I recently delivered a presentation on leadership skills. At the end of my presentation, a woman stood up and commented that all of those skills are also applicable to parenting. It made me go back through my presentation and look at it through a parenting lens rather than a typical leadership lens.

The presentation was a summary of a webinar I watched a couple of weeks ago by Joseph Petzinger. He is in the US Military and has been teaching leadership for 11 years. His webinar explains 4 fundamentals of leadership: empathy, integrity, action, and responsibility.

While I was watching and taking notes, I was thinking of my job and my role as a manager and leader. I was filing the information into the back of my brain for my return to work. When that woman spoke out at our meeting a couple of nights ago it made me realize that these are all skills that I can start applying immediately even though I’m on maternity leave.

In this post, I will articulate the high level points of his presentation and how each leadership fundamental is applicable to parenting. If you have any other points to add please leave a comment below!

Empathy

Joseph Petzinger defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of others”. It requires effective and active listening to understand what the other person is going through in order to help them. Taking the time to listen enables you to alleviate their stresses and proactively solve their problems. This builds trust. If people see that you care about their needs they will want to work for you.

How is this applicable to parenting?
Listening to our children helps us to understand their desires, motivations, and what upsets them. This can help when trying to get them to do something that we want them to do. Aligning whatever task we want accomplished with their motivations will make cooperation more likely. Being able to anticipate their needs in advance will alleviate any distress they may experience, which will make life smoother for us.

Even though Hailey is only 9 months old and cannot yet speak I will still ask her what she wants. If she’s crying I will hold her up, look her in the eye and ask her what’s wrong. Most of the time I get some sort of indication as to what the problem is.

When she’s not upset, she’s still giving me cues regarding what she wants whether its milk, sleep, potty, mommy to play with her, or to be held. Understanding what she’s feeling and what motivates her allows me to anticipate her needs and deal with them in a proactive way before she gets upset.

Integrity

In his webinar, Joseph Petzinger defines integrity as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and moral uprightness. The state of being whole and undivided”. He talks about living above reproach. He advises that we live by the same standards we expect of others and just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

Integrity-based leadership allows people to trust you, your intent, where you’re coming from, your decisions, and to be honest.

He compares this form of leadership to a strong building, which has a strong foundation and a strong structure. However, structural beams in buildings are typically metal and all metal has a bending point when heated. At this point, the metal fails and is said to have lost its integrity. He suggests identifying our “heat” or things that will attack our strength and make us compromise our integrity. Avoid these.

How is this applicable to parenting?
Holding ourselves to the same standards we expect from our children will add a lot of credibility to our arguments and advice. If we have different rules for them then they will see those rules as more of an attempt to control them making them more likely to push back. If they see us living by the same rules then it will be easier for them to follow our lead. Even if they disagree with the rule, we have established credibility with them that will make it more likely that they will still listen to us.

Family meals are important in our household. If one person is taking longer to eat the rest of us will stay at the table until that person is finished. If Hailey is the last one then we will sit with her until she indicates she is done. We hold Hailey to the same standards. Sometimes she eats all of her food or gets bored with it before my husband and I clear our plates. We expect her to stay at the table and wait.

Action

Leaders need to act. They can’t just sit back and boss people around. If a task seems too large or overwhelming then break it up into smaller tasks. Accomplishing small tasks equals small victories, which builds momentum, gives you control, and will keep you moving.

How is this applicable to parenting?
We, as parents, need to take action to deal with issues when they arise and organize our day-to-day lives to accomplish our goals. An example that comes to mind is cleaning our house. If I’m overwhelmed thinking about cleaning the entire house I will make a list of the tasks and break them up. If I need to vacuum the whole house I may add the following tasks to the list: vacuum upstairs, vacuum, downstairs, vacuum living room (I will often separate the living room because it takes me the longest).  In this example, I don’t have to wait until the whole house is vacuumed to get the sense of accomplishment I get by checking something off my list.

Responsibility

As a leader, you are responsible for your people, breaking up tasks to get them accomplished, training your people, and for all success and failures. You absorb blame rather than making excuses or blaming others. When you are successful you give credit to others who have worked hard.

How is this applicable to parenting?
The first thing that comes to mind is setting our kids up for success. We can help them break up tasks in order to get them into the success momentum. Teaching them how to do things gives them the skills they need to learn and grow as human beings. Praising their successes and absorbing some of the blame from others will help them grow and will also build their trust in us as their parent/leader.

Finally

Joseph Petzinger ends the webinar encouraging us to reflect on leaders we’ve had (good or bad) and learn from them. And he reminds us that the first person you lead is you!

And I think our kids are a close second 🙂