Starting with me…
The morning after my wedding, I woke up next to my husband in our hotel honeymoon suite, I was living the dream. Not long after there was a knock on the door and my new step-children charged into the room, my heart sank. I longed for the romance of a first family experience, suddenly it all felt like a nightmare, on day one.
The biggest leadership training ground I have encountered, thus far,` has been my home. The founder of Visa, Dee Hock said, if you want to lead, invest 40% of your time in leading yourself.
His overarching principle is that without exceptional management of self, no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire.
The first few years of being a step parent I had to learn to keep my mouth shut and just be patient. Gosh, it was so hard. After all, I was the entitled newly-wed, desperate to be the perfect wife and step-mum. I wanted to change everything in our home – immediately; I moved into the house my husband lived in with his ex wife. I wanted new rules – new wall paper, new everything. Well that wasn’t going to work – it wasn’t long before I could see the negative impact my management of our home was having on us all.
And, most importantly on my bonus babies – who were 6 and 8 when I married their dad and had gone through a divorce.
Born out of loss, or failure, step families can be complex and exhausting. The reality is that for many couples it’s through re-designed dreams and re-packaged plans a new-life unfolds. A new life that needs time to adapt and grow. Flexibility and respect for difference are better predictors of success than trying to force togetherness and just becoming exhausted in the process. I was pushing too much.
The principles of not forcing relationships, or togetherness and having respect are very transferrable to leadership in a working environment. We don’t have to like our bosses, but we do have to do what they say. If you have a step-child they don’t have to like you, but they do have to respect you when they are in your house. And, if you are a step-parent the most important people are the children – they do have to come first.
I’ve had a few jobs and being a step-mum has been the hardest one of all, but also incredibly rewarding. Investing time in leading myself means I’ve learnt to invest time in managing my emotions that what I want most is not to be right, but to be happy. ( I am right, most of the time…).
Today, I have four children who follow me because they are inspired by who I am – not by what I do. In fact none of them really care what I do. When I leave the house to go to work every morning. They just want to know I’m coming home and that it’s a peaceful home.
If I can ensure that peace for the majority of the time, then I think I’m doing ok on my leadership journey.
love God, love life, love people.