Monday, July 14, 2014

The Courage of Parents and Leaders

Now that I have a child of my own, Anna Elizabeth, I appreciate the fear that comes with the thought of her being harmed... or worse.  And in parenting, I now see lessons that apply to corporate leadership, too.

If I’ve had any success in leadership, it’s probably attributable to letting people master their skills, autonomously (Daniel Pink got it right), without much intervention from me, unless I could see a disaster coming, and then intervening just enough to get back on course without drawing great attention to the course correction. Sometimes, they don’t even know I’m intervening.  That’s ideal, under the philosophy— If we succeed, it’s your fault.  If we fail, it’s mine.

I always meant to video a mountain bike ride for Mom. I hope she can look down now and see how much fun it is and how much I appreciate that she and Dad let me do these things while growing up. Jim Dunlap and I started riding our StingRays, the first "mountain bikes", on the trails around Durango in 1968, as best our little third grade legs would take us. Here it is in 2014, blessed by the company of another best friend, Steve Harmon, doing the same thing, albeit with legs that are a little stronger and bikes that are a little more sophisticated, to say the least. Mom always wanted to see videos of me skiing and mountain biking. For the first time ever, last year, I filmed a ski run for her... and she LOVED it. But I never got around to filming a mountain bike ride for her, until yesterday. Given that Mom and Dad lost two children to accidents, they could have been overly protective of me, but they weren't. They let me be me... and let me do some crazy fun things. Where did they find that courage? I love and appreciate and miss them so much.

I suspect there are lessons in here for corporate leadership, too.  Sometimes, you have to let those you lead, do what they need to do, even if that means that you know they are headed for a mistake.  As long as that mistake is not "fatal" to them or the organization, there will be learning, growth and satisfaction in letting them be themselves... in letting them explore and develop their own identities... that will benefit them and their team and your organization over the long term.

Let them be them.

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