When we think of leadership, we often gravitate toward lessons learned from our bosses (past and present). Generally this practice makes a tremendous amount of sense — longstanding success and a pattern of winning matter. However, by narrowing our focus to only learn from the tenured few, we miss out on many other lessons to be learned.
For me, my children have taught me more about leadership than any boss ever could. Children aren’t tainted by their 9-5 cube farm job or a stack of bills to pay. Here are some of my favorite lessons that my two kids have taught me:
Compassion. Most kids are incredibly kind people. They welcome others into their circle, they’re big hearted, and they want to make a difference. We’re all born with the capacity to be kind, but over the years we are hardened by life experiences. Instead of making a curmudgeonly comment about a potentially negative situation caused by a team member, look for the positive thing that person did. Remember, nobody is a number — everyone comes with her own burdens and baggage.
Wonder and Curiosity. Kids have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, perhaps even to the point of parental frustration. Everything is a new, exciting experience, so everything creates a sense of wonder — and a desire to learn more about it.
Lack of prejudgment. Until proven otherwise, kids assume that someone is well-intentioned, interesting, and fun. It’s only when someone gives them a reason to think differently that they then judge the person according to that person’s actions. If you approached an interview (or any business interaction) like a child would, you would pick up on someone’s great qualities before judging what you see first off.
Being in the moment. I sit in a meeting on my phone — checking e-mail, texts, the weather, you name it. It’s a habit I’m working to break, because I realize that I’m not fully present in the moment. If you allow yourself to disconnect from anything else happening in the world and focus — like children do — on the one thing you’re doing, your productivity will soar.
Focusing on the possibilities. When children are presented with the chance, they think big — and dream even bigger. They allow themselves to focus on the possibilities of the future, since they haven’t learned the downside. If you’re the first person to say “no, that won’t work because it’s too risky,” you’re stifling your team’s ability to produce something great. Instead, try thinking about “yes, that just may work because … ” and see what you come up with.
Learn from your kids. They’ll teach you more about life and leadership than any boss could. As Marianne Williamson put it perfectly, “Children are happy because they don’t have a file in their minds called “‘All the Things That Could Go Wrong.’”