There are important commonalities between your performance as a father and a leader in your professional life. The role of a father is to create a safe and stable environment in which his kids have all the tools they need to be their best. A father provides support, clears obstacles, helps set priorities and measures progress. Does that sound like the leadership you are trying to provide at work?
So how do you make sure you are performing at your best at home and in the office? The same mistakes crop up time and time again when it comes to being a dad and a leader; this guide shows you the seven mistakes you need to avoid.
1. Thinking Leadership is Giving Orders
Stop taking a binary view of leadership. Too many fathers and leaders think their job is to give orders while their kids and underlings are supposed to blindly follow them. They tell their kids what to do and expect obedience based on nothing more than the fact that they’re bigger and older. They issue orders to their teams and broker no dissent. The best among us know that walking the talk is the best way to teach what is expected and to set the highest of standards. You don’t turn world class leadership on and off like a light switch. You live and breathe it every day.
2. Not Focusing on Core Principles First
Micromanaging every single detail is not how you unleash the best in people. It’s how you make them feel stifled and untrusted. This happens when you haven’t taken the time to build a solid and shared foundation of core principles. Your kids and your teams work best when you build a framework together and then allow them to create within it. That framework is comprised of a shared vision, values and beliefs. Bumping up against those boundaries is natural and should be encouraged. Use it as an opportunity for discussion and reassessment instead of correction and punishment.
3. Creating Reactive Accountability
The task is on the board with a name and a due date. If they don’t get it done the circle beside their name will turn red. If your kid doesn’t get their room cleaned by 3 pm they won’t get to watch a movie with their friends. Setting targets and holding people accountable is important. No one will deny that. The best parents and leaders focus on the accountability we have to each other as human beings first. They make sure we do the important things like support each other, treat each other with respect and kindness and communicate openly without fear of repercussions. Focusing on fundamental accountability has a way of making the red dots take care of themselves.
4. Focusing on Lag Rather than Lead Measures
A lag measure is something that’s easy to measure like your kid’s grade in math or the uptime of your IT systems. It is an after-the-event measurement, essential for charting progress but useless when attempting to influence the future. Lead measures are predictive and are actions you can take to influence the achievement of a lag measure. If you want your child to improve their math grade, a lead measure could be the number of hours you work together on math homework per week. A lead measure for bettering your IT systems uptime might be the number of systems maintenance tasks, relative to plan, completed in a given period of time. Work together to determine which lead indicators will best predict the outcomes you want to achieve as a family and a team and then support each other in getting them done.
5. Thinking Personal is Separate from Professional
We’ve all heard it before. “Keep your personal issues at home. Don’t bring them to work.” The same holds true of your kids. You don’t want to their problems and school or with their friends messing up the one meal you have together per week. People can’t compartmentalize their lives like that and when we try we become less effective everywhere. To be an effective parent and leader you need to support the people in your life as the whole, complete people they are. It’s important to set boundaries but you need to be able to adapt as the situation warrants. The best parents and leaders know when to be flexible and when to hold firm.
6. Focusing on Hierarchy Instead of Roles
Every family and team is comprised of different people in different roles. This is obvious and a no-brainer. Each role has a different responsibility and everyone working harmoniously is what will produce great results. Fathers and leaders focus too often on the hierarchical aspects of the org chart and their place in it to drive the results they want. Of course, there are times when the buck will stop with you and you must be the final arbiter. But that should not be your default position. You should focus on ensuring everyone has everything they need to perform at their best. Your kids explaining how they would like you to do something, and why they want it done this way, is a moment of triumph and should be celebrated.
7. Projecting an Image Instead of Being Yourself
We have an idea of what a father and professional leader should look like and we work hard to shoehorn ourselves in that mold. We appear strong, decisive and without weakness. People don’t connect with an image. They see the walls you are putting up and it creates distance and mistrust. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable will create deep and meaningful connections with your family and teams. Sharing your fears will allow others to share theirs. Asking for help will give people the opportunity to help you. Admitting you don’t have all the answers is the first step in seeking them out. Great fathers and leaders form relationships with people based on who they really are. Not who they want people to think they are.
Bringing It All Together
While these mistakes are common, being aware of them will set you down the path towards correcting them. Some are simpler and can be implemented in short order while others will require you to grow as a man, father and leader. The great news is each step in your evolution will produce new insights as to how you can correct these mistakes and propel yourself, your family and your teammates to new heights.
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