We interact with a wide variety of strong, smart and inspirational leaders throughout our life time, from every part of our world. Leaders of all kinds are abundant. As I grew in my corporate career, helping people figure out how to use their talents to contribute and to lead, AND as I became an adoptive parent myself, I began to see links between leadership in the world and leadership as a parent.
Parenting is absolutely, hands down the greatest leadership job on earth. It is also the hardest job on earth; the job with the greatest risks; the job with the most rewards and the job that lasts a lifetime. Parenting is the leadership job with the least amount of preparation and almost no training. The fate of the free world is in our hands and we are learning and adapting ‘on the fly’. We are remarkable, aren’t we?
Where I see an opportunity to make something better, I act. I developed The Parent’s Profile to help parents see and appreciate their natural leadership abilities.
Leadership and parenting are more aligned than you might have thought. Let me explain.
First, a simple definition of leadership. Let’s assume that leadership is the ability to influence the thoughts and direction of fellow decision makers. Yes, I believe that everyone leads and everyone is a decision maker (including our spouse, parenting partners and kids). More about that later.
Second, no two leaders are the same, lead the same way or share all the same interests, talents and values. Authentic leaders know who they are (and who they aren’t) and they lead consciously and mindfully.
Third, leaders of teams look to engage, encourage and reveal the leadership capabilities of co-leaders and team members especially in areas where the leader is not gifted and/or not interested. (When you think teams, think families.)
Are leadership and parenting starting to come together for you? If you are a parent, you are likely nodding your head. We are born to be leaders. We are just not born to lead the same way.
What does your ‘Born to Be’ leadership look like?
We are each born with instinctual preferences for pace, priority, energy and environment. From our first breath, we become calmer or more distressed depending on the match between what we experience and who we are. That natural, hardwired, gut instinct remains with us through life. We learn to adapt to either ‘fit in’ or to ‘obey’. The stress reaction we feel when we are out of our natural preferences, however, sticks with us.
How we are hardwired or ‘born to be’:
Pace is the speed at which we move through the world, our own internal motor. We are born with instincts for either a faster or a slower natural pace.
Priority is the motivation of our direction. Some lean first toward task accomplishment and others toward people connection.
Energy is how we expend energy and re-charge our batteries. Some draw energy from crowds and groups. Others draw energy from a small group of friends or solitude.
Environment is the setting we live best in . We are naturally wired to accomplish life best in either a flexible or a stable setting.
One instinct is not better than the other. They are just different.
We have natural instincts (faster/slower, people/task, inward/outward, flexible/stable) and we have an intensity for each. When we know who we are, both our instincts and their intensity, we can lead and partner in leadership from a place of strength. We can’t always live in our own perfect little world, live in our preferences our way. Successful parents consciously choose when to live outside their natural instincts. Parents who are conscious about their own instincts and intensities and understand those of their spouse can choose when and how to give and take.
A real example: Workshop
In a recent debrief for The Parent’s Profile, a couple lit up as they described how their natural instincts, their give and take, worked for them. They are a foster family. She is a stay at home mom and he works away from home and does not travel for work. She has a fast pace and task orientation priority. He has a slower pace and a people orientation priority. They described how they handed the baton back and forth as needed to keep both in the energy and effectiveness to parent their family. Because they knew and appreciated the other’s natural gifts, they shared leadership. The Parent’s Profile gave them shortcuts in language to enhance their give and take.
Kids as leaders – Are they really trying to push our buttons?
Whether biological, fostered or adopted, our kids are born with instinctual preferences for pace, priority, energy and environment. When they are born to be different from us, we can feel pushed or resisted as our kids exercise their natural instincts. It can feel like they are pushing our buttons, on purpose. Increased understanding about who they are born to be and a common language to talk about it helps parents encourage the leadership abilities of their kids and enable them to learn how to give and take as needed to lead and to live their values.
A real example: Coaching session
A single mom came in tired and warn out. “She pushes my buttons all the time. I get so frustrated with her. She goes from wonderful and cooperative to nit picking and demanding. Ugh…”.
This mom knew that she was faster paced, flexible and spontaneous. We looked closer at her daughter’s preferences and intensities. Yep, her middle school aged daughter was also faster paced but wired to be stable and structured in her living preferences. Mom set house rules and followed them but liked to keep the schedule fluid. Daughter followed the house rules most of the time but wanted more structure in the schedule so she could anticipate what was coming and make plans with her friends (no surprise, daughter is also people oriented). The daughter was always asking mom about the how, when, and where of the schedule and mom was frustrated with the constant questions.
Through the session, mom voiced what she loved about her daughter and what she wanted to see from her daughter as she grew into her own natural leadership abilities. Mom planned for a conversation to introduce her daughter to the preferences and instincts that she has and to engage a discussion about how they can give and take more successfully at home. The Parent’s Profile gave this mom a way to understand her daughter better and the language and format to talk with her daughter.
Leadership and Courage
A mentor once told me that all of us lead from where we are. It is not about title. It is about courage. Sometimes we are comfortable at the tip of the arrow, carving a specific path for others to follow. Sometimes we are comfortable leading from behind the scenes, enabling the outcome that all seek. It is all leadership. Stepping into who we really are takes awareness and sometimes courage. Choose to lead courageously from where you are.
If you are interested in knowing your ‘Born to Be’ leadership abilities and those of your family members, The Parent’s Profile and Kaye O’Neal Coaching can help. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org