Parenting can be challenging in some pretty obvious ways. Whether it’s the feeding, diapers, rides, or issues of discipline, we know these just come with the territory. But one of the more subtle challenges that often gets overlooked when it comes to parenting is the feeling that effective parenting and success outside of the home are two competing, often unrelated, things. As a dad who regularly spends long stretches of time at home with my kids, I’ve experienced my fair share of feeling like my professional life was taking a nose dive into irrelevance and ineffectiveness. How could one not think otherwise when their books, meetings, and periods of strategic thought turn quickly into diapers, naps, and lengthy stretches of sleeplessness?
And yet, I want to tell you that we as parents, new and old alike, make it more difficult than it actually is when we fail to see the link between parenting and success in the marketplace. It’s one of the keys to unlocking better (and happier) parenting as well as more effective leadership outside of the home. It’s what allows us to invest more fully into who we are as parents without feeling as though we’re compromising our impact outside of the home.
The key is understanding that when it comes to leadership, many of its essentials apply just as much in the home as outside of it. Simply put, effective leadership in the home equals effective leadership outside of it. And in many ways, parenting embodies the true heart of healthy and effective leadership. The good news for parents and parents to be? We need not feel needlessly grieved when it comes to prioritizing family life. Surely, parenting comes with necessary sacrifices. It’s part of the territory. In fact, it’s part of what makes us into the leaders we hope to become.
I have listed FIVE ESSENTIALS for effective leadership which transcend the home.
[In the comment section, feel free to share some more you have discovered along the way.]
As a parent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of assuming your kids they know you have their best interests in mind. Yet, I can’t tell you how many times I make it a point to reassure my kids that I have love and have their greatest welfare in mind. They may not always understand the “what’s” of mom and dad’s decisions and actions, but as much as we can help it, they won’t ever question they “why’s” behind them. If this is necessary with our own children, how much more intentional do we need to be about building this trust and assurance with others. It’s often been said that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. I’ve found this to be true.
When it comes to our kids, it can be awfully tempting to tell them to do as we say and not as we do. For me, this is especially the case while I’m behind the wheel. Before our kids, we are exposed. At home, with friends, or in the car, they are watching, learning, and perceiving. If what we say is not backed up by what we do and how we live, we must not be so foolish as to think that our kids don’t have reason to question whether we really mean what we say. Effective leadership entails applying and embodying the principles we communicate. It means holding ourselves accountable to the same demands and expectations we place on others. It means being the “same person” in the lunch room as we are at the business meeting.
Nobody likes to step out of their comfort zones. To state the obvious, there’s a reason why we call them “comfort zones”. Situations arise which require us to step beyond our natural inclinations, past experiences, and general makeup. Unfortunately, this requires us to wear multiple hats, some of which we’ve never donned. In the area of parenting, one quickly learns that there’s not one fixed hat we wear. Sure, maybe as an uncle, you can get away with wearing the “fun” or “crazy” hat, but as a parent or effective leader, that is not an option. Children need encouragement, teaching, discipline, modeling, friendship, and on and on. It is no different outside of the home. When it comes to leadership, it is not enough only to be the “nice”, “tough”, or “funny” guy. We need to exercise a multiplicity of leadership qualities and responsibilities.
Have you ever tried to make out what a rambling two-year old was trying to say? Needless to say, it’s pretty difficult. Unless you’re their parent of course. It’s almost as if parents share a secret code language with the kids. The reality is that parents innately understand their need to connect with their kids on their level. To enter their world so to speak. And they get a lot of practice doing so at most every stage of their children’s development. It’s no wonder that parents are able to understand and identify with their children’s desires and feelings in a way others cannot. They know the necessity of having to step outside of themselves and into the shoes of others. In the workplace, especially, it is easy to treat people merely as employees, customers, and clients. The practice of showing empathy requires stepping out of our shoes and into theirs. It’s how we remind ourselves and each that before anything else, we share a common humanity.
Time to time, it boggles my mind a bit to hear the case of the mother or father who is seemingly unable to apologize to their children. If there’s anything parenting will do for you, it’s to make you realize you’re far from perfect. It has a way of bringing out the best in you but also the worst. And if we choose to be honest and open about our shortcomings and mistakes, we not only grow from them, but earn the trust of our children while also providing an example for how they can grow from their own shortcomings. Displaying humility is not a matter of showing weakness, as so often seems to be the perception in certain contexts, as much as it is about us recognizing the reality of our imperfections. Displaying humility to others not only extends life-giving grace and understanding to others but communicates that we recognize and embrace the reality of who we are.
I’d love to hear some others that you have discovered along the way in the comments section below. Don’t forget to subscribe for upcoming posts.