For me, it wasn't even the moment when I first held my son, just moments after his birth. I think many dad's reading this can relate. There is something unreal about the prospect and reality of Fatherhood. I mean, we know we're going to be dads, the physical signs are obvious but what I'm getting at is the realization of fatherhood and what it really means to live that role. 'The weight of it. 'The responsibility for another life and the shaping of that life. 'The joy of it.
For me, the moment came after my son was walking and talking. He was fourish. I was leaning against the kitchen counter, legs crossed at the ankles, left hand carrying a mug filled with water to my mouth. My right hand was on my right hip in a sort of Superman pose that my still wife kids me about every time I strike it. I happened to glance to my right and there he was.
He had crept up on me all ninja like and had taken up the exact same pose I had...mug included.
That moment was one of the biggest, "OH, S*#T!" moments of my life! At that moment, I internalized that my son was going to copy me. I had broken through to the reality that he was going to do what I did, say what I said, and like what I liked. We was going to be like me. At that time in my life, being like me was the last thing I would wish for someone. I’m happy to say I’ve done a lot of work to turn that around but that fact remains…
Our kids teach us so much.
As I unpack the experience of that moment after 20 plus years, it occurs to me there are also moments when people realize they are not workers with a title who happen to have people reporting to them but rather, in that space of responsibility, have an opportunity to do something more that give direction, motivate, and achieve results.
The moment of realization of what being a father meant and the responsibility of that role was simple awareness. Parenting and leadership are similar roles. Consider that:
They Watch You...All the Time
Leaders are watched whenever they walk around, whenever, wherever they are. The conversation changes, people change behavior. They notice the actions that get positive attention and they strive to do more of those actions. Most people, most of the time want to please.
They Listen for Your Voice
Folks hang on every word the leader says and scrutinizes it for clues about where they stand. It’s natural and automatic to interpret the world through this lens of self. We’re all naturally selfish. Consider your voice carries and truly private conversations are rare.
They Think They Cause Your Mood Changes
Also known as, it's all about them. As a new leader, I changed the closing of an email from my normal, “Thanks,” or “Thanks so much” to “Thank you for your help in the matter.” Every member of the team called me to see what was the matter. Under that concern, was curiosity. Later several of them shared that they had wondered if they had done something wrong.
They Look to You for Validation and Security
People want to know if they’re doing a good job and if they are in a safe place where they can express themselves. As leaders, it’s our job to create opportunities to stretch, make mistakes, and express their point of view. It’s also our job to work with the team to develop and enforce standards of behavior. We get to lead the on-going discussion of how we are going to work together, how we are going to treat each other. Giving permission for the team to hold each other and you accountable to these standards is critical. Leaders undermine themselves all the time by enabling double standards.
Ever met a kid…or raised one who didn’t need you to be a safe place, didn’t want to please and be like you. ‘Who didn’t model how you treat others and think of themselves how you demonstrate your self-worth? Ever met a kid…or raised one who didn’t think your every irritation didn’t have something to do with them?
Feel under a microscope? You are. It comes with taking the responsibility of building something through and with others.
What’s a leader…what’s a parent to do?
Get really conscious of and clear on your mission as parent, as leader and intentionally live up to that mission…and do it with joy.
Thank you for your time and comments.