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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Parenting and Leadership

“You learn far more from negative leadership than from positive leadership. Because you learn how not to do it. And, therefore, you learn how to do it.
Norman Schwarzkopf

I didn’t realise that someone else had said these words. I always thought they were mine – well similar ones anyway. I’ve always believed that I learnt more from the way my parents brought me up because they did so much that was wrong, than I would have if they had been perfect parents. I hope I’ve been a better parent by learning from their mistakes and remembering how I felt when I was the child.

I learnt not to ridicule my children, not to call them names or point out their deficiencies. I tried to give them positive messages, even when I was aiming to correct something negative.

I learnt to let my children make their own decisions, although I always endeavoured to present all sides of the story to them first, making sure they realised the consequences of whatever action they decided to take. And I learnt to live with their decisions, even if I didn’t agree with them.

I learnt to give my children the level of independence that suited their age and I always attempted to hide my worry when they were out with friends or late coming home or putting themselves at whatever risk might come their way. I knew they knew I worried, so more often than not they would let me know where they were or when they were coming home.

I learnt to be honest and open with my children. I kept them informed at all times. I remember my parents making major decisions like migrating to another country and not telling me until our journey was under way. I was devastated. I remember that feeling all too well and I have always encouraged my children to be a part of any decision, no matter what their age.

My children are now no longer children. I can only hope that the lessons I learnt from my parents made their passage through childhood that much easier.

Similarly it has been the negative leadership I’ve worked under that I’ve learnt more from than the positive leaders I’ve had.

I’ve learnt it is better to be open and honest with your workers than it is to try to hide things from them.

I’ve learnt that in order to get the most out of your workers it is better to nourish them, help them develop their skills and be patient with them rather than ignoring them or ridiculing them or getting frustrated with them.

I’ve learnt that sometimes a leader has to make the hard decisions and have the difficult talks with their workers in order to prevent undesirable situations, even if they don’t want to.

I’ve learnt that leadership isn’t just about doing the things you want to do. It’s also about doing the things you need to do and the things you would prefer not to do, and doing them as well as you do the things you want to do.

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