On leadership and little people

As of COB today I will be on maternity leave for the second time; needless to say my mind is ticking

over (time!) with everything that needs to be done to prepare for the latest edition to our growing



In addition to the seemingly endless to-do list to complete in an ever-decreasing window of time, my

wee-small- hour-of- the-morning musings have recently centred upon something greater than

practical actions to be ticked off… it’s been on how my husband and I, as parents, ensure that we

raise these little people right in what sometimes seems like a world gone mad. Now that’s

something to keep you awake at night!!


As I am sure you can appreciate, this initially was an alarming train of thought, but was soon

followed by a calming insight… Raising little people is actually not that different to how a leader

leads, and given I have worked in the field of leadership for many years, I think I can pull a skill or

two from up my sleeve to help me navigate this multiple-child parenting caper. If you will, please

indulge me as I share with you some of my late-night insights…


  •  Leaders: As a leader, it is important to nurture and grow your talent. Invest in your people,

show them how their development in identified areas is important to their career

progression, to the team’s (and ultimately the organisation’s) performance. It’s amazing how

much people perform better for ‘praises than raises’, and what better way to recognise

someone than to invest in their future.

  •  Little people: Encouragement is key – not false praise for every little stroke on a page, but

helping your little person understand what they did well, where they can improve, and what

they can do next to learn more. To know that they have the support of the most important

people in their life (aka, parents) is often enough to move forward and develop as they

borrow your belief in them until they can grow it for themselves.

Show, don’t tell

  •  Leaders: Lead by example – as the leader you set the tone of what is acceptable, so show

just how prepared you are to do what you ask others to do by getting in there, rolling up

your sleeves, and working on it alongside them. Actions speak louder than words.

  • Little people: Monkey see monkey do – Little people are like sponges, so your actions and

attitudes will be emulated regardless of whether they are productive or counterproductive;

best make sure what you say and do is what you would be happy to see demonstrated back

to you!

Give timely feedback

  • Leaders: The act of feedback is important to help guide an individual’s development and

performance. Granted, most of us with a good level of self-insight know instinctively what

we have done well and what we haven’t (and oftentimes we are our own harshest critic),

but it is very helpful to get an external perspective to steer the course effectively from time

to time.

  • Little people: Feedback is an important part of parenting to help develop a solid foundation

of what will become self-awareness and self-insight later in life. Children need feedback in

order to shape their understanding of right and wrong, and feedback that is well positioned

and timely can be crucial in their personal development.

Tough love

  •  Leaders: It’s not that common to talk about love in the workplace, but leaders who give

‘tough love’ in the right way, at the right time, can often be giving someone a true gift.

Tough love comes from a place of sincerity, where you have the tough conversations

because you care about the other person. It involves being firm but kind on a position where

you have influence, i.e. delivering constructive criticism regarding negative behaviour in a

way that gains buy-in to change. It is rarely easy to receive (or give for that matter), but if it

is given completely with the other person’s best interests at heart then it’s got a much

higher chance of falling on open rather than deaf ears.

  • Little people: Just as leaders can give tough love through being firm yet kind, it’s imperative

that parents be the parent and set boundaries through giving some tough love. Sometimes

this is very hard to do (in fact it can be heartbreaking), but if you focus on the greater lesson

that needs to be learnt, this can often give the motivation you need to follow through.

Encourage interaction and learning from multiple sources

  •  Leaders: We all know that siloed organisations are not as strong as they could be; if there is

little to no cross-unit communication, overall organisational performance can be significantly

impacted. Therefore, leaders who promote secondments, collaborative opportunities, and

cross-team learning, are not only setting up their team for a strong future, but the

organisation as well.

  • Little people: Did you know that an individual’s core values are being formed up until about

the age of 7, after which time they are settling deep into one’s psyche into adulthood? This

means that those who are influential in a little person’s life up to that age, i.e. mum, dad,

siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers (television, You Tube… say no more!), are all playing

a part in shaping their little heart and mind. These early influences will go on to form the

paradigms that then shape their thoughts and decisions in adulthood. So, it is great to learn

about life from multiple sources, but choose wisely on who is having an influence over your

children in those critical early years, as you don’t want the wrong things/people to shape

them for you!

Create a psychologically safe environment

  •  Leaders: With the pace of change ever increasing, creating a learning environment is critical

to enable an organisation to ‘futureproof’ itself. As a leader, it is therefore important that

you allow those around you space to make/learn from mistakes. This walks a fine line with a

leader’s delivery of tough love; in experimenting, people need to know that you have their

back, that you will tell it as it needs to be told, when it needs to be told, and that they are

perfectly safe in their experimentation (even if it is failed experimentation).

  •  Little people: Children make mistakes. Full stop. But mistakes are actually critical on the path

of learning what to do and what not to do. It is therefore important for children to

understand that they won’t get in trouble for trying and failing when experimenting.

Have fun!

  •  Leaders: It’s not all work work work! Do the team building activities, have down time,

celebrate the morning teas, etc. – it may not seem important on the surface, but team

bonding and relationship building is critical for future stability, especially in these turbulent

times. Teams that play together stay together, simple as that.

  •  Little people: Get down on the floor, get messy in the yard, and remind yourself what it was

like being a kid. You’ll both love it but for different reasons – ‘play’ is a great stress reliever

for us as parents, and for children is a great way to continue to strengthen the bond

between you. And surely a strong bond developed in childhood will help with ‘those’

teenage years, right…(please, tell me it is so!!!)??

It may come as no surprise to the outsider, but until now I hadn’t anticipated how my background in

organisational psychology, coaching, and leadership could lay the foundation for me raising multiple

little people! I guess it should come as no surprise given that people are people whether they are big

or small, and for the sheer fact that our fundamental human needs don’t change with age!

So lessons for the leader in this? 1. Nurture the development of others; 2. Lead by example; 3. Give

timely feedback coupled with tough love; 4. Encourage learning from multiple sources, 5. Create a

psychologically safe environment, and 6. Have fun. Do these simple things and you can’t go too

wrong if you ask me!

And with that in mind, wish me luck as I take my next voyage into a period of sleepless nights,

endless washing, and toddler tantrums re: jealousy over the baby taking over ‘her mummy’, all

balanced out with much love, joy, and fulfilment. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other



Leave a Reply