In the past, I have written a series on “What Leaders Can Learn from …” entries focusing on leadership lessons gleaned from the lives of celebrities and athletes. In the course of our lives, we all are witness to the lives of such folks given the seemingly insatiable demand to know more and more about those that are famous. But, beyond just reading the paparazzi tabloids for the sensationalist stories, I try to glean lessons from experiences these people have, how they handle certain situations that arise in their lives, and what outcomes are reached by these actions. Along these lines, I just read an interesting piece written by Vineet Nayar, CEO of HCL Technologies Ltd. discussing lessons that leaders can learn from children.
For me, children surely do act in ways that we adults can learn from. For example, children, as is said, say the darndest things. In the context of leadership lessons, what this means is that we need to speak openly and truthfully. Simply put, we all benefit from this degree of openness in our communications. Such genuine, albeit sometimes difficult to hear, communication is what leads to better outcomes without leaving thoughts lingering in our minds that can cloud progress. So, be sure to follow a child’s lead and speak from the heart, without filtering or couching our language to avoid direct discourse.
Next, like kids do incessantly, leaders must explore their curiosities in an effort to learn more, achieve more and gain greater understanding. In doing so, we must understand the risks involved – both of our actions and in our inactions. As I’ve said in prior posts, “Granted, there are risks associated with change, but don’t fall victim to the false notion that there are no risks in not changing. In fact, the risks of inaction often times far outweigh the risks of doing something.” As such, we must properly evaluate these risks and take an appropriate course of action. And furthermore, we must accept that failure ought to be tolerable. In fact, “failure is not only acceptable but, in many ways, desirable for it rewards us with lessons that could not otherwise be learned.” So, don’t allow yourself to be limited by fear of failure or controlled by risk aversion. Do what children do and evaluate risks, understand your abilities and take appropriate chances.
Lastly, keep asking questions. Kids are well known for the forever string of “Why?” In reality, many adults find this incessant questioning a challenge. A comedian, Louis CK, has a great bit on this exact issue that is sure to prompt a laugh. However, in business, as business leaders, it is actually in our interests, at times, to keep asking questions, push the thinking of the team, and ensure that the rationale for any recommendation is well thought out. In fact, there is a great story about Toyota and the “Five Whys” method of troubleshooting in order to reach a clearer understanding of the root cause of a problem. So, take a lesson from this childhood exercise and deploy it within your own realm. You’ll surely see just how beneficial it can be.
Nina Nets It Out: As leaders we can learn things from just about anywhere. If we simply accept that even the youngest amongst our society have plenty to offer us in this regard, we will reap many benefits that otherwise might go unattained. Take guidance from these little ones and their free-spirited approaches to handling situations that they confront.