But what if the characteristics and traits we associate with being a child were still valued and practiced by leaders? How might it change our approach or influence our decisions?
This year’s Christian Advent theme is “A Child Shall Lead Them.” Here are a few musings about the lessons we might all learn about leadership if we were more childlike.
- We would ask more questions. Children are naturally curious. They have so much to learn about their world and never stop inquiring about it. If a child has ever bombarded you with “why” questions, you understand. “Why” questions convey a sense of vulnerability that most adults, especially leaders, prefer to avoid. Leaders who ask “why” show they are wiling to learn. Questions help leaders to challenge their assumptions and seek innovative solutions. Asking more questions may be the biggest benefit of childlike leadership.
- We would expand our boundaries and limitations. Children have vivid imaginations. They are willing to be amazed by what they don’t understand. Their beliefs aren’t limited by what is practical, or even real. While adult leaders must apply a certain amount of logic when assessing a situation or making a decision, it is unusual for them to think beyond what they can prove. What might happen if leaders believed in the inherent goodness of others? Suppose they were committed to loving and serving others instead of just focusing on the bottom line? How might the work leaders be different under those circumstances?
- We would tell the truth. The innocence of children is a gift. Their willingness to tell the truth, as they see it, should not be lost on adult leaders. Yet, we often bargain away the truth for the sake of cynicism. Truth-telling in business is viewed as unrealistic, even naïve. That’s why commercials include fine print or fast talking to hide the details. How might leaders be more courageous in speaking the truth, not to inflict harm but to model transparency? Where might greater truth-telling also improve the bottom line?
- We would promote hope. The child whose birth we anticipate during Advent was a sign of hope for a people who felt lost and alone. Leaders aren’t doing enough to offer hope in our modern world that is just as chaotic. Promoting hope doesn’t mean we can’t be realistic about expectations or outcomes. When leaders offer hope, they instill confidence in their teams and encourage aspirations toward something bigger and better. Hope is the emotional foundation to sustain a project through to the end, especially when things are tough.
Perhaps you could add your own lessons about leadership from the childlike qualities you remember or still observe. I hope my short list will encourage leaders who regularly read my posts to practice being more childlike in this season of Advent.
Whether it is asking more questions, expanding boundaries, truth-telling, or promoting hope, being more childlike is a leadership quality we all should aspire to.
When we lead as a child, we acknowledge our own vulnerability.
We regain our sense of wonder. We observe the goodness of each moment in time.
Being a childlike leader isn’t immature or naïve. It’s the essence of why others will want to follow us in the first place.
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