Graduation Day


Like thousands of other young men and women across America, our oldest son graduates from high school this week.  Tonight, actually.  He's had an incredible career that I look back on with pride, but this is not a Facebook post and there will be no humble brags, so please stay with me.

He created his success by sweating over his books, bleeding for his extracurriculars, and opening his heart to the community causes where he shared his time and talents.  And like any parent, I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about what role we played "in" his accomplishments:  did he do well in-part or in-spite of the leadership at home.

This also started me thinking about how I lead my team at work.  I'm not suggesting that the relationship that we share with our teams is the same dynamic as that of a parent and child, but I do think there are some parallels to be drawn by the wise manager.

As parents, we accept as a given that we are responsible for the growth and development of our children.  We put in the time to know and appreciate them as individuals.  We work to give them the best odds of success.  And we do this all selflessly, without any hidden agendas or insecurity. 

Parents set the vision at home.  What does success look like?  Why is it important?  And how is it measured?  Getting up every morning to take tests and do homework is no more exciting than getting up to enter data or answer phones.  A leader, like a good parent, creates a vision to communicate the importance of the work and each individual contribution.  It's the difference between running a cash register and "[creating] a better life for the everyday people" at Ikea.  I know which I'd rather do.

Speaking of getting up in the morning, my team puts a minimum of 35% of their waking time in my hands.  Time that they otherwise spend with their families or other passions. That's an incredible responsibility for a leader.  They count on me to return that investment with a safe environment where they are appreciated and given the tools and training that they need to carry out the vision.

The other day my younger son asked if I thought he could beat me at basketball when I was his age.  I proudly told him that I did.  And that I know he could beat me today.  Then we talked about things he could do to get even better.  It's natural to want our children to do better than we have.  But, what about at work?  Do I act the same when someone from my team shows that they have more talent or potential than I?  Or do I give in to insecurity and try to hold them back?

For me, the answer is easy.  Seeing members of my team grow, especially to the point of being promoted beyond me, will fill me with the same sense of pride that I'll feel tonight as diplomas are handed out.  After all, it's my job to make sure it happens - and happens in-part because of my leadership and not in spite of it.