How Leadership at Home Affects the Rest of Life

I am mostly offline, attending a business conference. I have asked several bloggers to post in my absence. This is a guest post by John G. Miller, author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question. You can visit his website and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Have you ever heard—or asked—questions like these at work? “Who dropped the ball?” “Why can’t that department do its job right?” “When will we find good people?”

These questions lead us into the dangerous traps of blame, victim thinking, and procrastination—ones that leaders work hard to avoid while on the job.

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But what if the person asking these questions was also a parent and later returned to their family, asking: “Who made the mess in here?” “Why won’t he ever listen to me?” “When will my spouse help out more?”

Once again, they’ve slipped into a same dangerous trap—but now at home. And in doing so, this mom or dad has taught their child to ask lousy questions such as: “Why aren’t my friends nicer to me?” “When will my teacher give me a break?” “Who’s going to pay for my college?”

Then, the child becomes an adult and finds employment. Soon this person can be found at the water cooler huddle, whispering: “Who’s going to solve the problem?” “Why do we have to go through all this change?” “When is someone going to train me?”

And the problems of blame, victim thinking, and procrastination remain deeply embedded in our society, while a lack of personal accountability persists in our world.

Is it possible that when people at work blame and whine, it’s because they were taught to do so at home? And that these dangerous ways of acting and thinking were modeled for them—by mom and dad?!

Leadership begins at home. Until Mom and Dad choose to practice personal accountability in their lives, not much will change—anywhere.

The working parent who laments the degeneration of society while complaining that younger employees “lack work ethic” fails to understand this: Societal problems, which include all the problems found within our organizations, are rooted in the family.

The unaccountable parent who goes to work and criticizes others for acting entitled, fails to ask, “Am I creating entitled children at home?”

The mom or dad who fails to lead exclaims, “The finger-pointing in our world is a terrible thing!” but does not look inward with the question, “Am I raising children who blame their teachers when they get a poor grade?”

And then there is the parent who asks, “When will my daughter start getting her homework done on time?” but models procrastination at home with the words, “I’ll do it later.”

Parents who are leaders know this: Modeling is the most powerful of all teachers. Dads and moms who accept the mantle of home leadership accept that they—not sports stars, pop culture icons, or Hollywood celebrities—are the role models for their kids.

These are “no excuses” parents. They don’t blame the famous for the “poor example that they set” and would never employ the grand parental excuse: “My child didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, because he got in with the wrong crowd.”

Leadership at home is captured in this statement: My child is a product of my parenting. Any other view of parenting is irresponsible folly. Excuse-making is never part of a leader’s world.

Moms and dads who really grasp that victim thinking is a disease spread from parents to kids—that blame is taught and caught, and that procrastination is learned—know what will happen should they fail to fulfill their job at home.

It is no surprise that we’ll reap a weak workplace where salespeople whine, “I missed my sales goal because our pricing is too high!”, employees lament, “Why doesn’t management do more for us?”, and colleagues point fingers, saying, “Nobody cared about the project as much as I did.”

My wife, Karen, and I have seven children ages thirteen to twenty-nine—six girls and one boy. The youngest three (all girls) are adopted.

Here’s what we believe: Parenting is a learned skill. It’s a developed capability that responsible parents purposely strive to acquire.

Understanding the critical nature of parenting, moms and dads who are leaders ask what we call “The Question Behind the Question,” or “QBQ.” Here are some QBQs that parents who lead ask:

  • “How can I be a more effective at home?”
  • “What can I do today to set a better example for my child?”
  • “How can I learn new parenting skills?”

This is leadership. This is personal accountability. And it all begins at home.

Question: What’s an example from your own life of how leadership at home translates to leadership at work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.