Leadership Reminders From My Children

Kids have a way of being innocent and wise all at the same time. Although as adults we’re the ones who are supposed to have all the answers, I’m often surprised at how my children provide insight into a problem I’m grappling with.

Here are 10 ways my children provide reminders of great leadership traits:

  1. Honesty – Children rarely hold back on what they think. They’re honest, (sometimes brutally so) but you always know where you stand. The gift of this is that it enables us to deal with ‘what is’. Being honest and open with your team builds trust and respect.
  1. Being present in the moment – Mindfulness comes so naturally to my kids. Have you ever watched a five-year-old look for spiders or do a drawing? They do it with every fibre in their body. I know that when I’m at my best and ‘in flow’, I’m channelling a bit of that 5-year-old vibe.
  1. Vulnerability – Children show their fear for everyone to see – they’re fine with exhibiting feelings that as adults, we’ve somehow learnt we have to hide to be seen as successful. It reminds me that as leaders, we certainly don’t need to have all of the answers and a bit of vulnerability helps us build trust with our team. Saying, “I’m not sure what the answer is”, is A-OK.
  1. Building bridges and getting over them, quickly – This is one of my favourites. It never ceases to amaze me how fast children move on from disputes. They don’t hold grudges. I wonder what would happen in the workplace if we took a leaf out of their book and “built a fence and got over it”.
  1. Having fun – Having a laugh and using humour, especially in tough situations, can be a tonic. Just last week, my 9-year-old daughter injected a fart joke in the middle of a tense moment that made us both laugh and see the lighter side of a potentially tense situation. I’m not suggesting you make fart jokes at the office, but in all seriousness, how can you can inject more fun into your working life.
  1. Emotional expression – The irony of not expressing how we feel as leaders (in an appropriate and healthy manner), is that it finds a way to come out anyway – most often in less than helpful ways. If you’re angry or frustrated with another person, don’t ignore it. Instead consider the best way to handle the situation in the most effective way, rather than trying to ignore or suppress the frustration altogether.
  1. CollaborationWatching my kids build a hut together the other day was such an emphatic example of teamwork, it stopped me in my tracks. They all knew the part they played, they listened to each other, they encouraged each other and they shared great ideas.
  1. Acting without judgement – Children, especially younger children, are so good at accepting others and seeing uniqueness in their peers. As leaders, when we search for the best in each person, we often see potential – there are hidden gems within us all.
  1. Using their bodies – Kids are always moving – it’s an intrinsic part of play. There are endless studies to prove the positive link between physical activity and productivity.
  1. Valuing each other – My kids are spontaneous with their affection and praise. It’s always genuine and usually timely. They don’t hold back. Whenever I get an “I love you mum, that was an awesome dinner” it makes my day. A simple “great job, well done” can go a long way.

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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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