As I reflect back on my journey as a parent I am humbled by the mammoth learning that I have gained from it and how it has helped to shape who I am today.
Parenting is much about learning to ‘be a parent’. You can read a ‘how to’ guide, learn from other experienced parents but the real learning comes from practicing it yourself. A more experienced parent may share what works for her but you will not know whether it works for you and your child until you try it.
We learn to ‘be parents’ through the act of parenting by listening, observing, responding and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. Children have a way of giving you feedback – be it crying, having a tantrum, sulking and often just telling you it as it is – the painful truth with no frills!
The relationship between a parent and a child is an ever evolving one as she grows and matures. From one that that is dependent to becoming independent as the child leaves home. Her upbringing and the core values instilled will have influenced who she is and lays the foundations for the way ahead.
Using the same concept, leadership is not dis-similar to parenting. To lead you need followers and to ‘be a leader’ you need to ‘lead’ and learn from your followers. You can learn concepts, theories, frameworks, tips, strategies etc … from a leadership course but you still need to put them into practice – to do. And to ‘do’ requires listening, communicating, engaging, building relationships, supporting, developing, stretching….and to respond accordingly.
As a parent you quickly learn that what works for one child may not work for the other. Each child is different, motivated by different things, has his own personality, way of doing things and responding to situations and events and therefore you adapt how you deal with them. Followers / employees are no different. Being adaptable in how you handle different situations and people is essential for effective leadership. And the more interactions and engagement with different people and situations and learning and reflecting on what works well, the better and more agile you become at it.
Being at the top can be very lonely. It is much easier to talk about your parenting challenges, issues and mishaps with other parents in the playground, in work and social settings than is it to talk about your leadership challenges!
Engaging with a mentor is a good way of getting support, stretch and the use a sounding board. A coach can help you to explore issues, raise self awareness, give robust feedback, challenge assumptions and beliefs and help you to reflect and develop.
Leadership is a journey without a final stop. You don’t reach a point where you become the ‘best’ leader and stop there. There will always be situations, events and people who will test and challenge you and new learning to be gained. And on that journey you have the power to inspire, shape, influence and develop others…. what a wonderful opportunity that is.
What have you learnt from parenting? What are you thoughts on comparing parenting and leadership? How are you influencing and developing others?
Love to hear from you.