My mother-in-law was an experienced teacher and a manager at an adult education institute. Many years ago, when she was still alive, she told me about a management course she was taking that shook her perception of her work. She was very surprised to discover that there were many types of managers.
After her course, we had many discussions about how management, leadership and parenting are very similar in their essence. At that time, I was running my first business, where I was a manager, a leader and a parent. I managed all the aspects of the business and led the educational program, while being a young mother.
I thought about these three roles we play for years and managed to combine them into something that worked really well for my family and me. Hopefully, the ideas below will work well for your family and you too.
Parenting is a management position. For the family “business” or “operation” to run properly, we need to manage time, manage our emotions and those of our family members, manage money, manage habits, manage education, manage health, manage work and manage time off. In fact, all aspects of family life, we even need to manage things we have no control over (yes, it is very frustrating that we cannot control everything).
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
There are also many similarities between parenting and leadership, which I really like. We, the Baras Family, navigate life together. United we stand, divided we fall. Still, someone needs to be King Arthur.
In my leadership programs, I help the participants understand that leaders are not born leaders, just like parents are not born parents. We can develop these skills. The main difference is that we can get by in most areas without being leaders, but when we have kids, we really must develop our parenting skills.
Here is the comparison between leaders, mangers and parents. I hope it will make it easy for you to develop leadership and management skills in your parenting and have strong foundations, with a strong “king” and strong “knights”.
Why parenting is like leadership and management
- Leaders need followers. Leaders always have a small group of supporters who believe in the same things they do. Managers need staff. Usually, staff members need to follow some kind of instructions in order for the business to run smoothly. Parents need children. They need their children to follow some kind of instructions in order for the family to run smoothly.
- Leaders are different and do not settle for being average. They must stand out somehow. They understand that there are risks in standing out and they make good use of their uniqueness. Managers must be different to be chosen for the job. They cannot be just another person, otherwise they would be employees. They know there are risks involved and they make good use of the fact they are special – “management material”. Parents are special. They become special as soon as they bring a child to life and they know the risks (well, I do hope they considered the risk before they got the “job” of being a parent). They must do something special and different or their kids will find comfort with their friends’ parents or other family members. I am sure you know of many people whose parenting role was transferred to a big sister, a grandparent or a teacher when they could not “run the show” properly.
- Leaders can think on their feet. They sometimes need to make fast decisions and they know they might make mistakes. Yet, they do not linger. Mangers must think fast when things do not happen as they expect. Parents need to make fast decisions sometimes.
- Leaders lead the way by example. Leading does not mean telling others what they should do. Leaders show the way. They do not pull or push others aggressively to do what the leader wants. Mangers lead by example. If the manger expects staff members to notify when they cannot come to work, he or she does the same to show respect. Parents are role models. Children know what their parents believe in based on what they do, not what they say.
- Leaders are always improving themselves. They are in a learning state all the time. They set goals, achieve them, set bigger goals and strive to achieve them too. They are not afraid to learn and never stop the search for new ideas. Managers must improve themselves all the time or they will never have an advantage over others. They must keep up with change, which happens all the time. They work with goals and milestones and work towards them. Parents learn to be parents throughout their life. Every day is a learning day. We work better as a team if we know what we want and we improve ourselves. We aim for better time management, better health, more quality time and so on.
- Leaders have good time management skills. They look for ways to do things faster, better and more efficiently. Leaders have the same time as their followers, but they use it better. They prioritize and focus on the most important tasks first. Managers must develop good time management skills to do things better and more efficiently. Someone who is unorganized and does not meet deadlines or come to meetings on time will not be able to manage anyone else. Parenting requires lots of task juggling. In-between work, home, kids, driving, sleep, shower, food, cleaning and romantic time, only those who can manage their time well can do a good job raising kids.
- Leaders need to move their followers in the same direction with motivation. They are at the front of the line and need to motivate their followers to follow them. If they use force, they will lose their followers. Managers have tasks to complete and they need to motivate their staff to achieve it. If they use force, they will lose their staff. Parents need things to be done and they need to motivate their kids to accomplish them. If they use force, they lose trust, and without trust, nothing can be done. It is like King Arthur, sitting at the round table, all by himself, without any knights to do the job.
- Leaders know that their followers are not similar in skills and abilities, so they take into consideration everyone’s abilities and use them to their advantage. Managers understand that everyone on their staff is different. They do not expect the secretary to know the job of the technician and vice versa. They all need to respect each other, but not to be the same. Parents must understand that their kids are different. They are not the same and the parents need to treat them based on their unique set of skills and abilities. Comparing them is exactly like comparing the secretary with the technician. It is a waste of energy.
- Leaders know how to delegate and they understand that they cannot control or take care of every follower. Leaders assign goals to teams and make sure they are all in line with the common purpose. Managers must delegate the work or they will have to do it all by themselves. They make sure every group is in charge of separate things and do not micromanage every move of the projects they run. Parents cannot do all by themselves. They need to give tasks and chores to members of the family and give them the autonomy to do it the way they see fit. Micromanaging everything everyone is doing is hard on the kids and they find it hard to follow someone who is very controlling.
- Leaders ask their followers for their opinion, so that they are in line with what they think and believe. Managers ask their staff for suggestions and input as the staff members know more about what is happening in their field than the managers do. This way, the managers show respect and appreciation to their staff’s input. Parents need to treat their kids with respect and appreciate their input and suggestions. In this atmosphere, children see their parents in a role, rather than as “higher”. This way, the respect is mutual.
Think of your role as a parent as a type of manager or leader and it will make it easier to feel like you are King Arthur, sitting at the round table, with your kid knights in shiny armor.