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3 Universal Leadership Lessons From Fatherhood

As I celebrate my younger daughter's graduation from kindergarten, I can't help but recognize how she's made me a better boss.
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I'm an entrepreneur, CEO, leader, teacher, and writer. But most importantly, I'm a husband and father to two amazing daughters, Charlotte and Kate.

As Father's Day approaches, here are three lessons from being a dad that have made me a better leader:

1. Always Be Curious
Children are always curious. They ask a lot of questions. They try to find out "why," and better understand the world around them. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, people often start to lose that curiosity as fear sets in, and they get used to what they know and what they're comfortable with. But it's essential for leaders to remain curious--to ask, "How can we do this better?" And just as great parents stimulate curiosity in their children, great leaders inspire curiosity in their teams.

2. Praise Often; Never Criticize
Children frequently test boundaries, get into mischief, and make mistakes. It's natural; they're learning. But study after study has proven: criticism won't make them change. Criticism makes children feel bad, and doesn't alter their behavior. Instead, praise works; pointing out when you see positive behavior, rewarding it publicly, and celebrating success. In the same way, great leaders focus on the positive, reward and encourage their employees strengths and successes. Even though you sometimes know more as a parent or leader, it's always wise to avoid criticism, especially public criticism.

3. Honesty is the Best Policy
Children are refreshingly honest. They say what comes to their mind, even when it's, "Dad, I think you gained weight!" or "Dad, I really don't like grandma's tuna fish salad." (That one was in front of Grandma.) As kids grow up, they get a filter; they learn to hold back at times, stretch the truth, or sometimes even lie. But while there are advantages to holding back sometimes--in general, honesty is easier in the long run. As social media becomes the norm, great leaders are increasingly embracing honest, open, transparent cultures. Perhaps children know best: Truth is a mark of a great leader.

What have you learned from your children that have helped you become a better leader? Let me know in the comments section below. And Happy Fathers Day! 

IMAGE: Dave Kerpen
Last updated: Jun 14, 2013

DAVE KERPEN | Columnist | CEO, Likeable Media

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable Local. He is also the cofounder and chairman of Likeable Media and the New York Times bestselling author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business. Want to learn about how to grow your business using social media in 2 minutes? Click here.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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