Just before Christmas, I was out at a town square style shopping area with my two kids and a friend’s five-year old son. His mom and my wife were doing some other things and I was responsible for watching the kids. Being the week before Christmas, it was extremely busy. We parked the car and made our way towards the store we were targeting.
Traffic was crazy and people were everywhere. I was walking us towards a particular store, but in the middle of trying to figure out exactly where that was I had to be sure the kids were with me and safe. My head was on a swivel as I made my way with the kids across cross walks and along sidewalks. I was constantly looking for threats (cars) and doing head counts to ensure that we were safe and intact.
As this was unfolding, I saw it as a great snapshot of what leadership is. I considered the following leadership characteristics applicable with a greater application than three kids in a shopping center:
- Leadership Requires a Destination – Leaders need to know where they are intending to take the others nobody will drive the group towards a goal.
- Others Might Not Be As Focused – The seven year old and the five-year old with me were certainly not as focused on the task at hand as I was.
- Others Require Reminding – My reminders of waiting at intersections, wait for the group, etc. were consistent with the two young boys. Consistent, clear and even redundant communication keeps the group on point.
- Direct Instructions From Station to Station – Five and seven-year old boys don’t always remember where we are going or why we are going there. It’s OK; I just have to get them from station to station at times. That can require direct feedback and instructions of what to do next.
- Hearts Know – It was a pleasant outing despite the challenges and even though I gave direct and unilateral instructions at times. The younger boys knew I was for them and was looking out for their best interests so there was no issue with direct feedback.
- Fun Is Included – There is no reason not to laugh and play along the way. Many of us spend significant amounts of time working and relationships which accommodate laughter along the way can only add to the job satisfaction.
Simple stuff, I suppose, but they were good reminders for me. Mastering the basics provides the practices necessary for sound leadership no matter the task at hand.