No one is ever really 100% prepared for parenthood especially during COVID. You can read hundreds of books and talk to all the parents you know, but until you experience it for yourself, you’ll never fully know what it’s like. Becoming a parent gives you new experiences and teaches you things that are unique to the crazy journey that is parenthood, let alone being a full time solo parent. It takes courage and kindness to be a great parent. It is the most leadership role on the planet. It’s the toughest gig you will love.
If I hadn’t given birth to my amazing daughter Abby, I would have missed out on knowing what pure and complete love is – and I never would have learned so many valuable lessons that make me a better mother, parent and a better leader too!
So many of the traits and skills we learn as parents and practice every day can translate into powerful leadership lessons, and help us improve ourselves as leaders.
Here are 5 of the most important leadership lessons I’ve learned since I became a parent:
One size doesn’t fit all
Just as each child is unique in what their strengths are, what motivates them and what approaches they respond best to, so are the people in our teams.
Taking the time to get to know those you work with not only helps you get the best out of them, but it also improves your relationships, leading to better and more open communication.
Don’t let life pass you by
Living in the moment is something I still struggle with occasionally, but a lot of us do. It can be easy to get caught up in a deadline and let other areas of your life slip, but when you have a child you really learn to stop and appreciate even the smallest moments – because they just grow up way too fast, and you can’t get those precious moments back!
Finding that right balance between life and work leads to not only happier leaders but happier teams as well. And even if you aren’t a mother, you still need to make sure you have a life!
Kindness and compassion are always important
Once you’ve got your new little person in your arms, you often find yourself becoming more compassionate to those around you. As your child grows, you learn just how much they can affect your life (lack of sleep, sharing a tummy bug from school or daycare, the list goes on!), and you can empathize instead of becoming frustrated when someone on your team isn’t doing their best. Of course, this doesn’t mean you let poor performance slide! It just means that you’re more understanding, and teams respond well to a leader who is kind and cares about them.
Flexibility is key
Motherhood shows you that despite your best plans, you’ll often have to roll with the punches instead. Children will surprise you in incredible ways, but sometimes things happen that mean you need to quickly adapt to avoid disaster.
Great leaders understand that they can’t control everything, and are flexible to ensure they adapt to whatever gets thrown at them so that they still get the best results.
Finding the balance between independence and course correction
You’ve probably heard, or even said yourself, that kids need to make their own mistakes in order to learn – as long as the mistakes aren’t harmful or putting them in danger, of course! Parenthood is constantly trying to set your kids up with the tools to succeed, while still letting them explore what it’s like to fail and have things go wrong because life isn’t always fair or easy.
Being a leader is very similar; you want your team to have initiative and think independently, while passionately going after their goals, but you have to know when to step in and change their direction too. It’s not about letting go of all control but finding the right balance between them to become an effective leader.
Who knows if I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t become a mother and parent? Having children gives you courage and a fierceness you never thought you’d feel, but you want to make sure you’re giving your child everything you can to help them succeed and be happy while trying to make the world a better place for them too.
The journey of parenthood never ends, and neither should your journey as a leader; like parenting, it can be extremely difficult, but also one of the most incredibly rewarding experiences of your life.
“What greater aspiration and challenge are there for a mother than the hope of raising a great son or daughter?”
I’d love for you to share any leadership lessons with me that you’ve learned during your motherhood journey, so be sure to comment or send me a message!
Sonia McDonald is the CEO of LeadershipHQ, McDonald Inc and Outstanding Leadership Awards. She believes we should lead with kindness, from the heart, doing rather than telling and is known for her mantra ‘Just lead’. She leads by example in all these areas and through her one on one practical coaching, leadership training for teams and organisations encourages others to do the same. Sonia has helped hundreds of people on their leadership journey to become the best version of themselves and in turn, inspire and bring out the best in others.
For more than 25 years, Sonia has been on the front lines of HR. She has held leadership positions worldwide and through experience, research and study come to realize what it takes to be a truly great leader.
Sonia has an ability to speak bravely and authentically about her own development as a leader, personal and career challenges in a way which resonates with her audience. She is recognized as a LinkedIn influencer and has become an in-demand keynote speaker, starts important conversations.
She is an award-winning published author of Just Rock It! and Leadership Attitude and soon to be released Furst Comes Courage. She writes regularly for publications such as The Australian, HRD Magazine, Smart Healthy Women and Women’s Business Media. Sonia has become recognised for her commentary around the topic of leadership, developing work-life balance, championing the up and coming leaders of tomorrow and advocating for women in business and male-dominated industries.
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