What parenting teaches us about leadership

Leading an organization is a lot like raising kids. It’s not that staff needs to be babysat or disciplined, but rather, they need to be encouraged, cared for, and tended to just like our little ones. In both, we must be user-centered, we must be iterative, and we must facilitate thriving through dialogue and attentiveness. So, we’ve put some thought into this and outlined the top commonalities and considerations for each. Enjoy!

  1. Involved, but not dictatorial. So easy to fall into this trap. Staff and kids need guidance, but neither will thrive if you take over. Sometimes, restraint is the best approach. Even if you could do it better.
  2. Push ideas further. Sometimes, it’s less about coming up with the big idea and more about helping make it happen. Empowering. Adding and building to. Shutting down sub-optimal pathways. Good leaders just make things better. They make people feel better amidst the process. Whether it’s the fort-building at home or a new approach to business development, good leaders help with the means just as often as they help with the end.
  3. Know your people. Not just their skills or strengths and weaknesses. Good leaders know people’s fears, frustrations, hopes, dreams, and how you’re really doing today. They just know you, without you even knowing they are looking out for you.
  4. Collaborate like crazy. Good leaders take the ego out of it. Mom could cook dinner way faster than if junior “helps,” but she takes the time and focus to invite him to be a part of the process. Further, Mr. CEO provides the assurance that he’s in control, but at the same time, lets his people in to truly contribute.
  5. Laser-focus on the right problems, the right questions. Good leaders don’t get lost in the sea of drama or get overwhelmed with all that’s wrong. Instead, they know where to focus, not chewing off more than the situation calls for. A good mom doesn't just want to keep the peace among siblings, but rather learn how she can build up their character in the given moment. A business leader sees things you miss, and socratically helps you see the light.
  6. What would MacGyver do? Good leaders are plain innovative and rad on their feet. They’re courageous. They’re patient. They see how tools and resources can be used creatively. They’re absurdly calm.
  7. They’re relentless. They care about the big picture and the little details with contagious passion. You can’t help but want to go to battle with them.
  8. They’re safe. You can trust a good leader. They’re half therapist, half teacher. They’re there for you. Approachable. Humble. Empathetic.
  9. They care. Good leaders just make you feel good inside. Their feedback is never harsh and always on-point. They pull you aside to love on you, but also point you to how you could do better next time. They talk to you – not just superficially, but thoughtfully, gracefully, and tenderly.

image from Flickr