Leading as a parent?

I found two quotes last week which talked about leadership and motherhood and both were so similar it got me thinking about just how similar these two roles are for me. There are key traits in both roles which I think are similar and the more I think about it, if I relate the principles of either role to the other it gives me the ability to understand how to become better at both!

Independence builders

In both roles our aim surely is to create independence? In my role as a Principal I need to develop my staff to be able to think for themselves, to lead for themselves and to be innovative and creative in finding solutions to problems. In my role as a mother this is the same- I need to teach my children to make their own choices in life having given them the courage and self- worth to be able to do this without fear of reproach.


As a mother one of the greatest gifts I can give my children is that of compassion and empathy- if I have taught them to understand difference and to celebrate it then I can sit back on my heels and feel proud. It is the same for my role as a leader in education in relation to both my staff and my pupils. Compassionate leadership requires me to educate my staff and not just expect certain behaviours for example in relation to diversity and equality, to coaching etc in the same way I would not expect my children to know everything just by osmosis.

Not being afraid of saying no!

We all know that as a parent the hardest thing to do is to say no! We’ve all given in at times just for the quiet life but we also know that when we do this we are, as my mother is fond of saying, ‘making a rod for our own back!’. In exactly the same way it is uncomfortable to have difficult conversations at work but these are the conversations which shape individuals the most and as leaders and parents I think this is one of our most important roles.


…is a virtue and all that- but it really is. I often say I have so much more patience with the pupils in my school than with my own children. I find it hard sometimes to allow them the time to learn to do the right thing rather than just rushing in and showing them. Being patient however allows an individual to grow. In the same way the shift in my leadership style over the years from a more directive style to my current coaching one has been difficult at times but without doubt grows confidence and ability more effectively but also creates an ethos of empowerment and staff perform so much better in this environment. I need to remember that when I am getting frustrated with my children and allow them the luxury of empowerment.

To know when to step in

The opposite of creating independent thinking I guess and just as important at times. The recent crisis has shown me that at times my staff still need me to take the helm and just take charge. As a leader you have to be able to recognise when these moments are and have the courage to stand alone and make decisions. In the same way there will always be that family crisis that just needs a parent to take control of and lead the way through for their children.

Personally I have had two ‘chances’ at being a parent having had my third child when my others were grown and two ‘chances’ at leadership having changed careers from retail to education in my thirties. I know that in both cases I have become better the second time around! Coincidence or part of learning?

I like to think that I have grown in my roles as I have become more reflective and more accepting that I do not have to be perfect. I am not a perfect mother or leader, far from it but I am learning that in order to be effective I don’t need to be!

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