Being a dad has been, and continues to be, one of the greatest joys of my life. I’ve experienced tremendous highs, suffered through some lows, doubted myself, learned much, and have been stretched to grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I first started this journey twenty-five years ago. The same could be said for my journey as a leader!
As I reflect on the lessons that have taught me to be a better father, I realize that many of the same principles apply to being a trusted and successful leader. Here are five leadership lessons I’ve learned from being a dad:
- There’s no substitute for time — I’ve learned that “quality” time is just a convenient rationalization to justify our busyness and to ease our guilt from not spending “quantity” time with our kids. The “quality” happens in those unexpected moments during the “quantity.” Being a leader requires spending large amounts of time with your people and not isolating yourself in your own little world. Devote yourself to investing in the growth and development of your people and you’ll reap the rewards.
- Set clear expectations — Part of being a good dad is setting clear expectations for his kids. They should know what’s expected in terms of their behavior and attitudes, and what the consequences will be (either positive or negative) for meeting or not meeting those expectations. Your people at work need the same clear expectations regarding their performance. They need clear targets with identifiable rewards or consequences. It’s not fair to judge your people (or kids) for their actions if they weren’t clear on the goal in the first place.
- Be the example — Being a dad means setting the right example for his kids and the same is true in being a leader. Your attitudes, the tone of voice you use in speaking to others, your work ethic, and the way you treat people are just a few of the ways you will influence your people. Just as a child will observe and often imitate every move of his dad, your people are always taking their cue from the actions of their leader. Make sure you’re leading well!
- Have fun — It’s easy to get bogged down in all the stress and anxiety that comes with being a dad, but I’ve learned to have fun and enjoy the journey as much as possible. Leaders need to remember to take work seriously, but not take themselves too seriously. Laugh at yourself, keep the mood light, and don’t be afraid to have fun with your staff. When the stressful times come, your people will be more willing to put in the extra effort that’s necessary.
- Validate them — One of the primary roles of a father is to validate his children. A father’s approval imparts a tremendous amount of psychological and emotional confidence in a child that empowers him to grow in confidence and faith in his own abilities. Your staff needs your approval as well. When your people know that you accept them, desire the best for them, and will do whatever you can to help them succeed, you will have their loyalty and commitment in following your lead.
Leading and managing adults at work is obviously not the same as parenting children, although some days it can certainly feel that way! However, the principles one uses to be a successful father (or mother) can be equally beneficial for success as a leader. Just like being a father, the key is being consistent in your approach and having the best interests of your people in mind.
By no means are these five principles a definitive list. I’m curious to know what lessons you’ve learned from being a parent that apply to leadership. Feel free to share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Happy Father’s Day!