My wife and I just had our first child--an experience unlike any other. For the first time, we're solely responsible for another human being. (Maybe a good metaphor for some managers out there.)
It's only been seven months, but I'm already starting to understand the special bond that's formed between a parent and their child.
One of the biggest realizations was a better understanding and appreciation for my parents. As children, it is easy to take our parents for granted. Without their perspective, we never truly comprehend how much they care for us.
It's only if and when we become parents ourselves that it makes sense. Parenthood is one of my greatest wishes for my son. That one day, he will be a father and understand how special the bond really is.
I would argue that managers should feel this same way about their people. That one day, they hope their employees will have a team or company of their own. This thought from Harvey S Firestone, founder of Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, says it well, "The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership."
So, what else can we learn from parenthood? Here are four habits that develop and inspire great leaders:
1. Be available
"Do as I say, not as I do" never works. You have to have more than good intentions. You have to be there and you have to make the time. Easier said than done, right? Time is often scarce as we focus on building our careers and businesses. This quote from Gary Keller, founder of Keller Williams Realty International, put things in perspective for me, "You need to be doing fewer things for effect instead of doing more things with side effects."
Make yourself available to those whom you manage. The extra attention will pay dividends as your employees will have more opportunities to be mentored by your example.
2. Care about and be fully committed to their success
I'm referring to the side-effects that come with putting others' interests before your own, nurturing your relationships, and practicing selflessness. Truly caring about our employees means that we treat them with kindness, respect and show genuine concern for their well-being. In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."
This includes tough love. There are times when constructive criticism, trial by fire, and consequences are necessary for development.
3. Create camaraderie
People don't learn from those whom they don't respect. This doesn't mean that your employees expect the other half of your yin-yang necklace. It means that they want to be accepted for who they are and have a relationship that's rooted in trust.
Being relatable wouldn't hurt either. A little empathy, fun, and authenticity can go a long way.
4. Provide air cover
Create a safe zone where employees can let down their guard, ask questions, and voice their opinions. It's unnerving to feel like you're in an environment where everything you do or say is under a microscope.
These four examples may seem basic, but unfortunately, these are the habits that are often left at the door when we enter the work environment. Although parents may not be seen as leadership examples, the truth is, they are responsible for developing some of the most influential people the world has ever known.