Article: What leaders can learn from parents


What leaders can learn from parents

Leaders can learn a lot from how parents handle their children and use those lessons to handle the unpredictable GenY
What leaders can learn from parents

Once you have developed a leader in your successor, don’t just vacate the chair by retiring. Carry on with them, not only as a stakeholder but as a follower too. Just like how it happens in families


Leadership and parenting have a lot in common. Both are very challenging and full of responsibilities. If leadership needs vision, parenting needs dreams; if leadership needs authenticity, parenting needs trust. Both need to be commanding yet flexible, direct yet collaborative and above all both require consistent two-way communication, emotional intelligence and positive attitude.

Leadership has been a topic of formal & scientific study and parenting is still unstructured as a subject. Therefore, it is always preferable to use a leadership technique at home rather than using a parenting technique at work.

With a lot of GenY people joining the workforce, managing them is a constant challenge considering their different behavioral characteristics and high expectations. It is time that they take lessons from the people who have been managing this generation for the last 25 years – their parents.

While parenting can be similar to many leadership scenarios, it has a striking similarity with succession planning. I suggest a six-stage model for succession planning, inspired from ‘Good parenting practices*’, as follows.

  1. Acceptance: Your child is unique. Accept him/her with their strengths and weaknesses Appreciate uniqueness of an individual as it adds a lot of optimism during unstable scenarios. Accepting a candidate as your successor is the first and the most important stage in succession planning. In parenting, we do not have that choice. We need to develop the same acceptance level before beginning the development of a successor. Once the successor is identified with the key skill set to become a future leader, he should not be given up. ‘Acceptance’ will save a lot of energy & time and will keep the leader and the successor focused too. It will work as the bedrock for all other building blocks of leadership development.

  2. Engagement: Take interest in their work and respond to their emotional needs The connect between the leader and the successor is very important. This is very much like that language, which is never spoken, but is always the best tool to communicate between parents (leaders) & children (successors). In the long run, it will help them to speed up decision making, reduce wasteful procedures and help in handling conflicts and other challenges.
    Here like modern parents, leaders have to take the first step and get children (successors) on the board. Leaders taking interest in successor’s job and getting involved in their deliverables will connect them more and for business it will lead better results. Just like parents working with children on a science project will engage them more and would yield better results (in science project). While they are working together, leaders have a great opportunity to gauge the emotional needs of successor and also to plan a suitable fulfillment of the same.

  3. Development: Children learn by watching; Keep pace with their development; Have patience Development is the longest and most detailed stage of this journey. It has to have situational, organizational and a business context. It would not be appropriate to prescribe much on this front but certainly ‘good parenting practices’* would have something to inspire here too.
    Like children, successors also learn a lot by watching. A leader’s responsibility doubles up when he has a successor looking up to him just like once you become a parent you need to watch your words, your actions carefully in front of your kids. However unlike kids, successors are mature and mere pretending to do good in front of them will not work; you have to walk the talk.

  4. Handling Conflicts: Adjust your parenting to their temperaments; Do not compete with them; Be firm but be fair. Just like the conflicts between teenage children and parents, the leader-successor relationship goes through development conflicts. This is the stage where leaders need to balance adjustment and assertion. Leaders need to be flexible with their leadership style, just like parents change their parenting style by the time their children become teenagers. Also leaders must be careful of a common pitfall of “competing with their own successor”. Like parents, leaders must feel comfortable and proud about their successor’s success.

  5. Independence: Learn their need for autonomy “The five most effective components of delegation autonomy are: Picking the right battles; Pre-approving your child’s (successor’s) choices; Praising what your child (successor) chooses; Helping your child (successor) think through difficult decisions; Occasionally letting your child (successor) learn from bad decisions. Beyond this, leaders need to allow successors their own psychological space. The key is to “Protect them when you must, but permit when you can.”

  6. Let them lead you: You have nurtured them. Letting them lead you is the best assertion on their leadership Once you have developed a leader in your successor, don’t just vacate the chair by retiring. Carry on with them, not only as a stakeholder but as a follower too. Just like how it happens in families where once the children grow up and start their own families, the parents let them lead the family.

It may sound like helplessness, but it is actually the highest commitment that a leader can make. It takes a lot of courage and humility to accept this stage, but it will certainly give positive results in the form of sustained and successful journey of the new leader, be it at the family or at corporate front.

The world of sports is full of such examples. Seldom has a captain retired from captaincy and the game together. For example, Saurav Ganguly played a successful innings as captain of the Indian cricket team. Eventually, he retired from captaincy, played under the leadership of a much younger captain and then retired from the game a few years later. Needless to say, he gifted the nation a better captain.

After all, “Leaders are those who create leaders and not merely followers”

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Topics: Leadership, #Innovation, #Trends

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