I leaned back at my desk, stared up at the ceiling and I said out loud, “It should be this easy all of the time.” I knew everyone on the team was on the same page, a key team member acquired a new skill, and there had been an increase in performance against our leading KPI’s. It just felt as though everything I was doing as a leader was right. As I packed up my bag feeling pretty fantastic, I couldn't wait to get home to see my wife and play with my kids.
Unfortunately, the minute the home door opened the "had it all figured out" feeling dissipated. Kids were crying, there were problems at school, and I missed dinner again. During this moment, something I learned from Dale Partridge hit me like a brick wall:
“Success at work without success at home, isn’t success at all.”
So I stepped up and was the best husband and dad I could be the rest of the night. That evening, as I sat down to finish up work, I thought, "Both the people I lead at work and the the people I lead at home are both really important to me, but what’s harder leading at work or leading at home and how can I be better at both?”
To find an answer, I began asking the question to every guest that came on the “Follow My Lead Podcast”. From this week’s episode with Entrepreneur Mac Lackey, to SAP CEO Bill McDermott, to Chick-fil-A’s DeeAnn Turner, and the 20 other guests before them came eerily similar answers: “Both are hard, but being a leader at home tends to be harder.” Albeit, a small sample size, it’s eye opening that 90% of guests say being a leader at home is harder.
Need more substantial proof? Some of the great leaders in history have had stellar professional leadership records but rocky track records leading at home. Take Martin Luther King Jr. for example. He inspired millions during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s and won the nobel peace prize in 1964, but much has been written about extramarital affairs. Abraham Lincoln, widely known as one of the 3 best Presidents in US history, and was responsible for keeping the country together in the 1860’s, was portrayed by the media as a great father. But those close to Lincoln referred to him as “often absent”.
Whether you believe it’s harder to lead at work or lead at home, the thing you can’t argue with is: it’s not easy being a great leader in either place but you owe it to the people in both places to become a become a better leader. In an effort to help you be a better leader at work and at home here are a few lessons you can implement:
No one likes a leader that is inconsistent with their vision, approach, standards, or how they hold people accountable. I used to have a leader who had completely different standards based on your role and how they were feeling that day. It was like walking on eggshells because one day something was okay and the next day it was the end of the world. Do your best to be consistent both at the office and at home.
We instituted a new policy at the office last week. When we are in a meeting no one on the team has their cell phone in front of them during the meeting. It was like we all were half present, still checking texts, emails, or anything more important than accomplishing what we were trying to accomplish during that window of time. I know most of us (myself included) are guilty of getting home and not being present with our family around the dinner table or during bedtime because we are checking Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or responding to an urgent email. Turn your attention and focus on the moment at hand - the time will mean more and you will get more enjoyment out of things when you are truly present.
A mentor of mine always told me something I will never forget, “If you are going to do something, do it well.” If you are going into the office today, do it well and to the best of your ability. Same goes for leading at home. Regardless of the type of day you had at the office, put on your big boy pants and be the husband, wife, parent, friend, mentor, son or daughter you need to be. Those who look up to you will remember nothing more than the ATTENTION, TIME and LOVE you give them.
A great test of where you are in your journey towards personal improvement is how well and how often you are able to think about other people first and make their needs a priority over your own. I don’t pretend this is easy and it is something you have to work at all the time because it’s not in our human nature. Without question the leaders that have made the biggest impact on me, have been ones that made me a priority over their own ambitions and used my progress as the benchmark for how successful they were as a leader.
No one is perfect. Let me repeat myself. NO ONE IS PERFECT! Your ability to keep this in the forefront of your mind at work and at home will allow you the empathy needed to be a great leader. Leadership so often comes down to empathizing with another’s situation and figuring out what inspires them to become the best version of themselves. If you think you walk on water, your ability to empathize and connect with others will be a long uphill battle.
It’s my hope that regardless of the kind of leader you are at work and at home today, these reminders will help you be better tomorrow. Do you agree with my podcast guests or do you feel it’s harder to be a leader at work than at home?
John is the CEO of LearnLoft, author of, F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader and host of the 'Follow My Lead' Podcast. He writes or has been featured on Inc.com, LinkedIn Pulse, TrainingIndustry.com, eLearningIndustry.com, CNBC Money, and more. John completed his education at the University of Maryland College.