I happen to be both a parent and a ministry leader. Ironically, I spent four years in graduate school to learn more about being a pastor, but had zero preparation for the more important job. Still, there is a lot in common with the ministry and parenting hats that I wear. In my almost eight years of parenting, I’ve discovered that there is a good deal of overlap when it comes to the principles involved in parenting and leadership. Here are five truths that apply to both parenting and to leadership.
We learn how to make good decisions partly by making bad decisions.
One of the hardest things for me to do as a parent is to allow my kids to make a bad decision. This doesn’t mean that we don’t step in as parents when we need to, but there are times when parents need to allow their kids to navigate a situation on their own. The same is true when it comes to leading a team. The staff and leaders you lead won’t learn how to make decisions on their own if you always do it for them.
We become good at something by trying it before we know what we’re doing.
Skills are developed through practice. Whether it’s cracking an egg, riding a bike, or using a computer, good parents encourage their kids through the early, painful steps of learning how to do something. Kids don’t need to be told how to do every step; they need a reassuring smile and someone they trust who will tell them, “Let’s try it again; don’t give up.” When you think about it, that’s what great leaders and bosses do, too.
It’s important to say, “I’m sorry.”
Parents aren’t perfect. Leaders aren’t either. When you screw up, you have two choices: 1) Try to hide it (even though everyone knows you messed up); or 2) apologize. The latter choice may be tough to swallow, but it will earn you the trust of those you work with and the kids you parent.
Coaching is better than managing.
Managers tell those who work for them how to do their job, rather than why they do it. Great leaders define the why, set a course, and coach their team to figure out how to get there. The result is that managed team members don’t always know how to deal with unexpected obstacles, while coached team members can solve problems on their own. I’ve discovered that the same is true for parenting. Ultimately, I want my kids to be able to navigate difficult waters as adults, so I need to coach them to solve problems now while they’re still kids rather than solving them for them.
Mistakes make great teachers.
As a parent, I get easily annoyed by mistakes. I wish I didn’t. But a spilled cup of water or an accidentally ripped book frustrates me (even though I’m prone to the same kinds of mistakes as an adult). I’m realizing that mistakes can be used as an opportunity to criticize or as an opportunity to learn—and how I respond as a parent determines which one it is. The same is true for the teams you lead. Sure, it’s frustrating when a team member makes a mistake that costs your organization time, resources, or momentum, but mistakes will happen no matter how well you prepare or coach; so why not use them to your advantage?
What else would you add to the list?