Four Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Kids

It has been said “the real magic wand is the child’s own mind” (Gasset) and I could not agree more.

I am often reminded of the wisdom of children.  In many ways this statement is counter intuitive, after all, are we not the ones supposed to be teaching them of the ways of the world?

The truth is children are teachers, and the lessons they teach us are real and profound – if (and only if) we are willing to receive them.

WE are the students, almost as often as the opposite applies.

The question is, are we truly hearing the lessons our children are teaching us?

Here are four lessons I have learned about leadership FROM MY KIDS:
Lesson 1:  “You’re not the boss of me!”  

This was shouted at me by my cross seven-year a few days ago, when he felt I was just getting a little too task oriented and ‘bossy’ (ah-hem) for my own good.

What can we learn from this?

Leaders can never underestimate the power of ownership of targets/goals, and the value of choice and responsibility (in terms of self motivation).  As Sir John Whitmore so eloquently put it – “when I want to, I perform better than when I have to.  I want to for me.  I have to for you.  Self motivation is a matter of choice.”

Lesson 2:  “No one is listening to me!”  

This is often spouted from our youngest, who is constantly fighting for a voice in our family.

What can we learn from this?

One of my most valued mantras is to spend more time truly listening and understanding than telling and talking.  And by this I mean ‘active listening’, not waiting for the other person to stop talking so you can tell them how it really is!

Lesson 3:     “Look at me mama, aren’t I clever?! Look at this great picture I have drawn!” 

My little four year old girl is still in that wonderful phase where she thinks she is clever and beautiful.  As we grow older, these voices are drowned out by other, more judgemental ones.

What can we learn from this?

I’m not suggesting we run around patting ourselves on the back all the time, or become egocentric, but she has taught me to celebrate the small things, and be proud of myself (and our teams) when it is deserved.

Our inner critic is so loud, allow some of that child-like attitude to reside in your head (and heart) as well.

Lesson 4:    Play and have fun. 

Watching my three kids giggling their proverbial b##ts off the other day as they played a game together made me think about flow.

Flow is when you are so enjoying what you do that time stands still – and the outcome is often far superior.

What can we learn from this?

For leaders, recognising that having fun is fundamental to expression, and to enabling creativity to truly flow.

We all know that laughter is the best medicine, but how often do we apply this magical tonic liberally within our organisations?

‘Play time’ (or time spent on working on an innovation of your choice) is a standard part of the working day for Google employees, and some of the most creative innovations have been born during these periods of enjoyment for their employees.

– Suzi

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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