What Bad Leaders Should Learn From Good Parents
2 July 2021
I believe that many of the qualities that make you a good parent are the same that will make you a great leader, and many of us would do well to look to dear old mum and dad for an example of how to lead any organisation well.
Here are 10 traits good parents and great leaders share:
Personal power is more important than positional power.
If you’ve ever found yourself shouting, “Because I’m your mother/father!” you know how hollow leading from positional power can be. While it might work in the short-term to lead that way, in the long term, leaders who are charismatic and inspiring personally are stronger than those who use their position for their power.
Invest in future success.
As a parent, you don’t notice that your child can’t walk yet and say, “Well, guess they’re just not suited to walking.” Parents constantly invest in the success of their children, guiding them, teaching them, paying for lessons, and great leaders do the same. They don’t assume that their employees are static, unable to grow and learn. Instead, they invest the time, mentorship, and support in helping employees grow.
As a parent, the buck stops with you. There is no greater authority — nor is there anyone else on whom to lay blame. A good leader will also take responsibility for what happens in his or her charge.
Value honesty and accountability.
Parents often find honesty to be the most valuable trait in a family dynamic, and lying the most egregious sin, and the same can be said of good leaders. A great leader won’t overreact when a team member reports bad news, or comes clean about a mistake. Instead, she values that honesty and rewards accountability.
Be the beacon of positivity.
How many times did your mum or dad comfort you and tell you “It will be OK,” when something happened in your young life? A great leader is a beacon of positivity, even in troubling times. This isn’t to say you should be blind to reality, but rather strive to be an optimist, even in unfortunate circumstances.
Appreciate the little things.
Mums and dads treasure the wildflower poseys, the shiny rocks, the interesting leaf that their child presents to them. They remember the unprompted thank yous and the surprise hug on the playground. Likewise, good leaders are tuned in to the small things. They recognise and reward the little extra efforts that make a good employee. This recognition helps employees feel seen and appreciated.
Hold people to a higher standard.
Mums and dads want their children to behave — even if Jimmy down the street isn’t. Good leaders should hold their employees to high standards as well. Just because it’s common to take a long lunch, lie on your timecard, or pretend to be sick doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and a strong leader will make that clear.
Praise over punitives.
Parents who are always pointing out a child’s flaws or belittling him aren’t good parents, and a manager who does the same to his employees is not a good leader. Instead of leading every conversation with what is wrong, good leaders look for what is right and praise that first.
Mums and dads frequently put their families and children first, above their own desires. Their passion for their children keeps the whole family unit functioning. Great leaders have to be passionate about their cause as well. That passion is contagious, and can create a strong work culture that inspires everyone on the team.
Take action and make decisions.
As I said above, mum and dad are the ultimate authority, so if they can’t make a decision or take an important action, the family suffers. The same can be said of a leader in an organisation. They must be able to make decisions and take action on those decisions or the entire organisation will suffer.
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