Leadership is Child’s Play: 5 Lessons to Learn from Your Kids

From the moment your child was placed in your arms as a tiny, squawking human, you knew your role was to guide her as she grows into her full potential. From the first time your son sat with a crayon in his chubby, little toddler hand, you knew your responsibility was to help him learn how to bring to life what he saw in the blank page before him – not just literally, but figuratively as he grew and discovered his path. After all, parenting is an exercise of love and leadership. As you look at your child now, perhaps gently reminding her that Play-Doh is for playing, not eating, it might not occur to you that learning is a two-way street. You have much to teach your children; and you also have a whole lot to (re)learn from them.

Curiosity Is a Must

If there’s ever been a toddler or preschooler in your house, you know that even good answers are met with the follow-up question, “Why?” Children have an insatiable curiosity. They like to explore. They poke under rocks. They ask question after question after question. They recognize that for every one thing they know, there are countless more things they don’t. And that’s okay. That just means there is more fun to be had as they discover new things and grow through the process. As adults, our leadership could benefit from a healthy dose of enthusiastic exploration. If you’re not asking questions and exploring the unknown, now is the time to stretch beyond your comfort zone and reconnect with your curious inner child.

Pulling No Punches

Young children are apt to blurt out whatever it is that pops into their minds. Sometimes their bluntness creates uncomfortable moments for us as parents. For example, we may agree that Aunt May’s spinach casserole is a bit hard to stomach, but we also know blurting out “This is gross!” isn’t the right way to address it. While kids sometimes need help learning how to couch their feedback with a bit of empathy and grace, adults need to remember that honesty is really the best policy. Organizations thrive in environments that welcome different opinions and frank discussion. When you present a potential new product idea to your team, you need more than a chorus of affirmation. You need people willing to speak up about their concerns, as well as share ideas on how to expand the initial thought into something even better.

Know No Limits

Children don’t see roadblocks. They imagine all sorts of ways to circumvent whatever it is preventing them from reaching their goal. Remember that time you thought you could hide the Oreos from your daughter by placing them up out of reach on a high shelf? When she thought you weren’t looking she pulled a chair over and began climbing her way to cookie-heaven. As adults, we can take set-backs and challenges as a sign that we’re on the wrong path. We give up. Instead, we need to think like that Oreo-craving kid and seek a creative solution to work through what’s keeping us from our goal.

Working in the Zone

Adults get good at juggling, or so we think. We try to manage a conference call while we’re reading through our emails and jotting down notes for the project update that’s due next week. Kids, on the other hand, pick one task and go all in. Your son has a pile of Legos poured out on the floor. Tongue poking out one side of his mouth, he’s intently picking through the pile to collect all the grey and white blocks he can find to build his four-story, three-wheeled car. He’s not worried about anything else in that moment. His full attention is on this project. Kids know what adults are ignoring: multitasking hinders productivity.

Thrill in the Unknown

From peek-a-boo to roller coasters, kids delight in surprises. They don’t know what’s coming around the bend (or from behind your hands), but that’s part of what makes the experience exciting and fun! A child learning to ride a bike falls. She gets up, dusts off her dirty, scrapped knee, and she tries again. Somewhere between that stage and our adult years, we let uncertainty scare us and failure stop us. There’s only one thing that avoiding risk brings to a career or a business: stagnation. Yes, risk can make our heart flutter and our breath catch a little. That’s part of the fun. Take the leap anyway.