Being a parent can be one of the best experiences. Children are a blessing and they provide so many positive opportunities in the life of their parents. I have to admit there are also times when being a parent can be a challenge, but we learn much more from these challenges than we do from the good times.
Parenting skills that you learn and enhance are great for becoming a better leader if you know when to use each skill. Just like in leading others, the tactics you use as a leader should depend upon the circumstance you are thrust into. Let me share a few examples in the text below to help clarify just when to do what.
Parenting small children is much like leading a new team. Young children need to be told what to do, when to do it, and also need to be shown how to do things the right way. I think often of teaching your son or daughter to tie their shoes. This can be something that the child learns quickly or struggles with. As a parent you learn quite a bit from this type of experience because it provide you with the following opportunities that leaders use when leading others:
- You learn to praise them when they get things right
- You learn how to coach them when they have challenges
- If they do something wrong (like tying their brother's laces together) you understand how and when to discipline them
As children grow they need less of the "show and tell" and more of the coaching aspect of parenting. This reminds me of when my children first learned how to drive. While there certainly was a show and tell part to driving, there also is a second component when you have to learn to trust them to model the skill without your interference. It can be extremely challenging to see your child drive off the first time in his or her own car, but you have to trust that what you have shown them and shared with them will be utilized as they round the corner out of sight. Just like in the first example, you need to model these skills:
- Ensure they have the right skills and attitudes to not only do what they need with you watching, but also when you are on your own
- Listen for feedback the provide while doing what is necessary to make the experience succeed-if they get to their destination and return with no mishap, you celebrate; if they have a "fender bender" there is an opportunity for constructive feedback and possibly some type of punishment if the accident is caused by their own carelessness
Children eventually leave the nest and learn to live their own lives. Your leadership as a parent does not disappear at this time, but it does shift into more of a consultative role. I have learned first-hand that I cannot tell my children much now that they are 27 and 25 years of age. On the other hand, I have also learned that they will more readily ask for advice and assistance if I have maintained a good line of communication from previous experiences.
In a similar manner, your team members will go on to lead their own teams. Some will always need to be led and some will go on to lead the leaders of other teams. There is no one best outcome, but helping them find their own best situation is where you can add the most value as their leader, mentor and counselor.
Leadership is situational. Understanding the needs of the follower and the situation at hand will help you determine what to do, or what not to do as a leader.
Enjoy your time as a parent and you will have memories that last a lifetime. Enjoy your time as a leader of others and you will experience many of the same joys.
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