Dedicated to my Children
Someone recently approached me and pointed out that the two books I have written have been dedicated to my children, not my spouse, not my mother. For me, this was common sense. My children have taught me more than anyone else has about leadership. They are the foundation of my leadership journey, and they are my daily inspiration.
Teamwork: A Canoe Lesson
The first example I want to share is one I actually share in Chapter 4 of my book, The Art of Caring Leadership.
My second oldest son is incredibly independent. He is a self-starter and chases down his personal goals with great success. But, he isn’t fond of depending on other people to help him achieve his goals. This individuality became an issue when he went on a canoe trip with my husband. The idea of having to work with someone else, even his father, was enough to make him nervous. He began to be doubtful of their success.
Through discussing this experience with my son, we both gleaned that while “people do innovate by themselves, but great innovations come from cross-functional collaborations and teamwork” (62). At the same time, it cemented a deeper lesson about teamwork:
You have to put yourself in the shoes of others, and you have to be OK with them not being perfect. You have to move forward when the waves are pulling against you. You have to work with the other person in the canoe (62).
Empowerment: A College Debut
This week is very sentimental for me as I drop my first child and only daughter off at college. As one might do in this situation, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on her preparation. I realized just how much of that preparation I was responsible for.
It’s hard to watch as I let her go to spread her wings. But it has also taught me a great leadership lesson in empowerment. Every moment of my daughter’s life, whether we realized it or not, my husband and I have been setting her up for life as an adult. We have been empowering her to take the reins when the time comes. Yes, I am emotional that the time has come! But it is an incredibly beautiful thing to witness. I can trust that she will do what’s right for her. And I can’t wait for the next lesson in leadership. The one where I learn from her, as she’s excelling and succeeding in college because of her empowerment.
Empathy: Being there for my son
Another leadership lesson I learned from one of my sons has to do with leading the whole person. I had to recognize that my son is different from myself and individual in the way he needs to communicate.
It took time, but I finally realized that to get him to open up to me. First, I had to meet him where he was. Plus, I had to be prepared to empathize and listen and be present. Before, I could not understand what my son was feeling and experiencing without choosing to be present with him and empathize. But then, finally, after he grew comfortable and realized that I was not there to control or force a connection, he opened up to me, and we had a conversation.
Altered Perspective: Seek Beauty
The final lesson in leadership I want to address today was taught to me by my youngest son. It was a simple and brief moment, but it impacted the way I view the world.
I’m an incredibly occupied person. I zoom in between family life and many work commitments every day. Constantly going to the next appointment, I tend to focus my gaze and energy directly ahead.
One day I was driving my youngest son to practice, and he was able to break my focus on my schedule and to-do list and forced me to look up at the sky and observe a rainbow. As I rested my eyes on the spectacle of a natural miracle, I remembered to widen my perspective. When we focus so singularly on what is directly in front of us, we will miss many beautiful moments life offers us. Beauty is an incredible source of creativity. My son helped me be a more well-rounded leader and a more creative one by reminding me to stop and smell the roses that day.
A Thank You to my Children
These are just four specific moments I am grateful to my children for as they have better formed me as a caring leader. Of course, there are countless other examples. But if these can help even a few people reflect on their leadership behaviors or perhaps help them glean lessons from their children, then again, I owe gratitude to my children.