One of the fundamental roles of a parent is to lead their children, guiding and influencing their path.
We do this in a variety of ways – telling (the ‘do as I say’ mentality), outsourcing (our choice of schools and extracurricular activities reflects this); stimulating (the toys, books, games we allow them to engage in); and in showing (role-modelling what we would like to see from them)
It is this final method of leading that I would like to explore here because it is the one most often neglected or falsely developed. It is also the most difficult – because it doesn’t only involve our children, but mainly has to do with ourselves. Inherent in the act of role-modelling are two things: an awareness – and choice – of what you would like your children to be; an embodying of this within yourself (which in itself requires deep commitment to this ideal).
An example of what I mean… The first element of role-modelling - awareness of what we would like our children to be like - should be around a character trait that we feel will set them up well in life and make a difference to the way they operate in their world. It could be something like compassionate, courageous, committed, honest, hardworking, curious, loyalty, generosity, responsibility….
What these desires to see in our children actually end up being if we are truthful, are our own values – those things that are important to us above everything else. This is important to remember. Ultimately our children are their own people and so these values of ours which we are wanting to see in our children can only ever be gifts we offer them, which will assist them in their own journey.
The second element of leading our children involves the embodiment of these characteristics which is the act of being them ourselves. Mahatma Ghandi’s powerful quote resonates this: “Be the change you wish to see in the world” (emphasis mine).
Both of these elements require something from us as parents more than anything from our children – they require us to be conscious and aware of ourselves, of what is true for us and of what has value and meaning for us. And they require us to do the hard work of trying to be better and more integrous human beings who attempt to practise these characteristics within ourselves. More than anything a child is ever exposed to, it is the behaviour of a parent or caregiver that illustrates to them what is important and how they should try to be. And yet we are so often unconscious to what truly matters to us and instead pursue that which external influences, the systems in which we operate, tell us are important and valuable.
Truly, the best way to lead our children is to share the gift of our own values and the importance of being true to these. This will give our children the freedom to seek what is important to them and the awareness of making conscious decisions without being swayed by others. By being true to ourselves, working on reflecting what we truly and deeply believe and honour, we will express ourselves to our children in and authentic and purposeful way – which will give them the encouragement to do the same.
Parenting with purpose and awareness of ourselves will allow us to offer a healthy, whole, compassionate role-model to our children. We will lead them to be the best of themselves, as we seek to be the best of ourselves.
Contact me to find out more about the Parenting on Purpose workshops:
Conduct a search on the internet for the link between ‘leadership’ and ‘questions’, and reams of articles will surface which detail the top questions to ask of leaders – as well as their all important answers!
But I don’t believe this adequately scratches the surface of what true leadership can bring to the table. To understand that, I believe we need to turn this ‘questioning the leader’ paradigm on its head, and find the leaders who ask the questions themselves.
Because, to me, that is where true leadership lies. Individuals who have the courage, confidence, insight and persistence to continually ask questions, even if – or maybe especially if – they don’t know the answers, may be the most effective leaders of our time.
Why is this?
Well, to answer that, we need to look at what questions are capable of doing…
A well crafted, open-ended question has the power to:
But rather “What questions are our leaders asking?”…
A confrontation with the unexpected is a gift. Whether it creates a laugh or a wince, a gasp or a giggle; the noticing of the unusual has the potential to make us think.
And the space to think is a gift.
I was recently treated to the surprising sight of a couple of homeless gentlemen in a nearby neighbourhood who were sitting beside a busy road twisting the top half of a large 1970’s glitter ball in their hands. It certainly made me smile! Where on earth did they get that from? And what were they going to do with it? It looked so incongruous that the sight definitely deserved a laugh.
And then my thinking began…
First the awareness of belonging. To whom did the glitter ball belong? Where did these men themselves belong? (Homelessness always creates thoughts of belonging – or a lack of belonging). Why did it surprise me that an item of frivolity and sparkle should belong with people who struggle to find a meal and a dry space to sleep each day?
Why is it that we are so quick to attribute certain things, certain skills, certain opportunities only to particular people, and not others – sometimes not even to ourselves.
It is this closed and small-minded thinking that continually trips us up and renders us continually correcting and begrudging, instead of delighting and celebrating. Why shouldn’t these men own, and play with, a ‘70’s disco ball?
Why shouldn’t an unexpected colleague be given a project at work? Why should we be surprised when a manager reveals a penchant for water-colour painting? If certain thoughts or ways of being only belong with particular people or in particular situations, we will continually be short-changed in the many surprises and welcome creativity that can come with noticing – and inviting in – the unexpected. Imagine if our worldview allowed everything, every person to belong? Imagine the gifts we might reap…
Then to the awareness of seeing. I’ll admit that this is my constant challenge. Noticing and seeing what is happening around me is not my forte! So it was an unexpected gift that afternoon. It made me think, too, about how we often see that which we want – or expect – to see, instead of what is actually there.
Again it is closed and rigid thinking that can close us off to much of our awareness whenever things don’t fit with our paradigms. How many gloriously unexpected moments do we miss each day because we only look for that which we’ve told ourselves to see. How many wonderful pieces of work from our employees, uncomfortable comments from clients, or even crucial interpretations of our data are missed? What would happen if we allowed ourselves to see very differently and actually look for what is there? For that which we might say doesn’t really belong…
Perhaps we’d find that it is the expected, the usual, that doesn’t belong anymore - and the unexpected that we should entertain instead. Maybe we should dance with the ‘different’ and ‘unusual’ and see what changes in our work. What would really happen if we put a glitter ball in the boardroom…?
On a personal note...
I am curious, creative, determined, committed and (a bit too much of) a perfectionist.