I work best when the sun goes down. I stay up late spinning my wheels, responding to real life and expanding my empire. The alarm clock still goes off at 4:30 in the morning. While years ago it used to be easy to hit snooze and make excuses for myself, I can’t do that anymore.
Directly behind my alarm is a photo of my six year old. When I see the sweet freckles on his smiling face, no matter the hour, I muster my, “rise and shine,” with the knowledge that his outcome will in many ways be equal to my effort. I have extremely high expectations for his life. I refuse to fail him.
My greatest achievement, (sadly not reflected on my LinkedIn profile), is this adorable, charismatic, inquisitive little boy. The highest title I’ll ever receive, trumping others I’ve imagined like, “Queen of England,” “Chief Executive of Ice Cream Tasting,” etc. is the one I currently have, “CBC’s Mommy.” Friends know that all the things I do, (and equally all the things I do not do), are motivated by my love for this child. My goals, primary to my occupation, are to raise him into a man that knows the real definition of success; a man who is a true leader and a happy person. I expect nothing less of him.
As his mother, I will measure my own success in terms of his achievements, personal and professional. I am rich if he has joy, if he always treats people with respect, if he honors God, himself and his family. All of this sounds great on paper, but how does it play out in real life? I work long hours, I miss a lot of key moments and I lean on the hope that he will always know my love for him is the real reason why I am at work/not there with him.
He looks to me not just for basics (tangibles) like food and shelter but more so for (intangibles) direction, motivation and leadership. Outstanding leadership is not as simple as speaking with authority or quoting great minds; it’s living out a code of conduct. The trickiest part of parenting is leading by example.
Great parents, like all great leaders, are selfless not selfish. They are not fair weather people. They are sleep deprived from battling bad dreams, they sing in the rain and withstand the storm, wage battles big and small on behalf of tiny dolls or tiny hearts, fiercely protect others/ideals and face seemingly insurmountable challenges hourly. They are strong when others are weak. They hold their course no matter how difficult it becomes, knowing, if only they don’t flinch they can get everyone to the intended end point safely.
The extremely accomplished ones do the aforementioned and make it look easy, I do not. I trip on toy race cars in the middle of the night and follow it up with four letter words, I waddle like a duck in the grocery store despite the annoyance of passerby just to see his smile and I pretend to be mad when he does things he shouldn’t, secretly laughing/knowing the truth is I’ve done all the same things with half as much panache. It’s taxing beyond words. Alas, it is my duty to enforce accountability and improvement.
There are a million ways to instill greatness. His experiences will shape him; I don’t discount the teaching trials he will surely endure. Still I try to lay the foundation and build a framework so he has something to reference when he faces challenges without me. My preferred method for doing so is scouring the library and many a bookstore for children’s lit with incredible narrative/inspirational messages and reading them to him. They are often concise and powerful; poignant in their simple descriptions of complexities at large.
We learn through narrative. As human beings we are innately storytellers. As adults, we digest the daily news and the complaints of coworkers, relishing popular culture. As leaders, or want to be leaders, we may spend an hour a day becoming current on issues that are industry specific. Maybe we attend conferences or read books by notable authors. Are we giving ourselves what we really need?
As I read to my son, I often think of all the adults I know who would benefit from hearing the same story. I think of all the ways the lessons of the protagonist in the story could translate into my own life. It seems even those of us stemming from parents who knew how to lay positive foundations need to be reminded of leadership principles every now and then. I don’t exude grace or patience. Truth be told, my marked traits mirror those of Narcissus and when I get lazy, my reactions are at times rooted in ego.
I am certainly not without flaws… I often say what I think without assessing the impact of tactless assertion, sometimes simply due to indulgence or maybe lack of self-restraint in the name of humor. I occasionally make mistakes beyond the scope of what logic should allow. I can be hungry, Great Alaskan Grizzly Bear brutal toward anyone that directs ill will at my loved ones. Needless to say, I still need some polish. Who am I to lead?
At the crux of this unavoidable humanity, my intentions are usually (if not always) pure. I would never put others at risk. I get sick over hurting feelings. And, judging by the boy I’ve brought into the world, I am doing a lot of things right. There is a great deal of room for personal improvement, but despite that the real question should be, who am I not to lead? Why would I ever excuse myself from something so critical?
You are not excused from learning or relearning. As a leader, even one without children, you may need to be reminded of certain things you’ve forgotten. If you do have children, what’s your favorite book to read them? If you are a directing a staff, perhaps it’s time to tell them a story.