I know what you’re thinking right now.
How in the world could building your family be connected with your ability to lead and build people in the workplace?
As a parent of four incredibly strong-willed, talented and loving children (ages 10, 8, 6 and almost 2), I’ll cut right to the chase.
If you’re driven to make a mark in leadership, here’s my case for how parenthood will not only elevate your impact but fundamentally change the trajectory of growth for the people whom you lead:
It Builds a Mindset for Potential. There’s no better spot to kick off the case for parenthood than potential. Every parent has experienced what it’s like to watch your child learn, experiment, and play, wondering what they might be one day. As they grow, they begin to get a bit more daring, taking on monster jumps from countertops and tall tree forts. I can do anything and be anything I want. The mindset for potential is a beautiful thing – while it lasts. As we mature, outside negative influences seep through the cracks and eventually begin to infect and weaken the mindset for potential. This is the tall order for leaders. Whether it be leading our family or workplace, it’s our calling and responsibility to eradicate the infections that attack potential. The best leadership helps others see potential in themselves.
It’s a Distraction. While you may be nodding your head, it’s not what you think. Turning the proverbial ‘hat’ upon arriving home to parent-mode is a release and distraction from the daily grind at the office. For the moment, completely removing yourself from tie and coat to shoot basketball with your six-year old is liberating. You need a distraction from the challenges you face on the battleground at the office, and for me, there’s no better way than four children tugging at my pant leg to come play. The way you know if your time with your children is ‘quality enough’ as opposed to ‘multi-tasking’ is that you should catch yourself not thinking about work for the first time all day. It has a refueling effect on your leadership capacity for tomorrow, doesn’t it?
It Cultivates Patience. One of the most difficult aspects of leadership is patience. As a leader, you can see the top of the mountain and the path to get there. The challenge then becomes not only taking your team up the mountain with you, but doing so at the same speed. Parents usually come to appreciate this phenomena even more, especially parents with multiple children. If you have not experienced elementary school yet, it will require every bit of patience you can muster. These are the years when your children are learning how to read, write, add and subtract – they will do it with different learning styles, personalities and speed. Having patience to let potential develop and blossom is at the heart of leadership.
It’s Imagination. You know where I’m going with this one, don’t you? If you’re a parent, you’ve marveled at least once in the last week over something your child did that was off-the-charts imaginative. Imagine an eight-year old that wants to play tackle football so badly that he inflates a pool float to use as a tackling dummy in the front yard – yep – that happened at my house with neighbors driving by watching the whole thing. At some point, as we become adults, we start worrying about what other people think. It’s like a virus that completely wipes out our imagination and fearlessness to try new things. Shame on me – I’m surrounded by imagination at home and never recognize it, but I am frustrated to no end at the lack of it in the workplace. The very best leaders cultivate and encourage imagination.
It Creates Connection. My assumption is that the large percentage of people who work for and with you are parents with children. An obvious way to connect with your people is to get to know them personally, and to share personal details about you. Stories about children help to bring down walls and establish common ground. Not only are you sharing the journey of parenting, but you’re demonstrating, as a leader, that you care about the ‘whole person’, not just the ‘work person’. That’s when leadership touches the sky.
It’s a Source of Energy. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Yes, parenting is draining. And yes, time does feel as if it’s standing still when we’re in the day to day battle. It’s when we take time to look back that we see nothing but change and growth. We see childhood stages evaporate and milestones shattered. Parenting is energy because it’s live growth in front of our eyes. As leaders, we get revved up by the big growth story, don’t we? In order to see it, we need to stop, look back, and acknowledge how far we’ve come.
It’s Our Purpose. At the end of the day, leadership is about growth. In particular, growth of people. The day you became a leader is when the spotlight sharply swung from you to the people you lead. You were charged, not with a responsibility, but an obligation to grow others. It happened the day you accepted the new challenge at the office. It happened the day, hour and minute that your precious little daughter or son entered this world. As a parent, it’s been said that we put a lifetime of energy, time and love into raising our children only to one day let them go. Sounds a lot like leadership, doesn’t it?
However small it might be, my hope is that something here might be freeing enough for you to drop work at the door and sink everything you’ve got into building your family. As you stretch and develop your children closer to their potential, what you might come to find is how close you’re getting to your own.
Plug into your children when you get home tonight. Don’t count the minutes – just get down on their level…in their space and look into their eyes. And, then try it again tomorrow and the next day. You’ll be captivated and connected like never before.
And so will your people when you get into the office in the morning.
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