Think back to the early leaders in your life. I suppose, you could argue that the doctor who delivered you counts, however, most would agree it was probably your parents or other guardians who were your first leadership models. Every day, through their actions, they instilled your initial values, set your moral compass, and established the base level of empathy you exhibit to others.
Your belief in their leadership was externally tested when an aunt, uncle, or grandparent made your mother or father the subject of ridicule. They reminisced about what they were like as children and laughed as they regaled you with tales of your parent’s foibles.
This humanized your first leaders, but it also made them vulnerable. Their sheen dulled slightly, and you explored alternatives. An older sibling or another kid in the neighborhood brought a new perspective and tested the boundaries you previously thought were law. In school, teachers, principals, and the playground, taught you about hierarchy, as did religious, business, and local government leaders in the greater community.
We have been surrounded by leaders from an early age. Why then, do so few know what the hell they are doing?
Because leadership starts at home, and sadly not all homes are incubators for great leadership, although they could be. Imagine the calloused families that have greater apathy and less empathy, where the moral compass shifts like a weathervane. Where values, demonstrated by where time and money are spent, are invested in questionable, sometimes unsavory pursuits. Of course, the impediments from these kinds of environments can be shed and with time many do. Unfortunately many do not. It is too easy to accept things as they are. It takes effort to question what could be, more still to persevere despite the answers.
If you learn you are a weak leader, don’t blame your parents or your upbringing. Although it is true, they may have been an influence in your early years, a leader accepts responsibility. (Trade secret, they may even thrive off of it.)
As a kid, I distinctly remember gazing out the window of the bus on the way to school and wondering what would happen to the “jerk kids”. I used to think the bullies, the ill-mannered and inconsiderate whiners and mean-spirited complainers we’ve all come across, would grow out of it. I learned, more often than not they grow into it. They become the D-bags, clogging progress in our politics, stifling our schools and fueling discontent in our workplaces, all along, oblivious to their behavior, ignorant of their negative impact on others.
You may have had an ideal upbringing, set in the right direction, well-equipped with the essential tools to navigate life. However, without exhibiting self-responsibility and discipline, you are likely to lose focus and drift off course. Which is why if you have the role of a parent, arguably the most important leadership role you’ll ever have, you should strive to be better. Be a better aunt, uncle, or community leader, because, like it or not, aware of it or not, you are serving as a template for future leaders.
Karl Bimshas is an leadership consultant who collaborates with busy executives to improve the working relationships with their direct reports and colleagues to create high performing teams. He’s the author of “How to Stay When You Want to Quit; Strategies to get over yourself“.