There is a quote by Adlai Stevenson that is rattling inside my head today. It has leadership implications both at home and at work. Here are the words of Adlai Stevenson.
“It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.”
Leadership In The Home
One of the things that is the most important to us as men is that our wives and children respect us. I think for many men respect comes before love in order of importance to the male psyche. But, I won’t debate that here today. Instead, I want to talk about something that in many ways may run counter to the notion of respect.
The opposite of respect is, of course, disrespect. And as dads, we cannot tolerate that from our children. But consider for a moment the importance of being silly with your children. Did you catch that? I said that it is important to be silly with your children. Why is that important?
Many times our kids see us as the great enforcers of rules and the “sucker of all that is fun out of life.” They could never have known us when we were wearing togas to toga parties in college. They never saw us perform some goofy skit in the Fall Fun Fest our sophomore year. In their eyes, we are the one who goes to work every day and comes home too tired to play.
So, what do we do?
So, what do we do? The truth is that I don’t know how to program silliness into your fatherhood repertoire. It is hard to plan these sorts of things. But be spontaneous. The next time you need to pick up all of the dirty clothes from your child’s room, do it together and make a silly contest out of seeing how many dirty socks, shorts, and shirts you can stuff in your pants. And then waddle to the laundry room with the dirty clothes sticking out of your pockets and waistband and dump them in the washing machine. OK, that isn’t the greatest idea in the world, but I was being spontaneous!
And there is a practical side to all of this. We all want to raise kids who are resilient and able to bounce back quickly from peer pressure and stressful moments. As parents, we seem to have the belief that teens become resilient by being tough, assertive, and able to stand up for themselves. And this is true in part. But I will let you in on a secret. Teens who have the easiest time navigating those difficult transitional years are the ones who carry a toolbox or handbag or backpack with a variety of personality traits in it. One of the most important traits is the ability to be a little silly and yet still remain self-confident. The key is that they have the ability to be flexible and adapt as the situation dictates. This is one of the areas where an understanding of Emotional Intelligence pays dividends for fathers who are looking to become more emotionally agile.
So what is the leadership principle?
Dad, you need to get down on the floor and be silly with your children. The good news is that you will know that you are doing it right when your wife pretends to be upset that you are all acting that way. But inside, you made her smile and you made her heart leap. And your children will never forget that you played with them like that.
Leadership Outside the Home
I know what you are thinking at this point. You are thinking, “Wait a minute. Are you about to tell me that there is a need for silliness in our work life?”
Yes! Emphatically “Yes!” There is a place for a little silliness from time to time in the workplace. And even if you feel that there is no place for being silly in the workplace, let me give a little more depth of understanding to the Adlai Stevenson quote.
One of the necessary characteristics of great leaders is confidence. It is also one of the most easily recognized. The challenge is to maintain your level of confidence as a leader in the midst of change or uncertainty. Perhaps you are facing a challenge that you have never faced before. And perhaps it is requiring you to develop and exhibit skills beyond your normal skillset. Do you think about how silly you will look to your followers? Or do you mount your steed with confidence and find a way to lead the cavalry charge?
So, what do we do?
So, what do we do? We follow the marketing slogan of the Nike Corporation that has become as iconic as the logo itself. “Just do it.”
In 1987 the Nike brand was seriously slumping and facing the need for significant layoffs. They hired a marketing agency who helped Nike realize that their current marketing strategy was focused on elite and professional athletes. Folks like you and me were being completely overlooked. Yet, we had aspirations of greater physical fitness. We just needed a little push. And Nike created that little emotional push. “Just do it.”
So what is the leadership principle?
The leadership principle is as obvious as the Nike slogan. We need to just do whatever needs to be done. No excuses. And no worrying about how we may look to those around us. Will we look silly from time to time? Probably. But I would rather look silly trying hard to achieve something significant than to fail with great dignity.
Are you willing to be silly for your family? Are you willing to look silly for the cause of something great?
[shareable cite=”Kevin E Bowser” text=”I would rather look silly trying hard to achieve something significant than to fail with great dignity. #leadership”]I would rather look silly trying hard to achieve something significant than to fail with great dignity.[/shareable]