Do You Lead Like a Dopey Parent?

The holidays are a great time for our humanity to play out in all its glory. There’s something about the alchemic nature of the season that turns simple family moments into complex affairs. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes….

Personally, I was surprised at the number of times over the holidays that leadership issues played out, sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. And it’s been a great reminder that opportunities for good, and even great, leadership occur not just at work, but also at home.

Here are a few of my holiday leadership lessons that I re-learned, mostly after the fact. And if you haven’t guessed it yet, I was the dopey parent.

1) You don’t need to know it all, but you do need to solve much of it.
Whether at home or at work, there are times where problems or crises (large and small) come up, often at the last minute. The temptation can be to assume you need to know what to do to fix the pressing problem.

Instead of needing to know, focus on needing to solve. Great leaders aren’t necessarily the smartest ones in the room in terms of situation- or topic-specific knowledge. But they do know how to engage others to come up with a great solution.

2) The destination and the journey are both important.
As the group goes about solving or addressing the issues and challenges at hand, keep one eye on the destination and the other on the journey. People will spend more time getting to the destination than arriving at it.

For the sake of the group, its cohesion, and future well-being, ensure that how you lead contributes to the ongoing viability of the group, not just to obtaining its objectives.

3) Step out of the way, and let the next generation lead.
If you’re a leader it’s tempting to play the leader, all the time. The paradox is, as a leader, you must let others lead. The only way our families, companies, and our society will improve is if we properly prepare the next generation to lead better than we have. We can’t wait until they’re ready. We have to help them get ready. So we need to seek out and provide opportunities that will challenge them to do and be more than what they’ve done and who they’ve been.

As parents, we take the distinct pleasure in seeing our children surpass us. The same is true for our companies, our organizations, and our society. Success ultimately comes from ensuring that those we help go far beyond whatever we could do ourselves.

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What leadership lessons did you learn over the holidays? How will you lead differently in 2011? Share your insights and examples with other readers.


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