Nadim Saad urges us to look at leadership practice to inform our child-rearing skills.
Former US president, Dwight D Eisenhower defined leadership as being: “the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
What’s remarkable about this quote is that it applies as much to parenting as it does to leadership, because isn’t this exactly what we are trying to achieve with our children every day? Unfortunately, we’re not always successful at trying to get our children to cooperate and do as we ask, and at times it can put a lot of pressure on our relationship with them.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could get our children to do as we ask without having to resort to nagging, reminding and shouting? And wouldn’t it be even better if there was a simple, yet effective way for us to improve our parenting skills in order to achieve this?
By transferring some of the soft skills that we are already familiar with using in the workplace, this is actually easier than you might initially think.
Indeed, what I’ve discovered through my research into parenting best practices is that they have a lot in common with leadership best practices and that these soft skills are transferable. And they can prove to be just as effective at home as they are in the workplace.
Being a good parent is much like being a good leader, in that you have to create a path for those under your charge to succeed. You should have an interest in their development and show confidence in their abilities, and you must provide them with the tools they need to overcome obstacles and succeed.
However, it’s worth clarifying that this is not at all about creating stringent and inflexible business processes at home. What it is about is finding ways to engage cooperation, motivate and inspire in order to build a stronger connection with your children and maximise their chances of happiness and success. This like any other ability, parenting is a skill that can be developed and honed, particularly when informed by the best practices of leadership.
I have given many presentations for globally renowned companies and I always ask attendees to name what they consider to be the top leadership skills. They consistently name the same skills and these are (thankfully!) totally in line with the latest research on leadership. So let’s define these top leadership skills and explore how we can implement them effectively at home to make family life more harmonious and enjoyable.
Top 10 leadership skills and how to apply them at home:
1. Vision and strategy
Having clear expectations and goals is essential both in the workplace and at home. Vision allows us to look ahead and to anticipate potential problems before they arise, while strategy enables us to plan how we are going to deal with parenting challenges on the occasions when they do. Planning ahead in this way helps to prevent a lot of challenges from occurring, and makes us better at coping with them when they do present themselves because we become less ‘reactive’ to our children’s behaviour.
2. Leading by example
It’s key to be a role model for those around us and to treat them in the way that we would wish to be treated. But unfortunately, at home, we sometimes fall into the trap of applying the adage, “Do as I say, not as I do”. It’s important to realise that we cannot hold our children to higher standards than we can maintain ourselves. So if we have difficulty managing our own emotions, it’s important to recognise that it’s even more difficult for children to be able to do this when their pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain that allows them to control emotions – is far from being as developed as ours.
3. Effective two-way communication
Clear communication of rules and expectations is essential both at home and in the workplace because this is what enables a team/family to function effectively.
Whether speaking to colleagues or children, the key to effective communication is to ensure that we reduce commands, orders and reminders and replace them with more effective alternatives. We should also make our point calmly and without anger as shouting will cause people to go into ‘fight or flight’ mode, which makes it even more difficult for them to do what we’re asking of them. Similarly, the best leaders know how to listen to their team and allow the interaction and the ‘creative juices’ to flow, rather than stifling them.
4. Directive and participative
Effective communication often involves being directive and sometimes making ‘executive decisions’ for the benefit of the organisation or the family.
However, the best leaders also use participative leadership as it helps build confidence in people and can empower teams both in the workplace and at home. In both roles, participative leadership allows people to express themselves so they feel like a valued and integral part of the process. It’s essential that each team member feels as though their voice is being heard and that their contribution is important, as this helps to create a sense of shared purpose.
5. Emotional intelligence
Listening and having the ability to understanding social cues are essential skills for leaders. When we take the time to listen to others and we use empathy we truly connect with them because we are making them feel valued and understood. As Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People famously says so well: “When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.”
6. Ability to motivate and inspire
As with Eisenhower’s definition above, leadership is very much about motivating and inspiring our teams to want to do things for themselves, rather than doing something because they have been told to. This is probably one of the most difficult feats and it usually requires a strong connection with each team member.
7. Positive attitude and flexibility/pragmatism
Having a positive attitude and reducing the number of negative statements we make are both essential to motivating those around us. And adopting a pragmatic approach allows for more flexibility in situations where things don’t go as planned, which often happens, particularly at home.
8. Understanding and acceptance of mistakes
No one likes to be told off for making a mistake, but research proves that it is through mistakes that we learn the most. It is therefore essential to embrace them and to model that mistakes are not something to be afraid of, but rather something that we can learn from.
9. Trust and integrity
Without trust and connection, it’s very difficult to create a sense of safety, which has been proven by Google’s Project Aristotle to be the key to effective team interactions. This is equally true for the family where trust is essential, and integrity is a crucial element to establishing this connection as both go hand in hand.
10. Determination and commitment
The final skill is the glue that holds everything together: our determination and commitment is what motivates us to be the best leaders that we can be – without them, we probably wouldn’t even be able to be parents!
Applying these top leadership skills may sound like a tall order as it’s already quite challenging to implement these skills at work, let alone doing it at home.
Indeed, leadership is not easy – not in the workplace or in our family lives. It’s not as straightforward as just being ‘a boss’ and ordering people around and it’s far more time-consuming. It involves coaching, modelling, patience, problem solving, listening, teaching and being very thoughtful in our communication. As time-consuming as it is, using these skills is worth it – knowing that our kids will learn to respond from a place of trust rather than responding out of fear-based obedience.
To make these skills easier to apply at home, we have studied the latest research into child development, neuroscience and leadership to offer a series of tools that will help any parent, whatever their parenting style, utilise these skills effectively at home.
About the author
Nadim Saad is a working father-of-three and the author of a new book, The Working Parents’ Guide To Raising Happy and Confident Children, and the co-author of the Kids Don’t Come With A Manual. You can contact him via his website.