“I am endlessly fascinated by that playing football is considered a training ground for leadership, but raising children isn’t.” So said political analyst Dee Dee Myers and indeed, this is a fascinating observation because leadership and parenting are possibly the two roles that are most similar in requirements for success.
Take a well-known quote about parenting; “There are two lasting bequests we can give our children; one is roots and the other is wings.” Replace the word children with employees and it holds equal value. Or a quote about leadership: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. Once you’re a leader, success is all about growing others.” Replace ‘leader’ with parent’ and again, snap!
Recognising our influence on those we lead or guide is the key to both parenting and leadership – and we influence both children and employees on several levels, three in fact. First of all, with what we do and what we say. If what we say isn’t consistent with what we do, most of us can recognise that we create confusion and incoherence. In other words, we know that the old maxim “do what I say, not what I do!” is obsolete and doesn’t work. Whatever we say, especially to anyone we have influence over –a child or an employee– needs to be followed up by action that is congruent with our spoken words. If not, the result is a loss of respect - with often dire consequences. As if this isn’t challenging enough, there is a third element to take into consideration, and that is how we feel.
When what we feel is inconsistent with either of the other two, it will influence our thinking and our behaviour, no matter how controlled we think we are! It will also be picked up by the other person, and we can never fully know just how sensitive he or she is. The result? Insecurities and a sense of in-authenticity will begin to permeate the relationship, - whether that relationship is with your child, employee or indeed with anyone.
The key to avoiding this –or resolving it if you think you are already inconsistent– is to first ensure you are fully aware of what you are feeling, of any underlying emotions, and then manage those emotions so that they either a) become consistent with your outward communication OR b) if appropriate, you find a positive way to align your actions with your true feelings.
This is obviously, for most of us, easier said than done! Personally, I found it to be a huge challenge early on in life and went through many years of searching and working on myself to gain my own emotional mastery (I’m still ‘a work in progress’!) Raising my own daughter as well as running several companies, it has never ceased to amaze me that such an important life-skill is not given us at the same time as we learn ‘please’, ‘thank-you’, and reading and writing.
As a result, I have made it my life’s mission to help others, especially those who lead, guide and raise others, to learn to identify, understand and manage emotions – their own and those they influence. And the core skills and abilities are the same for both leaders and parents!
Fortunately, I get plenty of help from the copious amounts of relatively recent research findings, from both neuroscience and decades of studies in psychology, evidence that consistently shows just how significant managing our emotions –developing our emotional intelligence– is to not only our own success, but also to our capacity for positively influencing others and for successful, healthy, sustainable relationships, be they with our children, those we lead, or anyone we wish to make a positive difference to!