Our first article in this leadership series focused on leadership potential within an organization. However, you can be a leader in your personal life, as well! In fact, those of you who are parents have wonderful opportunities to develop and practice leadership skills. You can be parent leaders – every single day!
In our coaching work with college students and other young adults with ADHD and co-existing conditions, we frequently interact with our clients’ parents. One of these parents recently talked with me about her leadership role at work. She told me that being a parent had made her a better leader.
At first, this parent’s comment took me by surprise. My initial thought was that being the parent of a young adult with unique challenges might take away from the attention that she needed to bring to her leadership responsibilities at work. So I asked her what she meant by her statement.
The parent went on to explain that she had learned about things like advocacy, patience, compassion, humility, and setting boundaries by parenting her daughter. The better she got at these skills, the more her daughter succeeded. She said that she found herself applying the same principles in her leadership role at work. As a result, she saw her leadership team become more successful, as well!
Behaviors and Personality Traits of Parent Leaders
Not surprisingly, parents who are leader role models for their young adult children act in similar ways as organizational leaders. Let’s examine three of the behaviors and associated personality traits that we mentioned in our previous article on leadership potential in the workplace. We’ll also compare them to the same behaviors and personality traits in parent leaders.
1. Inspire a Shared Vision
- Imagination – A primary role of parent leaders is encouraging and promoting imagination. Parent leaders encourage their young adult child to imagine and experience getting good grades in college. They encourage them to imagine finding a great career fit, becoming an independent adult, and being healthy and happy. A parent leader helps their young adult child imagine how to be successful!
- Comfort with Complexity and Ambiguity – Parents who show comfort with complex or ambiguous issues help their sons and daughters understand that many situations are complicated. They point out that decisions are not necessarily good nor bad, black nor white. For example, perhaps a young adult wants to teach yoga, but also to make a 6-figure salary. That’s not likely to happen! The parent can gently guide the young adult to clarify values and goals to find a “best career fit.”
- Comfort with Change – Parents teach their young adult children that change is constant – and it is often necessary. They demonstrate how to handle change in a positive manner. Their actions can lay the foundation for how their son or daughter will handle changes they will face at college and in the workplace.
- Optimistic – A parent who is optimistic instills hope. When a Mom unexpectedly loses her job, yet starts updating her resume two days later, she demonstrates optimism. When she joins a job search network a few days later, she reinforces her optimistic attitude about a new job search.
- Inclusivity – Parents who include suggestions and opinions from their young adult children model the principle of helping them “buy in” to a course of action. A leader parent might not tell their college student how much money they will give them for a spending budget. Instead, they might say, “I’d like for you to write down a list of things that you will need to pay for each month at college. Decide which expenses you think you should pay from your own earnings and savings. Then we’ll have a discussion. I’ll let you know my thoughts, too, and how much I can afford to give you. Then we’ll settle on a monthly allowance and budget plan.”
2. Be a Role Model
- High Integrity – Parent leaders demonstrate to their young adult children that they do what they say they will do. If they make promises, they keep them. If they find that they are unable to follow through on a commitment, they apologize. When they make mistakes, they communicate openly and honestly. They tell the truth.
- Hard Worker – Parent leaders are hard workers! Hard work means helping your teenager with a college application, maintaining the family home, volunteering for your civic association, or working out at the gym. Whatever they undertake, parent leaders are hard workers. They model that hard work produces rewards.
- Willingness to Take Risks – Few decisions in life are free of risk. Parent leaders demonstrate daily that it’s worth taking a risk to apply for a new job or to let their young adult child drive the family car the first time. They demonstrate that it’s ok to stand up and say “no” at times when other parents are giving in and saying, “yes.”
- Resilient – Parent leaders bounce back from setbacks and disappointments. When Dad doesn’t get the promotion he wanted, he decides on “next steps.” He starts focusing on strengthening key relationships at his firm, developing his leadership skills, or applying for other jobs. Parent leaders prepare their children for the inevitable disappointments and setbacks that will come their way.
3. Strengthen Others
- Willingness to Empower Others – Parent leaders empower their children to become the very best they can be by using a coaching approach to parenting. They coach their children in the same way that great workplace leaders coach their employees. They respect, listen, understand, appreciate, support, promote responsibility, and nurture independence. We recommend an excellent resource on this approach to parenting – Parent as Coach by Diana Haskins.
- Willingness to Share Your Own Expertise and Advice – Parent leaders share their expertise and advice with their young adult children. However, they don’t always expect things to be done “their way.” Giving their children some wiggle room to make decisions on their own helps develop their leadership potential.
- Optimism About Others’ Ability to Recover from Setbacks – Parent leaders help develop their young adult childrens’ ability to be resilient after setbacks. They give them room to fail but they also expect them to get back up. Protecting a young adult from failure can send the wrong message. Resilience cannot develop without some risk of failure.
How to Strengthen Your Parent Leader Skills
If you haven’t done so already, we suggest that you start by taking a personality assessment and becoming more aware of your key personality traits and subtraits (or personality facets). Then follow up with coaching sessions to strengthen your leadership skills and learn more about how to use a coaching approach to parenting.
We specialize in personality assessments and coaching! And we hope to hear from you soon!