“Parenthood and Leadership are Synonymous”

I have not yet had the pleasure of being a parent, but we are expecting in March of 2012.  We actually find out today if our baby is a boy or a girl.   Kristen and I are mentally preparing ourselves for parenthood.  We are reading countless books and taking in as much advice from others as we can.  We have heard about how challenging it can be, how it is going to change our lives completely, and yet, it will be the best thing in the world.  I am grateful for all the advice others have shared with us – it all helps in building the excitement Kristen and I feel with the passing of each day.  And while it is not my nature, I am nervous.  Parenthood requires influence in regards to growing and developing another human being.  You cannot “make” someone be a certain way.   Of course you can discipline, make rules, etc., but the real development comes from influence, which creates motivation to grow and develop a certain way.   I know how hard Leadership in the professional world can be, and truly believe that to be great parents we are going to have to be great leaders at home.  Is it possible to take Leadership skills learned in the professional world and bring them over into our personal lives?  Is it possible for great parents to take Leadership skills learned in parenting and bring them over to the professional world?  I think the answer is yes to both, but since I am not a parent yet, I cannot be certain.  However, I do have something to share about the great parents I know. 

When observing the style of the greatest parents I know, it resembles Leadership in many ways.  They hold their children accountable, reward them when they do well, and motivate them to do the right thing.  They respect them and demand respect from them.  Their children’s success motivates them more than their own, and they understand the personality of each child and mold their parenting methods around what works for the individual, rather than treating each the same.   Sounds like leadership to me, but with one thing missing.  If it does not work out, you do not just part ways.  You love your child no matter what.  Therefore, parenthood is likely the greatest leadership challenge of all.  

I am embracing parenthood and have the hopes that my current leadership skills will help in this new stage of my life.  Parents can also apply what they have learned to their professional lives.   People need much of the same ongoing Leadership and influence as a child does, and parents have already had great training.   If the desire and tenacity (if you have the energy to do it at work, as well as in the home) exists, great parents have the skills to be great leaders outside of the home as well.  

For those parents that are reading this and saying, “Boy is he in for it” – you are probably right and I will never deny my ignorance, but I am doing my best to mentally prepare and to be the best parent to my child I can possibly be.  Any advice you have is welcome – please keep it coming.

“When accompanied by a full understanding of Leadership, being the best at what you do allows you to choose what you do”

People tend to define themselves (in regards to profession) by what they do.  Maybe they are in  Marketing, IT, Sales, Services, etc.   It is a great accomplishment for anyone to get to the point where they know where they fit.  Within that specialized area they likely have some sort of status within their own mind and within the organization (hopefully the two are the same).  They are known openly or indirectly as either being one of the best, being a good solid contributor, or as not meeting expectations.  For those that are in the best/highest performer categories, there will be future growth opportunities if the concept of Leadership is fully embraced.  It is at this point that the individual has the opportunity to choose.  Many will be comfortable being the best at what they do and may not be embrace the new opportunity, which is perfectly fine, but isn’t it great to be offered the opportunity to choose our destiny? 

There are two pre-requisites.  Others have to be consistently impressed by your performance in previous roles, and it must be evident that you have become a leader and understand/practice the concept of Leadership.  Leadership is about rational thinking, having the ability to view issues from another persons point of view, focusing on influence rather than power, the ability to motivate others, the ability to trust others, being respectful (always), being goal driven, and being comfortable with the idea that success can only be had through the success of others (It is no longer about what one person can do by themselves).    

It is possible to be the best at what you do, and to be a phenomenal leader.  At the very least, fully embracing/practicing Leadership makes us better people, and most importantly gives us choices and control over how high we climb.

“Everything we do and how we do it, matters”

My wife (Kristen) said this to me the other day when we were discussing her business.  She has a wonderful team at Vocelles Bridal, which she is very proud of and she was reflecting on how important it is to have everyone on the team understand that everything they do matters in regards to interactions with customers and with each other. 

Reflecting on our own organizations, what we do, what we don’t do, what we say, what we don’t say, how we do it, how we say it, who we say it to, etc., everything matters.   This applies to all leaders and to all members of an organization.   Classifying “everything” as relevant is overwhelming.  People make mistakes daily, but what is important is that they believe everything they do and how they do it, matters.   If there is belief, there is self-awareness, and if there is self-awareness, there will be continuous improvement.  It takes many years for some to embrace this, while others never will (those who never do, end up making the same mistakes over and over), however it is an absolute requirement for anyone in a Leadership role. 

Lack of self-awareness can also lead to too much focus on you in regards to success, and putting all the blame on others when something goes wrong.  There is a difference in being the best at what you do and being a great leader.   You can be the best at what you do, without fully embracing the belief that everything matters, however your full potential will never be reached.  The focus on “you” will ultimately lead to failure in a leadership role.  When people are not embracing the everything matters theory, there is high-potential to be unknowingly disrespectful, overly dominant, and defensive, both internally and sometimes externally.  In some situations it is best for high performers not to be in leadership positions if they cannot fully embrace this principle.   

As leaders we also have to recognize when members of the team totally lose sight of the principle.  For example, no team member has the right to be dis-respectful to others – which includes internal team members.  That should never be tolerated, and there is no excuse for it.  It only takes one time to burn a bridge with a co-worker, or with a customer and many times it is irreparable.  There are countless other examples, but this is likely the most severe.

Look around the organization and identify those who fully understand and live by the rule that “everything we do and how we do it, matters”.  They are the leaders and future leaders of the organization.