are holding your employees, or do you need to start holding yourself to better expectations?
As always, never forget that leadership, at its core, is about how we treat one another.