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Parenting Skills Can be Leveraged for Leadership

By Seiki "Stan" Hirota

Originally published February 26, 2020 on LinkedIn

Some discussions that I had with several members of our operating companies last month prompted me to wonder about the similarities of being effective in parenting and in leadership. Some of these members were mothers of several little children, some were expecting mothers, some were single mothers, and some were single fathers. It was interesting to hear that one mother told me that working in the office leading others is much easier than corralling 3 of her little children at home. After some thought, I thought the similarities to be interesting. Leadership isn’t for everyone, just like being a parent doesn’t suit us all, but if you are good at parenting, you probably have the basics needed in deal with people to be successful in leadership.

As everyone knows, parenting is difficult. When you become a parent for the first time, this could be overwhelming. This is probably more so for the mothers who typically spend and commit more time with the children. Although challenging, parenting can be extremely rewarding, where you need to guide, teach, encourage, discipline, compliment, create an inclusive, collaborative atmosphere and environment, and be patient for the child to be successful. I strongly believe that pretty much the same factors are important in leadership. With the similarities, if being successful in parenting builds a solid foundation for leadership, maybe companies should try to leverage on great parents as candidates for future great leaders.

Being a parent can be one of the best experience we have in life. Children are a blessing and they provide so many positive opportunities in the life of their parents. But there are many times when being a parent can be a big challenge, and these challenges provide us with great learning opportunities to be a good parent and at the same time as a good leader. One thing that is unfortunate is that if we look at the women’s advancement in the workplace, having children has traditionally been an obstacle for women in career advancement, and in many cases result in lowering their aspirations to stay on a leadership track. This could be a big economic loss for both the individual and the company and may present an improvement opportunity as a society as a whole.

In my view, through parenting, people learn many things. If I reflect on the experience that I had in parenting, I learned from many mistakes, but the representative things that I learned among many things were coaching, consistency, patience, honesty, accountability, teamwork, execution and praise. In coaching, there is a side that is transactional in nature and another side that is transformational in nature. Transactional side helps foster a culture of compliance and the transformational side helps foster a culture of commitment and change, and when you become a parent, you learn all these through the experience, which is just as important in leadership to be successful.

Here are my thoughts around why I think Parenting and Leadership are very similar. The key things that I had to learn as a parent are as below, and I think that these learnings can also be leveraged in leadership situations:

  1. Alignment on a goal, vision and expectation is critical. As parents, we need to partner with our child to co-create what success looks like, and the realistic steps required to make it happen. Having this alignment is important to be able to coach and mentor, to have them execute to what they need to do to be successful.

  2. Consistence is key. We have to be consistent in our messaging, how we set expectations and how we praise or give feedback on what is working and what is not.

  3. Focus on being a coach and a mentor. This means that our job as parents is to ensure that our children are the best that they can be and sometimes this means being a little tough, and other times it means just watching over what they are doing and giving them freedom. We have to help them find their way and not just tell them how to do it.

  4. We have to be patient. Children will not always get it the first time, but when they do get it, we are the proudest parents in the world.

  5. We have to let them make their own mistakes, even though it may be painful for us parents to watch. We have to be accountable for them and ensure that the mistakes we allow them to make do not harm them nor others around them.

  6. You and all other family members around your child have to be a committed, collaborative team. We can’t let the family members feel like they can play one against the other and have unnecessary politics to undermine the relationship. United we stand – divided we fall.

  7. Actively choose to have faith in what cannot yet be seen. We need to be honest, compassionate, give praise where praise is due and be willing to take action when things do not go the way they should have, have faith and be patient.

Whether it’s your child or it’s a member on your team at work, the expectations you set and the behaviors you model will have a positive impact and influence, provided that you communicate with them in a way that puts them in the driver’s seat throughout the process.

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