Leadership Required

I started this post earlier this month and thought there was not better time than Fathers Day to finish it.

My 3 year old daughter is learning how to rollerblade. She has these cute pink and white rollerblades that are way too big for her 3 year old feet, but she just doesn’t care. She’s determined to do it.

The other day she has her skates on and while she is clumsily moving across the porch she looks up and says; “Daddy, watch me!”

At that moment, it hit me. I’m her father. Everything I wanted from my dad, she wants from me. She wants to feel special. She wants me to be proud of her. She wants to feel safe with me. She wants to feel supported. She wants security. She wants to be trusted. She wants to trust me. She wants me to have confidence in her. She wants to count on me. She wants me to be there for her.

I didn’t have the best relationship with my Dad. I learned a lot from my Dad, but I never felt all these things. It was at this moment, when my daughter looked up at me that I realized, in the simplest of ways, she wants everything I wanted from my Dad from me and it’s my job to make sure she gets them. What hit me the hardest wasn’t the logical recognition of this. I’ve always know these things. It was the emotional recognition. I remembered what it felt like to be a kid and looking at your Dad; wanting his approval, wanting to know he would make things OK, wanting to feel safe and special in his company. I remember how important my Dad’s approval was. That single glance and statement; “Dad, watch me!” made everything crystal clear. I am responsible for how my daughter feels.

Leadership is very similar. Love is not involved, but many of the same desires are. As a leader, I’ve learned that despite it being business, I’m working with people and they look to me, as I look to my leaders, for encouragement, support, security and recognition. I’ve learned employees respond best when they feel safe. When they know we care for them, when employees believe we are concerned with their careers, their efforts, their commitment to the company and to them as people they perform better.

This can be forgotten in the most difficult times and it shouldn’t. Layoffs are inevitable. At times people aren’t the right fit and move on. Despite the “business drivers” and the “metrics” and the “data” people are a companies only dynamic resource and there frame of mind has tremendous impact on the success of the team, the region and the company.

In these difficult times we can be focused on the data, the numbers; we’re cutting expenses, laying off people, suspending 401K matches, requiring furloughs etc. Getting the company back on track is critical. However any plan or approach that doesn’t make the employees feel safe, part of the solution, supported, and valuable will yield few results. The biggest impact to company aren’t the layoffs, or the expense reductions, or the new strategic direction it’s the mindset of the employees.

As leaders, like fathers with their children, we have tremendous impact on the psyche of our employees. We can grow great teams. We can destroy talent. We can motivate. We can demotivate. We can create energy. We can create inertia. We make an impact.

I’ve come to learn that I have tremendous impact on the people that work for me. They rely on me as much as I rely on them. Just as what I do as father impacts who my daughter becomes, how I lead my team impacts who my team becomes and all starts with remembering it’s not JUST BUSINESS.

My daughters and my team fail because of me. I succeed because of them.