What Fatherhood Taught Me About Leadership

Fatherhood! So I’m working on 3 hours of sleep, during which I was restless 8x. Well at least that’s what my Fitbit is telling me.

My 3 1/2 year old, who decided to sleep in the bed with me last night, woke up in the middle of the night and started running in place on the bed.  Only because of years of parenting under my belt did I recognize this form of non verbal communication as an opportunity to ask “do you need to go to the bathroom?”  He quietly answered yes, I patiently escorted him to the bathroom and we returned to bed.  Of course he fell right back asleep while my mind decided that 3 am was the opportune time to start racing.  After a few attempts to go back to sleep, I decided to get up and start my day.  I reflected on the joys of the past week of fatherhood with my teenage daughter, pre-teen son, and of course my little 3 1/2 year old.  This reflection also allowed me to see all the lessons that fatherhood has taught me about leadership .

Over the past week, I’ve been fortunate to travel around the country, from the East to West Coast, then back down South all in the name of Leadership.  Now the beginning of my journey was more of a conventional type training; a leadership retreat that was insightful, challenging, thought-provoking and exceeded expectations.  The facilitators were experts with a plethora of knowledge, well-organized, caring and available.  My fellow attendees were all experts in their own rights and an impressive group that I felt fortunate to be around.  This three-day retreat was an experience that I will always cherish, be grateful for and can honestly say I came back better than when I left.

After this three-day excursion to California, I flew to Florida to meet my 16-year-old daughter to visit colleges.  It was a wonderful experience in its own right.  Seeing the excitement in her eyes, thoughtfulness of her questions and majestic quality to her thought process allowed me to stand tall as a proud father.  After we left, I did what my daughter and I have done for years; had a one on one discussion about how proud I was to have such a talented, gifted, bright, respectful and caring young woman.  When I returned to New York, the last couple of days were spent with my two boys, doing boy stuff.  Watching and playing basketball, having snow ball fights and having unplanned wrestling matches.  The experiences in the past week with my children really highlighted what fatherhood has taught me about being a great leader.  Here are some of the qualities:

  1. Be Encouraging– Whether it’s with your child or an employee, positive reinforcement goes a long   way.  I have always found that people will give you their best and extra effort if they feel appreciated and respected.  Building someone up by teaching and showing them the necessary tools to succeed is priceless.  When possible try to recognize people’s contributions and stay clear of public criticism.
  2. Discipline is Important– In the home or the workplace there still needs to be ground rules to cultivate a healthy and productive environment.  If you are fair and reasonable, your expectations are usually respected.
  3. Be Honest– When possible I admit when I make a mistake.  Now I understand, that as a leader, there is a fine line between transparency and not wanting to be viewed as ineffective.  However, I have learned that modeling an environment of honesty only leads to better long-term results and strengthens your stance as a leader.
  4. Embrace Creativity– Children have a remarkable imagination and see things without the pessimism of many adults. Because of this they often see things from a perspective that is refreshing. If you allow your staff to be creative and think outside the box you will get the best out of them.
  5. Patience– A good leader takes the time and energy to develop staff.  Being patient through a learning curve can pay big dividends in the long run.  Staff will appreciate the time, effort and patience you showed and usually return that effort with loyalty.

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