Top 6 Tips for Being a Great Parent, I Mean, Leader

Thought for the week: consider how leadership and parenting are similar.

I’m amazed that JUST when I think I have my twins figured out — what they’re passionate about, what makes them anxious, who they like and why — it changes. As a parent (and recovering control freak), I’m learning to turn off frustration with this constant change, and rather turn outward and enjoy observing their process of growth. After all, it’s not for me to figure out. I might offer a helpful hand or past story now and then, or acknowledge having moved past something with a quick congratulations.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like leadership? Applied to an adult, it means understanding what your employees are passionate about, guiding, offering recognition and getting satisfaction when something sparks growth and passion.

Next is that skill of adapting to change. Instead of becoming irritated once you have something figured out and it changes, you are motivated by the opportunity to change, because it represents further growth. Something better.

However, watching your kids struggle is really hard. As parents, we naturally want to make things easier for them. But, at the same time, have reasonably high expectations. I think we do that as leaders, too, through change management efforts: Set high expectations, paint the picture, tell all how great it will be in the post-change world. All those things aren’t bad, per se, if they’re for making the change actually happen.

Over promising that change management efforts will result in a faster, easier and more enjoyable process is the surest ticket toward frustration. Just like kids have challenges and they’re unavoidably painful, so is change and growth for adults.

When did we start thinking change shouldn’t be painful?

Finally, we all know the impact on kids when we aren’t in a good place. My husband has a saying in our house, “When mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” This is true for leadership, too, isn’t it? Think of where you are today and how that might be helping or hindering your ability to lead meaningfully.

To summarize: The top six tips for being a great parent, I mean, leader:

  1. Pulse check: are you there? Can you show up in a good place today? Start with thanking someone. It really helps.
  2. Turn outward — enjoy watching others grow and develop.
  3. Set high expectations.
  4. Casually guide people with your experience, knowledge and passion through stories or “just-in-time” advice vs. once a year in performance and development discussions.
  5. Be OK with people struggling, failing even. In fact, tell them to expect some pain.
  6. Look forward in anticipation to the next change, but don’t ever tell people it won’t be painful.

Hop on, and join this journey with no end — parenting and leadership! There are wins, and missteps, but it always gets better, because you’re growing just as much, if not more.

  1. You are so right about not promising there will be no pain with growth and change. Acknowledging it doesn’t make it go away, but it sets expectations and helps people get through it.


    1. Thanks, Kelly! We know all too well, don’t we??


  2. Fun post, great metaphor (parenting/leadership). As someone in the training field, I often marvel at how closely parenting and professional development are related. I’m impressed with how well you’ve articulated it in your post!


    1. Thanks so much, Brian! I’m glad I’m not alone in this realization!


  3. A comedian whose act I was listening to recently casually pointed out how much more pain kids tolerate vs. adults. My ears pricked up when I heard that, even though it was not a focus of the guy’s monologue. This post just reminded me of that. Kids are often seem to be much more flexible, teachable, humble, etc. than adults.


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