Leadership lessons from my one-month-old baby
Am I headline hunting ?— guilty as charged.
While the world implodes under the weight of COVID-19, my tunnel vision is gleaming with bright lights coming from all the online courses, webinars, motivational sessions, and Toastmasters. Having said that, finding motivation where it doesn’t exist, has become the favorite past time for wannabe- life coaches like me. So much so that if I see a rock, I would say, “this is not a rock but a massive amount of energy, you just need to multiply it by c(speed of light) to the power of two.”
I became a father a few days back and now most of my time is spent bothering my daughter with unthankful hugs and kisses. Hence it is only imperative to get motivated by this favorite face in front of my sleepless eyes.
Raising the first child, that too without any parental support is turning out to be a roller-coaster ride. However, this post isn’t about that. Nor I am going to talk about the adorable gestures and cute faces she makes. Although, technically half of it came from her dad, right?
This article is about putting in perspective all the trivial things my little one does which makes me think, “Wow, wish I could do that!”
Leadership and infancy may seem like an oxymoron, but what is life if not an irony! So here are the leadership lessons I have learned from my one-month-old daughter:
1.Non-Verbal Communication — As a young couple living in Dubai with full-time jobs, we hardly got any time to plan properly for the baby’s arrival, and we were very tensed as to how we will raise the child without help. The biggest concern was how would we understand her needs, whether she is hungry or in pain? None of the youtube videos gave us confidence regarding how to communicate with a newly-born human.
And then she came along squeaking into our lives. Since then, we never faced any communication gaps. We were so wrong about her ability to speak for herself when she had a plethora of expressions in her armory.
As per the 7%-38%-55% rule, the verbal component contributes to only 7% of the full message. Her coos, twists and turns, beady eyes, and frantic hand gestures together make up for the remaining 93%, enough to spring us into the correct action! It's an incredible amount of permutations and combinations a child can create with her facial expressions; probably enough to entail the whole Mahabharata saga in sign language!
As we climb higher on the corporate ladder, from content to context, from being an individual contributor to team-leader, we should start honing this art of non-verbal communication rather than improving our vocabulary or writing paragraphs. Words are never read in isolation but with the complex template of who, when, where, and how they’re being spelled, written or communicated.
Using non-verbal communication just like my daughter will help you create the influence, set the right context, and prepare the audience for those exact words. Being precise and concise makes you appear assertive, authoritative, and professional. And if you are still not convinced; try putting your hand on the shoulder of the person who you are trying to give advice to.
2.Unapologetically Assertive— Spending time with my baby daughter made me realize how assertive and unapologetic she is. That carefree and pure consciousness is what I yearn for. In fact, this “Art of Assertiveness” is one of the biggest skills lacking in millions of professionals today, prohibiting them from achieving their best selves.
In many cultures, a family is still a unit of society and remains unscathed by the individualism of the western capitalist world. Having been brought up in a joint family with top-down decision-making and vertical hierarchy makes one respectful and cognizant of the order. Right from what will be the name of all the next-generation kids, to where they will go to study and who they’ll marry, are all decided by the higher management (the elders of the family).
This has been going on for ages, making individuals into compliant and subservient beings. However, with the advent of corporate culture, all of a sudden our surname has lost its relevance. What matters is our individual aptitude and personal identity. So the person who was perfectly sheltered, nurtured, and never had to speak up for himself is now exposed to globalized individualism. A person who never defied his elder brother is now being asked to shout at subordinates twice his age.
My point being, every person is acutely assertive as a child. Babies throw tantrums, they demand whatever they like with zero guilt or thought of getting judged. Every person is born assertive but society makes them compliant, and the same hypocrites then want people to lead change management.
3. Agility— The one skill that will determine which leader will weather the storm, is Agility. It is the ability to gauge danger, say the stealthy approach of a predator just by looking at birds flying away, and adapting quickly.
My one-month-old child is the perfect example of this. She is an observant, adaptive, and quick learner. She listens and reacts to even the sound of a table clock. She doesn’t have a pattern or a template and amuses us every time we try placing her in our definition of her. One day she sleeps all night, the next night she wouldn’t even blink. Sometimes she uses 15 diapers a day and the next day we wait for her priceless poop for hours. She is so sensitive to touch and smell and gets soothed even by her Mom’s cloth in her absence. And if I wasn’t clear in the first paragraph, she has a 90hertz response rate. In a nanosecond, she will communicate to us of any discomfort or abnormalities. This, my friends, is agility.
It makes me question; why do we grown-ups wait to see the obvious when the signs of danger are all red? Why do we always hope and work towards normality? Why do we resist change so much? Why do we hone confirmation bias, anchoring bias, and foster herd mentality as we age?
Historical data and experience are relevant only when ‘history repeats itself’. Try using that phrase in today’s context! Leaders need to sense the fast-changing environment, learn quickly, and move fast to save themselves from becoming history.
Childhood is when we shape our personalities, learn the majority of things, and slowly become adults. But in the process of growing up, we lose the kid in us. We learn some new skills, but also shed a few. Non-Verbal Communication, Assertiveness, and Agility should not be in the latter category. We should consciously keep the kid in us alive and kicking in order to succeed in Leadership positions.
And that is what I learned from my one-month-old daughter. What about you?