Saturday afternoon Samantha, Anabelle & I were out in the city doing some shopping and I was pushing Anabelle in the pram as we followed Mummy in and out of the shops. I was happily following Sam through the stores pulling faces at Anabelle and having a great time laughing with her.
Then it hit me, right there in the middle of the store my 14 month old daughter was teaching me how to be a better leader! Too often we think that if we’re going to be a great leader we need something elaborate and expansive, something really amazing. We forget that the simplest things in life are often the most powerful. Here’s what I learnt from Anabelle:
1. Smile at everyone
As we walked through the shops, Anabelle was giving huge smiles to everyone we passed. That one smile was enough to bring a smile to the face of the other person and it instantly brightened their day. Granted, a smile from a 30 year old man may not get the same reaction but its the principle of the gesture ;-). Anabelle’s smile is unconditional. She doesn’t care who you are, what you look like or where you’re from, when she sees you she’s going to welcome you with a smile.
As a leader how often are my “smiles” conditional, based upon my need to get “something” from you?
Lesson one: smile unconditionally and treat everyone with the respect they deserve.
2. Don’t be afraid to say hello
I also noticed that Anabelle not only smiled but she said hello to almost everyone she smiled at. It didn’t matter if they were looking at her or not, she surprised at least three people by saying hello to their backs and then greeting them with a huge smile as they turned around to see who had said hello. Again it was completely unconditional, some people turned around and said hello, others didn’t even seem to notice. It didn’t bother Anabelle, she was going to keep saying hello no matter what.
As a leader how often do I treat people like that? How often do I say hello and really mean it, no strings attached? Its really easy to only talk to those we’re comfortable with, or worse, need something from isn’t it?
Lesson two: Say hello to everyone, no strings attached.
3. Say “Yay!” at the top of your lungs, a lot!
The third thing Anabelle did was to randomly yell out a long, loud “Yay!” and clap her hands excitedly. Some “Yays” were as we exited a store, some were as we went in, and others while we were browsing. Regardless of the timing every “Yay” was said with pure enjoyment and excitement. Anabelle was living the moment, glad to be there, enjoying the experience.
As a leader sometimes we don’t stop to live the moment and enjoy the experience. We’re so focused on what needs to be done and what’s coming up next that we miss the amazing things happening in the here and now. How will we ever learn if we don’t embrace the present?
Lesson three: “The past is history, the future a mystery and today is a gift. That is why it is called the present” Celebrate today and learn all you can from it before its gone.
4. Enjoy the ride
Anabelle didn’t decide to go shopping that day. She didn’t choose to ride in the pram, she had no say in the stores we visited nor the length of time spent in them. She could have been grumpy, she could have complained but she didn’t. Instead she totally enjoyed the ride and made the most of the opportunity. She was determined to smile, say hello and celebrate her way through the mall and in doing so she made a ton of other people smile along the way.
We all end up in places and situations we don’t want to be in. Sometimes it’s of our own making and other times it’s totally out of our control. As a leader what I do in those times, how I react, shapes my character. Will I grumble, complain or throw a tantrum because I didn’t get my way? Or will I enjoy the ride and make the most of every opportunity I’m given, good or bad?
Lesson four: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” Enjoy the ride, learn what you can, trials build character and character makes you a better leader.
So there it is, I learnt something new this week, and I learnt it from my 14 month old daughter. How amazing is that!