Any parent who wonders about what it takes to be a “good parent” must answer a simple question: Do you want to be a leader or a boss? A boss’s primary role is management. A leader empowers, inspires, shows the way forward and makes it their business to connect with their staff every day.
Good parents make great leaders, but being a successful leader is no easy task.
Two development consultants were interested in determining whether it was possible to identify similar characteristics and qualities of good leaders. They undertook a study in which they analyzed the behavior of 300 000 business leaders. Their study helped them identify common characteristics of good leaders.
As it turns out, good leaders and good parents share similar characteristics. Here are five characteristics of good parents and good leaders.
Five characteristics of parents as leaders
1) Great leaders and great parents know that strong relationships must be founded on good communication
In a recent Interact/Harris survey about the “Top complaints from employees about their leaders”, 91% of the respondents considered that their leaders had poor communication skills. Up to 57% felt unsure of what was expected of them.
Communication is a key foundation of strong relationships. The study conducted by Zenger and Folkman, the two development consultants, found that effective leaders communicated clearly and regularly with their employees.
The same is true for parent leaders. Several studies suggest that having clear and appropriate expectations of your child largely influence their behavior and their educational outcomes. They say that the best expectations are those that take into account their personality, their level of development and their actual skills and capacities.
Here are five things that you can do improve your communication with your child:
- Clearly identify your expectations and make sure that your child is aware of them
- Give clear and regular feedback, even when that feedback is negative. Remember that giving feedback has nothing to do with giving lectures.
- Be upfront and honest in your communication with your child
- Listen more than you talk. Show empathy and put yourself in your child’s shoes
- Find time to connect everyday
2) Great parents and great leaders inspire
Did you know that anxious parents are more likely to raise anxious children? Research says that this happens because of how parents react to anxiety-provoking situations, rather than to any genetic transmission of anxiety.
In other words, if you act anxious around a dog or a bee, your child is likely to mimic your behavior and start acting in a similar way when faced with the same situation.
Great leaders inspire and motivate others, so do great parents. We now know that children learn how to react to different situations by watching us. When we model the behavior that we want our kids to adopt, we are more likely to be succesful.
3) Great parents and great leaders are also great cheerleaders
A great leader knows that their employees success is their success. They know that it is important for employees to believe that their leader is on their side.
In the survey mentioned earlier, 63% of the employees considered that leaders who did not recognize their achievements were ineffective leaders.
Just as employees need to have their achievements recognized, your child needs to know that you’ve noticed when they are doing a good job, even when (especially when) that progress is slow and painful.
Instead of simply praising them, let them know exactly what they have done right – “you’ve gotten so much better at reading since you began reading everyday”, “you hardly made any mistakes – look how your music practice is paying off”.
As Carol Dweck’s growth mindset has shown, your child grows and develops when they feel like they have the power to change the events that happen in their lives. The more they feel capable of success, the higher the chances that they will make an effort to achieve their goals.
4) Great parents and great leaders focus on building trust in their relationships
Like great leaders, great parents care about building relationships built on trust. When it comes to parenting, this is more than just being able to trust your child; they too need to be able to trust you and to count on you.
Trust and accountability go together. Your child will make mistakes, all kids do, but allowing them to make amends when those mistakes happen shows your faith in them.
5) Great parents and great leaders are not omnipresent
Great leaders do not micromanage their employees. They do not hover over them, watching their every move and waiting to catch them in the wrong.
In 1996, David Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson observed over 3 500 children over several years. They wanted to know if it was possible to “overparent” and how overparenting affected children’s development.
The researchers found that over-indulgent parents regularly stepped in to solve their children’s problems and failed to hold them accountable for their mistakes. These parents were determined to make life easier for their kids at all costs.
In the book they published “How Much Is Too Much? Raising Likeable, Responsible, Respectful Children -From Toddlers To Teens- In An Age Of Overindulgence”, they say that doing too much for your children is bad for them.
- Make them less confident in their ability to succeed
- Decrease the likelihood that they will take up leadership roles, and thus prevent them from developing problem-solving skills
- Prevent them from reaching their full potential. As Bredehoft, Clarke and Dawson note, it can “hinder children from performing their needed developmental tasks, and from learning necessary life lessons”.
Clarke says that there are three types of over-indulgence: doing too much for your child or giving them too many things; giving your child too much attention (you have a constant need to know where they are and what they are doing”); and providing a soft structure, meaning that you do for them what they should be doing for themselves.
Doing too much for your child harms you and it harms them too.
A major similarity between great parents and great leaders is that they both know that without a strong relationship, none of their other efforts will matter. They know that strong relationships do not develop by themselves, they need nurturing to grow.
Setting aside a few minutes everyday to hang out with your kids is an easy way to strengthen your relationship. Download your free 30-day challenge and get started today!
An earlier version of this article was published on ParentMap.