6 Ways Leadership Is Like Parenting

I guess the first thing I should do is correct that title…it should say 6 Ways GoodLeadership is Like Good Parenting.  When my wife was pregnant with our first child, my boss told me that that being a parent was going to be the best leadership training that I’d ever get.

Well, I’ve had the privilege of being a parent for 11+ years and a leader for 12+ years, and I can confirm my boss’ theory.  During that time I’ve made plenty of mistakes, had great role models, and gathered some insights that seem to apply to both jobs that I thought I would share. Hopefully it gives you some food for thought and sparks a conversation.

Here are my Top 6…Top 5 sounds better, but I didn’t want to cut one so Top 6 it is…let’s begin!

  1. It’s not a popularity contest

To be effective, leaders/parents need to make unpopular decisions.  A lot.  Whether it’s met with rolling eyes, under the breathe comments, or outright hostility you need to stay strong.  Your vision is focused on long term outcomes, and that means making tough choices in the short term.  Being popular is easy, being respected and doing something significant is difficult.

“I firmly believe that respect is a lot more important, and a lot greater, than popularity.” – Julius Erving

  1. It’s not about you

This is where a lot of us get off track.  We’ve all seen those parents (maybe, been that parent?) that live vicariously through their children or force their failed dreams onto their son or daughter…it ain’t pretty.  Similarly, leaders that put their own need for recognition/power/praise ahead of their team members cannot succeed in the long term.  When you assume either of these roles, the only success that matters is your ability

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” —Max DePree

  1. You don’t see the impact that you make until much later (if at all)

Frustrating for sure.  You put all of your time, energy, and passion into your team or your children and you rarely see the direct impact of your efforts.  Leaders and parents rarely get praised for doing their job, but they sure take the heat when something goes wrong.  While it may not be fair, it’s reality and it’s the world that we live in.

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet we push it just the same.” – Jay Asher

  1. People pay way more attention to what you do than what you say

Whether you want to believe it or not, you’re always in the spotlight.  You can craft the most inspiring message, espouse the most beautiful virtues, and tell most compelling stories but if your actions don’t mirror your words it won’t get you anywhere.  Team members and kids are experts at sniffing out BS, so you’d better be prepared to walk the talk if you want to make any meaningful progress

“More is caught than taught . . . Words can be strong, but actions are stronger” – Rachel Cruze

  1. There’s no substitute for experience

There are lots of books on parenting (37.2 million results on Google) and leadership (218 million results), but they can only take you so far.  Being a leader or a parent is just as much art as it is science, and there’s only one way to really get better at it.  You have to screw it up a lot.  Hopefully you have strong role models in place or resources that you can leverage to learn from their mistakes so that you don’t have to make them all yourself, but you have to accept the fact that you won’t be perfect at it right out of the gate.

“The trouble with using experience as a guide is that the final exam often comes first and then the lesson.” – Author Unknown

  1. Everyone else thinks they can do it better than you

There’s nothing that parents enjoy more than when the know-it-all person with no children becomes pregnant.  All of a sudden, the unsolicited advice stops when they realize how difficult it is to actually be a parent versus sitting on the sidelines judging parents.  It’s the same with leadership…you’ll hear all sorts of tips and suggestions and input from people who have never actually led people in the real world.  Take that advice with a grain of salt.  There is leadership theory and leadership reality…and a huge gap in between.

“I was a wonderful parent before I had children.”Adele Faber

So there’s my list… I’d love to hear your thoughts on the list below and other common qualities that you’ve found in your experience.

 

John Healy is a Sales & Leadership advocate with 15+ years of experience building and leading Sales teams.  You can follow John on LinkedIn as well as Twitter (@John_A_Healy)

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John Healy is a Sales and Leadership expert for Factor 8 with over 16 experience in the industry. He has worked for and with companies ranging from startup to Fortune 500 around the world to maximize Sales performance. You can follow John on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at www.factor8.com.

John Healy

John Healy is a Sales and Leadership expert for Factor 8 with over 16 experience in the industry. He has worked for and with companies ranging from startup to Fortune 500 around the world to maximize Sales performance. You can follow John on LinkedIn, Twitter, or at www.factor8.com.

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