A good parent = a good leader?

The extent to which there are common themes between being a good parent, and a good leader, is something which is often commented on. We asked our founder, Catherine Baker, mother of three boys, to give her perspective.

I am very fortunate to have three children. I am also very fortunate to have spent many years working in roles which have revolved around getting the best out of people, and helping to develop potential. 

I am often struck by the similarities between the principles and behaviours that make a good parent, and that make a good leader. As parent I have many lessons still to learn, and no doubt many mistakes still to make. However, in the course of my working life, watching, observing, researching and advising on teams and leaders, I have ‘borrowed’ many instances of best practice for my role as a parent. Similarly, parenting tricks and approaches exhibited by those more capable in the parent role than me can be replicated and used in leadership and team development, to great effect. 

We asked Catherine what the most significant common themes are.

I would start with this: put the groundwork in.

By this I mean that the effort you put in in the early days should reap rewards for you later on down the line.  Work hard, set the ground rules, be consistent, set the right frameworks in place, work out what your ‘philosophy’ of parenting/leadership is going to be, stick to it….  I could add more, but I guess ultimately it comes down to ensuring that you are putting in place whatever framework and training you feel is required at the beginning, and then reinforcing it repeatedly in the early days. I like to equate this to tennis coaching as well (which I still do part time when I get the chance). The more time spent at the beginning of a child’s tennis life focusing on the correct technique, approach, attitude etc, the more enjoyment, reward and success that child will have later down the line.

Next, I would say understanding the individuals is key

I know when one of my son’s is hungry as he loses his usual sense of humour and becomes short-tempered. I know when another one is nervous just by looking at him.  I understand and can anticipate how my boys are likely to react in certain situations. Why? Because I am lucky enough to spend a lot of time with them, and know and understand their characters pretty well.   

This makes my job as a parent a lot easier.

The same goes for leaders: the more you understand and know your team, the more you will get out of them.

Next, ‘Do as I say not as I do’ works as little for parents as it does for leaders.  You have to walk the talk as well as talk the talk. Modelling the correct behaviour is key both for children, and for those you lead.  It may not always be easy, and sometimes you may slip up, but we all know that it’s easier to remember something someone did, than what someone said. Again, bringing it across into the coaching arena, what is the most powerful way to get your pupils to do something – explain it, or actually demonstrate it….?

Finally, It’s all about them, not you’. As a parent it’s easy to fall into the trap of making it all about you and not the child (again sport is a great magnet for this type of parenting). I like to think of giving my children roots and wings, and I equate this to the role of diminisher versus multiplier as a leader. A multiplier, whilst giving their people a secure and powerful base, wants them to thrive, gives them appropriate freedom and autonomy, and works hard to help them identify their strengths and ‘fly’.

That’s great Catherine, many thanks. Anything else you would like to add?

Yes, being an ex-lawyer, I would like to add a disclaimer……