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Raising Leaders at Work Using the Principles of Parenting

By Wendy Born

Source: Leaderonomics

When we are in a situation that requires us to show leadership, most of us fail to do anything.


We all know when we see great leadership.  We identify it, point it out and it imprints on our minds forever.  Yet in research completed by Grenny and Maxfield for their book Crucial Conversations, they found that when we are in a situation that requires us to show leadership, for example calling out poor behaviour, having a difficult conversation or holding people accountable, 72% of us will fail to do anything.
  
Leadership is a skill usually learned with time and experience and without this experience, we can feel ill-equipped to lead.  Yet we already have many of the skills and experience stemming from our upbringing as well as raising our own children which can readily be applied in the workplace.  There are five fundamental principles of Love, Environment, Health, Language, and Vision that translate from home to work.

1. Love 

At the foundation of any family is love and now more than ever this must exist at the foundation of our relationships at work. Through connection, understanding, and forgiveness, you can build a strong cohesive workplace that understands and values each other’s knowledge and skills and is able to engage in constructive conflict and has an increased commitment to the success of the organisation as a whole. 

2. Environment

Like all good homes, creating an environment for our children to grow and thrive in is essential to set them up for success. So too is the environment you create for the people you lead.

Creating the psychological safety for people to feel free to express themselves will help foster the creativity and innovation your organisation needs to continue to be successful and relevant in its market. As a parent or leader, this means setting clear expectations and consequences for people to understand the work that needs to be done and by when, and what will happen if not achieved. This creates an environment of accountability and performance. 

3. Health 

We want our children to be able to thrive in a world that is increasingly demanding and where stress is at an all-time high. When we are healthy and happy both physically and mentally, we create the skills and resilience to be able to meet these demands. 

The same applies to the people who work for you. By supporting your people to create balance and boundaries between work and home, live a healthy life through diet and exercise, and have a positive mindset to be able to approach their work and personal challenges with resilience, you will help your team manage stress, reduce illness and increase engagement. 

4. Language

It’s confronting when your child repeats back to you the same words, phrases, or slang that you know you use every day, and particularly horrifying when it’s a cuss, or your child chastises you with your own words. As parents and leaders, we are constantly on show, being watched and observed, listened to (even though it often appears otherwise), and teaching others how to behave. They watch, observe, and take on all of our words, actions, behaviors, and values, good and bad. As Stephen Covey says, ‘What you do has far greater impact than what you say’.

5. Vision 

We all have hopes and dreams for our children – usually focusing on them growing up and being successful at whatever they choose to do, and being happy with their life, partner, job, dreams and aspirations. 

Creating the psychological safety for people to feel free to express themselves will help foster the creativity and innovation your organisation needs to continue to be successful and relevant in its market.


As a leader, you also want your people to do well, and to thrive, develop, learn and succeed. It’s important to have a vision of the future and a strategy for how to get there, both personally and professionally. Having vision and strategy helps your people to make a link between what they do on a daily basis and the goals of the team and organisation. 

Understanding the purpose underlying the vision also creates meaning in the work they do and a connection with each other, their team and the organisation. 

The commonalities between parenting and leadership are clear and the skills for both readily available for us to use.  Practicing them provides an opportunity for us to be and raise great leaders.