“Whether we are in a family or a company, the psychology of leadership is not different,” claims former foreign policy advisor and press secretary Dana White.
“Our parents influence our decisions,” she told HRM. “They are the first people to set expectations for us. We imitated them and later some of us contradicted them and then imitated them again, but we spend much of our lives reacting to them.”
It’s a pattern that White says is mirrored in most employer-employee relationships.
“HR professionals should consider how we all looked to our parents for guidance and cues for how to behave in the world and how to treat one another,” she said.
“Leaders have to embody the kind of character that they want to see in their employees—not just tell them how to behave,” she added.
The similarities mean those much-despised parental approaches will be just as unpopular in the workplace, she warns.
“’Do as I say, not as I do,’ – how many of us heard those words growing up?” she asks. “Think about how resentful you were when you heard them. “
White – who founded 1055, a consultancy firm which focuses on developing senior leaders – says it’s also important to remember which memories shaped our perceptions of our parents the most.
“It wasn’t the big events like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or birthdays that made the biggest impression on us – it was the little things our parents did every day that shaped us,” she insists.
“Therefore, leaders should develop small, consistent daily habits that demonstrate his or her character and priorities. It’s not enough to give bonuses once a year, any more than it was to get gifts on Christmas as a child.
“Like Christmas, the joy of a bonus subsides quickly. Moreover, no one remembers their parents for the gifts they gave us, just as no one stays in a job for money alone.”
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HR professionals who continually strive to improve their leadership skills may benefit from looking a little closer to home, suggests one global advisor, who insists corporate leaders can actually learn a lot from their parents.