Parenting & leadership

Parenting & leadership

22 June 2021
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • A series of short videos about the parallels between parenthood and leadership.

    Many challenges as a parent can also be found in the workplace.

  • Part 1: Are you also a micro manager, both at home and at work?

  • Small children grow up and that means: letting go, no matter how difficult that is.

    • You give them more and more responsibility to tackle small and bigger tasks in their own way.
    • You give them ownership over certain things.
    • You give them freedom to discover things at their own pace.
    • You let them bump into the wall, while of course being there to catch them.
    • You stand on the sidelines, encouraging and guiding them enthusiastically when necessary.

    Of course, you are the perfect parent who gives your child the space to grow and develop.

    So why don't you do this at work?

    You can apply the exact same recipe to your team: let go, empower, grow.

    • When they are new to their role, they of course need your help more (think of your toddler of preschooler).
    • As they build up more expertise on their own, you have to let them go and give them more ownership.
    • Team members who feel they are allowed to take matters into their own hands, to experiment and discover, are more engaged and will perform better in the long run.
    • And yes, this also means that you have to let them fail (the famous wall). And as a good leader, you are then ready to catch them and help them climb that wall.
  • Part 2: Self-leadership and the shoes lying around in the corridor

  • Leadership always starts from self-leadership.

    Know yourself first and decide for yourself what you want to invest your energy in before focusing on others.

    When you become a parent, it's the same thing. You encounter yourself and learn more about yourself along the way. A good parent is first and foremost a self-aware parent.

    In this video, Anne Cornut of Maison Slash shares that as a mum of five she has learned about what things to invest her energy in.

    Choose your fights and find the right energy balance.

    • Frustrations often cost more energy than they energize
    • Don't pay attention to them and
    • You have more energy left over for things that have more impact.

    Anne gives the perfect example of shoes lying around in the corridor and the fact that the kids apparently can't manage to put them in the right place. It's so familiar to a lot of parents.

    So be it! Let it go, as long as there are children in your house, shoes will lay around the corridor. Full stop.

    • Do you, as a leader, still spend too much energy on annoyances and frustrations in matters you have no impact on?
    • In your professional context, what are the 'shoes in the corridor'?
  • Part 3: If I don't get it from Mum, I'll go to Dad

  • It happens in many parenting pairs that both partners have a different parenting style. What you often see in daily life is the 'if I don't get if from Mum, I'll go to Dad' phenomenon. This often leads to tensions, especially when it is not mentioned and discussed.

    It's also something we very often see in companies. The different managers each have their own management style and the employees quickly know who they should approach for what and who they should approach in which way. Sometimes managers (like parents) are played off against each other.

    Is this a problem?

    Every parent/manager is unique and has his/her own approach. This is fine as long as the basic values and principles behind this parenting or management style are the same.

    You can ask yourself following questions:

    • Are you aware that there are differente management styles in your organisation?
    • If so, can you name those differences?
    • Despite the different styles, is everyone on the same page?
    • Are the leadership principles the same for everyone regardless of how each manager interprets them?
    • Are the leadership principles clear to everyone?

    A basic workshop on these leadership principles is a must-have to ensure that every manager knows what the foundations are on which he/she may/should build his/her management style.

    We can give following leadership principles as an example, based on a recent Ambits client case:

    • Do what you say and say what you do
    • Take ownership of your decisions
    • Always communicate with the company from one voice
    • Always put the company's interests first
    • Empower your people as much as possible

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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