Why Parenting Is the Best Leadership Training


Being a dad is way harder than being an effective leader at work.

After all, you don’t get to pick your kids from a pool of candidates, and you certainly can’t fire them.

My four children, who are 14, 12, 8, and 5 years old, have done more to influence my approach to management than my Harvard MBA or any theory from a book ever has.

3 Huge Leadership Lessons from Parenting

Here are three lessons parenting has taught me that have made me a better team leader:

1. Inspire Greatness

Being a dad helps me see my staff not as production units, but as people who will make important contributions with the right support, challenges, and environment. Just like with my kids, I encourage my team to express themselves, take initiative, and even fail in order to discover their strengths and become great.

2. Encourage Unity

When my kids bicker, it creates a headache of disharmony. One screaming match over a Wii controller can affect the mood of everyone in the house. In my consulting career, I’ve seen politicking, praise-seeking, gossip, and “us-versus-them” mindsets create waste and squander productivity in hundreds of corporations.

With this in mind, I seek to build a culture of tolerance, integrity, respect, innovation, and playfulness at Glimpulse. We train employees in effective communication, and we hire people who are self-aware, teachable, and willing to take personal responsibility.

3. Demonstrate Care

When I hang out with my kids one-on-one, it builds our friendship and helps them engage productively with our family as a whole. This same need applies to my team. As CEO, it’s important to have one-on-one time with my staff members without a huge agenda.

The aim is to be present, listen, appreciate them, and leave room for employees to raise issues or ask questions. It helps make the work environment another type of family — except you don’t have to tell the staff to stop hitting each other in the backseat of the minivan!

Family-Inspired Policies

Many of the things I tell my kids can be applied directly to my staff. Not that my employees are like my kids, but the principles of respect, encouragement, and motivation have clear parallels between both worlds.

Here’s how these at-home conversations can be applied to the office environment:


What I tell my kids: Once you have your snack and do your homework, you can watch TV.”

How this affects my team: Employees need to see the beginning, middle, and end of a project to feel rewarded. Setting achievable goals and rewarding completion builds feelings of accomplishment that spur people to take on more responsibilities and work more productively.


Kids: Tell me what you’re thinking.” Nothing is worse than when I ask my kids how their day was and don’t get much more than “OK.” If you genuinely listen, they eventually open up and tell you about the game they played at recess and what’s on their mind.

Team: I actively listen to my employees’ ideas and solutions, knowing that any fear associated with my response to new thoughts will discourage innovation and squash creativity.


Kids: “Work it out on your own.” Allowing my kids to resolve their own conflicts and hurt feelings helps them build trust and maturity. It’s tempting to step in and play Solomon over the Uno game, but I’ve learned they often overcome their disputes better when I don’t step in.

Team: There are a million opportunities for me to intervene in people’s problems at work, but I’ve learned my staff often achieves better results when I leave them alone. Being an effective leader means sometimes removing yourself from the situation.


Kids: Lay off the electronics.”

Team: Creative, innovative work requires taking a reflective approach. Just like electronics and too much TV or computer can make my kids dull, stupefied, and unimaginative, I encourage my team to unplug from work frequently, take breaks, and recognize the signs of burnout.

Fresh air, walking, listening to some music, meditating, or even dancing are encouraged. It gets the energy moving in the right direction for performance and contentment.


Responsibility on Another Level

Raising kids has made me a better problem solver and a stronger leader. The relationships you have with your kids and your employees both hinge on your ability to listen, provide gentle encouragement, and let them work things out on their own. My kids also make me hold myself to a higher standard, both at home and at work.

When we have a tough decision to make, we ask ourselves, “If our children learned their values from how we conduct ourselves and our business, what would they learn?”

Ask yourself, “What would Dad do?”

Then, do what makes you a great parent — it also makes you a great leader.


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Paresh Shah
Paresh Shah is an experienced entrepreneur, executive, & innovation consultant
He is the founder and CEO of Glimpulse, the Human Expression Company
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L2L Contributing Author


  1. Denis G. McLaughlin on September 23, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Paresh, great article and I completely agree. Parenting is the highest order of leadership. I have also found that the books i read and seminars I attend on business leadership are applicable to my parenting.

    Thanks again

  2. Paresh Shah on September 24, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Thanks Denis. You are absolutely right about the other way of learning — applying business books to parenting — e.g. 7 Habits of Highly Effective people can be 7 Habits of Highly Effective Parenting!. Good to Great! Thanks for your comments.

  3. Rich Bishop on September 25, 2013 at 5:07 am

    Paresh, as a parent of two young children, this really hit home for me. It just goes to show you that leadership is leadership, no matter what forum it takes place. Our children and our organizations all need the same things, and you’ve captured it beautifully here. There is no greater leadership responsibility that we will ever have than the leadership of our own home.

  4. Larry Walker on October 21, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Hi Paresh, Excellent article. I think your points are each thoughtfully correct and well worth paying attention to. Another way I have thought about this is in watching my wife play the primary role with our children — at a time when women were looked down upon if they were not working. What struck me is that as the Mom of 4 kids, she was making more decisions every day than I had to make at work in a week. The home makers do this without giving it a thought — just part of the job.