Leadership and Freeing Your Inner Child

Today’s post is an expanded version of my comment yesterday to Dan Rockwell’s blog post on Leadership Freak titled “The Secret of Imperfections”.

Here is a copy of my original comment.  “Imperfect progress is better than no progress at all. Your reference to imperfect steps brought to mind the first tentative steps a child makes. They don’t wait until they can walk perfectly to walk; they get up, take a few imperfect, wobbly steps, fall down, get back up and so on until they can walk and then run. Perhaps reverting back to childish behavior now and again is a good thing!”

Children are brave enough to take those first tentative steps without being sure of success. They are determined enough to keep trying and trying and trying again until they finally succeed.

Other attributes children have that translate well to the topic of effective leadership are:

Their ability to see beyond the obvious.  Instead of a blanket,  a child sees an ocean.  Add a few styrofoam packing blocks, a stick and some paper and they have everything they need to explore the world.

Leaders need to be able to see the story behind the story; they need to be able to look beyond the obvious, easy solution, the one that has been done before over and over. Leaders must keep an open mind and be willing to explore new ideas and new paths.

Their ability to celebrate accomplishments.  Don’t you love the way kids jump up and down, saying “I did it, I did it” when they finally figure out how to tie their shoes?  Or the way they high five or hug a friend who wins the race across the playground?

Leaders must be be fully aware of, confident and proud of their skills, knowledge and abilities.  Jumping up and down may no longer be appropriate, but an “aw shucks” attitude or feeling it’s necessary to brush off recognition of their accomplishments is also not appropriate.   Leasers also recognize the importance of celebrating team accomplishments and  individual team member accomplishments.

Sadly, very often it is well-meaning adults who turn off the tap of wonder, of determination, of the sense that all things are possible.   As children get older, we start saying things like:  “That’s not how to do it.”  “Make sure you colour in between the lines.”  “It’s just a box.”

Instead of letting them explore and learn, we tell them how things are to be done, in what order and why.

Leaders find a way to open that tap up again. They ask questions, challenge assumptions, encourage creative thinking and allow their team members to explore new opportunities and take on new challenges. And when they fall, leaders encourage their team members to get back up, try again and then celebrate their success.

What do you think?  Are there other childish behaviours that can make us better leaders?

And for those of you looking for a Friday smile, enjoy this short video clip of a child taking her first steps.

4 thoughts on “Leadership and Freeing Your Inner Child

    • Thanks David. Some pressure is a good thing. It pushes us to work hard, it pushes us to try and move to the next level, but too much pressure and the creativity stops, heels dig in and many of us revert back to childish stubborness. That’s one of the behaviours we need to try not to revert to (!). From a leadershop perspective,it’s a good reminder to learn when to lighten up and ease off the pressure.

  1. Great post and terrific points! Children are intrepid and curious (ok, some are more so than others) – they are willing to take risks. As much as they love routine, there is room in their activities to be adventurous and open. These are but some qualities that we are well served to get in touch with every now and then..

    • Thanks Mimi. Curiosity and flexibility are all great qualities to embrace. Do you ever wonder just how much we could accomplish as adults if we were better able to let go of our routines and patterns, the increased necessity to be safe instead of daring, our focus on the final destination as opposed to the journey to get there?

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