Is the legacy of how you were parented affecting your leadership style?

I recently attended a talk by Kamal Sarma on “Building Resilience in Children”. There was plenty of gold in his presentation and the standouts for me were:

  • Most people can’t disconnect from the past;
  • The biggest challenge is not to learn but to unlearn things. This is specifically related to how we were spoken to as children – but this isn’t an invitation to blame your parents. As JK Rowling said in her 2011 Harvard Commencement Address: “There is a shelf life on blaming your parents for your life”;
  • Equality is a new concept and our language hasn’t caught up. Our language is caught up in domination;
  • People are struggling with this century’s problems with last centuries tools; and
  • Our children don’t need more of our time; they need us to be present.

While these points were shared in the context of parents looking to understand how to build resilience in their children, the connection of the themes and the adult world of work were too strong to ignore.

As adults we are affected by all of our experiences. At times we are conscious of how our experiences impact our world today and at other times we are completely unconscious about this connection and the impact this can have.

We each carry within us the legacy of learnt behaviours from childhood (how we were parented) and from our early experiences of being led or managed.

For the parents present, the inconvenient truth is we first need to work on ourselves; we need to be the change we want to see. That’s a bummer if the answer being sought was how to “fix our kids”.

It’s valuable to:

  • Invest in examining our beliefs – where did these beliefs originate and do they serve us today?
  • Obtain clarity on the problems we are trying to solve and look at the tools we are drawing on to solve these.

Most of the parents present at the talk recognised new tools and new language were needed to solve today’s issues and most importantly, we need to let go of old structures and beliefs so this can happen.

As leaders of people and teams this is also a worthy investment of exploration and discussion.

Here is a place for us to look for new tools:

  • Clarify what problems are you trying to solve right now and which decade do the tools being utilised hail from?
  • Examine current communication styles and the results these deliver and which era they belong in;
  • Look at how we collaborate and make decisions, noticing when our reactions to a situation are at a higher level than is usual for the situation;
  • Consider how present we are when we engage with our team members. The default is to look for more time, however, less time fully present is a lot more effective.
  • Grab a copy of Fixing Feedback by Georgia Murch. I’ll send a copy to the first person to email me with “send me fixing feedback” in the subject.

Of course we can do all of this work and then when stress is high it’s easy to revert to habitual ways of operating and behaving. Having some checks in place for when this happens is valuable.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes:

“If you think you are truly enlightened, go spend a weekend with your parents” – Ram Dass

Pollyanna Lenkic is an author, coach, and speaker who works with leading organisations. She is an expert in building high-performing teams. Her structured approach delivers an uplift of 25% in team performance. To work with Pollyanna  go to her website.


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