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What parenting can teach about organizational change

Originally posted November 15, 2017.

Today I attended a seminar about being a tranformational leader.

A transformational leader enacts change and inspires and influences those around him or her. A transactional leader is more of a status quo leader who measures based on sales quotas and purely on numbers. That’s kind of the presentation in a nutshell.

To a certain degree, I believe a good leader needs to be able to do both. We still often need to have quotas and quantifiable expectations, and we need to inspire people to hit those targets. You can’t just be a motivational speaker or a nice person all day long.

One of my former bosses would often say that leadership comes by example.

I agree completely with that. A good leader in an organization shouldn’t just tell employees what to do; he or she needs to set the example. Often we can influence others without ever issuing a command or making a request.

If you want to be a great leader in the workplace, I have a great suggestion for you: be a great parent at home. Children can often require more patience than employees. (Although not necessarily.) And they can require patience and work when you really feel like you should be relaxing.

The best way to be a good parent is to set a good example. Sure, you will need to instruct, teach, and mentor your children. And believe me, if you can master that at home, then mastering that in the workplace will be easy.

I have a recent example. I had been noticing recently that my children would at times answer my call with a lackluster “What!?” It didn’t sound cheerful, and it didn’t sound respectful. I would typically correct them and let them know that the correct answer is: “Yes, Daddy.”

Then one night I found myself answering one of my children the same way. One of them was out of bed and should have been asleep long ago. I was tired and ready to be done parenting for the day. My answer when my child called me was: “What?!” It sounded neither cheerful nor loving.

So that’s how they had learned to answer disrespectfully.

If you want your employees, children, or some other type of subordinate to change their behavior, consider changing yours. Lead by example.

Yes, I know. It’s not that easy.

“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.” — Unknown monk, from 1000 A.D.

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