Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Children

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By Jas Singh

A proud father of two children, being a parent has been the most defining experience of my life. Education, business and entrepreneurship is a doddle compared to the highs and lows of raising kids.

There’s no manual. No industry standards. And the stakes are higher.

Becoming a Dad for the first time for me was tough. It took me a while to adjust – after many mistakes, endless doubts and regular emotional toil. Yet like most rewarding things in life, the work pays off. You finally find your feet. Well at least most of the time.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of parenthood has been how much my children have taught me. After nearly ten years as a hiring specialist, I’ve always been fascinated with human behaviour. And although often unaware, put simply there are things my kids do better than me.

Dr Seuss once said that adults are just outdated children. I can’t help but think that he was right. Although experience and ageing obviously develops many types of strengths, we also lose essential skills that came naturally to us as children.

Maybe the basis of parenthood is even to ensure we maintain the right balance for our children: learn what’s important, but also to retain what comes naturally to them.

Here are a few things we can all do better, simply by following the example of children:

1) Children don’t know when to quit.

My two year old son has a big fondness for ice-cream. If he had it his way he would probably eat one every day. And so, to prevent him asking for one at every meal time, like all good parents do, we’ve created a great diversion story. OK, OK. We lie to him. That the ice-cream fairy is on holiday this week.

Sometimes however, we get caught out. Cinemas, restaurants, sea-sides that kind of thing. He’ll see another kid with one and we get busted. Usually we’ll just buy him one – but sometimes he’s already had his pudding – and that’s when things turn nasty.

No explanation, diversion or level of ignoring will work. When he’s made his mind up, the boy doesn’t know how to quit. Hours can go by. I promise not to succumb. Get myself psyched up. But now matter hard I try to stand my ground, nine times out of ten it usually ends with him trotting off, cone in hand.

Anyone whose dealt with children knows how persistent they are. In a time where all of us are far to happy to give up, try something else or look for better alternatives, children are a great reminder to us all.

Stick to your goals, and you’ll get what you want.

2) Children ask for what they want.

Putting your hand up for the new promotion. Asking for the pay rise. Even asking that pretty lady on the bus for her phone number. All of us at some stage have had the big opportunity within our reach – yet for some reason; whether it be pride, fear or nerves – just failed to grasp it.

Kids just go for it. Ever seen a toddler hold back on asking for what they want? Rarely. They see it, they ask for it, they take it. Simple.

As adults sometimes we overcomplicate things. Every week I meet many people who are looking for a new job simply because they don’t believe the opportunity they are looking for exists where they are. Yet many have these candidates haven’t even asked their current companies for what they want. They’ve simply been hoping that something might just happen – when their managers have no idea what their expectations are.

If you want something in life, you usually have to ask for it.

Children are experts in asking.

3) Children use their imagination.

On holiday last year we had a minor catastrophe. Actually no, it was a major catastrophe.

We’d forgotten Pengwin at home.

Pengwin is my son’s bedtime mascot (and BTW nope that’s not a spelling mistake, he’s pronounced Peng-Win with a high pitched ending…practice and you’ll get there). Going to bed involves a special ritual, tucking in Pengwin, ruffling his beak and giving him a gentle head-butt. It’s been the same moves for the past 18 months. Without Pengwin, bedtime is impossible.

So now what? Stuck in a strange room, thousands of miles from home how are we going to sleep without Pengwin?

Enter a two year old’s imagination. Off course Pengwin was there – he was just invisible in Turkey.

After a few seconds of suspicion and a slightly wobbly bottom lip, we were back in the groove. The routine was completed with invisible Pengwin and off he fell to sleep with arm around his invisible friend.

Children dream. They have vivid imagination’s to make up for anything they may not have in the real world. All they need to feel great is themselves.

Adults can learn massively from this childhood trait. In age of overwhelming stress, a vivid imagination can be the most effective tonic to a hard days work. To escape back to your childhood, be the person you always wanted to be or even to go to the place you’ve always wanted to go. With a strong imagination the only person you need to make yourself feel good is you.

4) Children just live to have fun.

What do you think about having to do in a typical day? I’m guessing the list is endless. Work. Deadlines. Drop the kids off. Exercise. Cook. Cut the grass. Phone that friend. And that’s just before you’ve brushed your teeth. Life becomes an endless list of to-do’s which becomes overwhelming.

What do children do think about doing?

One word.

Play.

Whether it’s getting the crayons out, running outside or jumping up and down on the bed, kids just want to have fun. To enjoy themselves in everything they do, from the minute they wake up to when they (finally) go down. And then they sleep – not a care in the world, beautifully relaxed, to recharge their batteries so they can go again the next day.

Why do things have to change for adults? Isn’t it the purpose of life to simply have fun?

We can all live more fulfilling lives by learning to enjoy everything we do. That’s why the highest achievers are usually those who have simply found their passion – and decided to follow it. By following the example of children, we can all have more fun.

Conclusion

Often teaching others can actually be the best opportunity to learn.

Whilst teaching and nurturing our children, sometimes they can teach us fundamentals that we often take for granted.

Hiring managers shouldn’t always look upon immaturity as a weakness – often it can bring traits – courage, persistence and humour – that can be a great strength.

Can we play now?

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