Parent or Leader or Both?

How Parenting and Leadership Principles Work Together

Family together
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The theme of leadership is always at the top of the best seller book lists.  Epics like and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People have molded thought about leadership in business and organizations for years.  But some of the most important leadership we undertake happens in our families.  Many of the principles are the same, says Dr. Judy Yaron, but the application can be different in our families than what we often see in the daily world of work and organizations.

Dr. Yaron is an educational leadership consultant and the founder of the Time2Lead Club.  The club helps parents and children work together to develop leadership skills and focus on become significant leaders in their own spheres.

Eight Pillars of Leadership

Judy has identified Eight Pillars of Leadership that apply to how we lead in families as parents.  These include:

  • Emotional Intelligence – the ability to identify emotions – our own and those of others + tools to manage emotions gracefully

  • Thinking Skills – include analytical problem solving, out-of-the-box thinking, creativity, and imagination.

  • Social Skills – being respectful of and interacting with others without losing ourselves

  • Communication Skills – how to express opinions, how to listen to others, different presentation tools and formats – from being part of a conversation at the dinner table to public speaking and online interactions

  • Financial Intelligence – money – how to have a positive relationship with money and make it work for you

  • Planning and Taking Action – how to turn an idea into action through systematic planning, step-by-step execution, dealing with obstacles, reflection, assessment and accountability

  • Character Development – personal development like building self-confidence, instilling moral values

  • Teamwork – we are not alone in the world; while we may be able to achieve a lot on our own, we can accomplish far more when working in a team and being there for one another. A family is the first team kids will ever know and the most long lasting.

I took the opportunity recently to speak with Judy about various aspects of parenting and leadership.  Her insights were really helpful in recognizing how I have been leading my family and the changes I need to make to be even more of an influence on my children, grandchildren, and others.

Leadership, Coaching and Mentoring

We often think of parents more as coaches, mentors or simply the oldest ones in a family.  Is family leadership different than coaching and mentoring and if so, what are we missing if we are just coaches and mentors?

The fundamental difference between leaders and coaches is that leadership relates to the WHOLE picture, while coaching focuses on ONE component. Coaching is about training the individual or a team to achieve a specific goal, usually related to some kind of performance. Leadership is more of a lifestyle, an approach to interacting with reality; it is multifaceted and encompasses many different aspects of life.

Some parents can be seen as mentors. They have more life experience than their kids, but the way I see it, mentorship is in the eye of the beholder. Kids see their parents as mentors (in one area or more), because they want to learn from their knowledge and experience. If kids aren’t inclined to being like their parents, they probably won’t see the as mentors.


Leadership at Home and at Work

Sometimes we think of leadership skills as being best in a business, corporate or organization setting.  How can we take the idea of organizational leadership and apply it to a family?

A family is a mini-organization and different families follow different leadership approaches – both traditional models and modern ones.

At one end of the spectrum, we have parents, who like many CEO’s, lead from a place of power, control. They pay and consequently have the say. They expect their kids to do what they’re told and follow their lead, because as parents, they have the vision and know what’s best.

At the other end, we have parents, who follow organization thinkers like and , and practice Shared Leadership. Their role is to equip their kids with the necessary skills they need not only to succeed in their personal life – but also to be part of a family. They understand that every member of the family has what to contribute. They nurture this value to strengthen the family.

And there are families that don’t fall into either category or any of those in between. They don’t lead (intentionally or by example) and just let their kids be.


Technology and Family Life

Technology seems to get in the way of family life for many families.  Many families try to "beat" the tech interruptions to family time, but are there ways to embrace the technology we have to strengthen family relationships?

I have one rule: People First – real people. If someone wants to spend time with me, I drop everything to be with them; I go to the gym regularly to spend time with my friends; I don’t allow electronics at the table – unless it is to share something that leads to a discussion; I meet with friends and spend time with our kids and grandkids any chance I get.

So, what’s the solution to smartphone overdose? 1) moderation and 2) if you can’t lick ‘em, join them!

Let me explain – the advent of technology brings with it glorious treasures. It takes us places; it exposes us to information and offers us sneak peeks into other people’s lives around the world; it develops our brains, emotion and imagination – but in ways that are different from what we are used to. Like everything else – whatever we do with it, it needs to be in moderation. The same way I wouldn’t like to see a child jumping on the trampoline 24/7 or even burying him/herself in a book day and night, or just doing jigsaw puzzles all day long, screen time is good in moderation and with parental supervision.

What do I mean by “if you can’t lick ‘em, join them?” We are NOT going to free the world of smartphones, technology, or the Internet – nor should we. No reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But instead of taking the extreme approach of the young mom – you can easily use technology, the Internet and smartphones to bond with your kids, to share fun times, enrich their worlds and develop learning skills and even curiosity and asking questions. I actually have a couple of blog posts on the subject (never been published). AND – many of Time 2 Lead Club’s activities integrate smartphones, tablets and laptops.

We need to remember that smartphones/tablets/laptops are vehicles; they are tools. They are NOT the problem. The problem is that parents either don’t know how to use them to enrich their kids’ lives, or prefer to take the easy way out and allow their kids to do what comes easy. This is no different from parents, who delight that their kids are outside all day long. They enjoy the peace and quiet without really knowing what their kids are doing.


The Time 2 Lead Club

Dr. Yaron’s Time 2 Lead Club is an innovative approach to getting parents and children together to learn about leadership.  

Time 2 Lead Club’s leadership program is based on bi-weekly Chunks of Leadership, which include six or seven simple activities – family activities, riddles and brainteasers, stories and bio’s about leaders past and present, crafts and Risk a RASK – random acts of simple kindness. These activities can be easily integrated into a busy family’s routine and intense dad schedules. Many can be conducted during mealtime or on the way to school or … while waiting for soccer practice to start, during bath time or just before lights out.

What makes Time 2 Lead Club’s Chunks of Leadership special are not necessarily the activities (which are fun, meaningful and enriching in their own right), but the CONVERSATION. Each activity is followed by a discussion, which aims to highlight what we can learn from the activity about ourselves and others.

Some parents have no problem having a conversation, but I have found that many struggle – moms and dads alike. They don’t know what to talk about; they don’t know how to get their kids talking. We have become so involved in our own screen, we don’t know how to connect with others. Time 2 Lead Club is there to help parents with simple questions AND points for discussions. You don’t have to be an educator to have fun with your kids, you just have to want to.


Leadership Lessons

Most parents I know could do much better in how they lead at home and how they teach leadership to their children.  I first thought about these issues years ago when I read a book - The Hidden Value of a Man - by Gary Smalley.  He taught an analogy about what he called The Two Swords of Power.  He suggested that the silver sword of positional power that we often use at work doesn’t work too well at home.  He recommended that fathers use their golden sword of personal power.  Personal power is developed over years of trusting and trustworthy behavior while positional power comes to us by virtue of the authority of our role and title.  

Whether using the Swords of Power model or Dr. Yaron’s Eight Pillars, the implications are clear.  We follow general principles of how people respond to leadership, but we apply them differently at home and at work.  

Considering the Eight Pillars and some of Dr. Yaron’s ideas about family leadership can make a real difference in how we treat our role as a family leader at home.  Any dad can benefit by reflecting on these principles and consciously applying them in our families, whatever our situation may be.