What Becoming a Parent Taught Me About Leadership (pt. 1)

Almost 3 years ago, I captured some thoughts about how I thought becoming a parent would change me. Of course I knew it would be a “crucible”…a test or trial that causes defining and lasting change…but how would it alter who I was as a military leader? Would I view my role differently? Would I react to deployment orders with less stoicism when I have little ones to leave behind? Would I treat Soldiers differently?

10th Sustainment Soldiers redeploy to Fort Drum. Photo by: US Army Images

10th Sustainment Soldiers redeploy to Fort Drum. Photo by: US Army Images

I was sure to get these answers (and plenty more) with the birth of our two daughters. Below are excerpts from what I predicted I’d learn as a new father. In the next post, I’ll elaborate on the myriad of other ways in which having children has changed me as a leader.

Responsibility

“I anticipate that becoming a father will most impact me by opening up a new, uncharted arena of responsibility. In some ways it is like becoming a commander, where one day I am only accountable for my Army laptop and the next day I am responsible for every aspect of a 270-man organization.”

Comfort Zone

“Raising a child will realign my notion of what is important and trivialize beliefs and actions that had previously held sacrosanct. Sleep, workout schedule, morning routine, finances, entertainment preferences, and household cleanliness will all be modified. In any other situation, making such changes to lifestyle would require applied discipline, but I anticipate that any hesitation or resistance I might feel will be overcome by an internal, innate motivation to ensure the best childhood for our son or daughter. This crucible will be like no other because the child instantly becomes priority number one.”

Example

“Fatherhood will be a crucible of example setting. My actions, words, attitudes and behaviors will no longer influence only my wife but also an extremely impressionable, malleable, and observant little person. My example will be both intentional and unintentional, impacting him or her on conscious and subconscious levels. This change will inspire me to further scrutinize how I lead myself and my family. And I believe that these revelations will affect my concept of Army leadership, as well.”

Perspective of Soldiers

“Primarily, I expect that this crucible of becoming a parent will add an aspect of awareness to my performance as a leader. I will be less likely to view Soldiers as simply “duty-performers” and instead gain an appreciation of them as sons and daughters of fellow parents. I have previously held this viewpoint during my time as a leader, but I predict that the influence will be stronger. My sense of compassion and empathy may deepen as well.”

Operational Risk

“From an objective standpoint, these changes also have the potential to alter my concept of operational risk assessment. One might call it a “baby bias.” Will I opt for a less daring course of action because I am more sensitive to the mortality of the mission? Will a fear of facing a grieving parent affect my willingness to put their sons and daughters at risk? My friends and family say that becoming a parent will change everything; but how expansive an influence will those changes have?”

 Questions for Leaders:

  • Do you think parenthood is a necessary aspect of developing as a leader?
  • Are there any lessons that leaders can only learn through parenthood?
  • What aspects of parenthood surprised you in the lessons they taught?
Stay tuned for the next post, where I’ll discuss the unanticipated ways in which becoming a parent has changed me as a leader.

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