The strength of the month for January is Leadership. According to VIA: “If Leadership is your top strength, you excel at encouraging a group to get things done and preserving harmony within the group by making everyone feel included. You do a good job organizing activities and seeing that they happen.”
Everything I know about leadership I learned from becoming a parent. Leadership is not one of my top strengths. However, when you bring a child into the world you love them unconditionally and want to make sure that they have the best available to them to grow to be high functioning socially and emotionally. That doesn’t come from making their decisions for them. That comes from showing them how to make good decisions and to learn from the bad ones. Along with that becoming a parent caused me to be more assertive in general in making decisions where my kids well-being came into play. That in turn caused me to be more assertive in other areas as well.
My son Caleb was born at only 27 weeks of pregnancy weighing only 1lb. 4oz. I went from having a totally normal pregnancy to having major health issues nearly overnight. I spent almost a month in labor and delivery on bedrest leading up to his early and traumatic birth. Caleb was rushed away to the NICU as soon as he was born. This began a lengthy 131 day NICU stay. During that time the nurses he had giving him round the clock care used their leadership strengths to teach me how to advocate for him. Every morning I would attend rounds and listen to all of the complex medical issues going on with him. In the beginning I just listened and agreed to whatever the doctors were suggesting was necessary to save his life. After a few weeks and learning a lot about how decisions were being made regarding his care I started to hear things that concerned me. After rounds I would have in depth conversations with his nurses about what exactly the problem was and I shared why I felt concerned. They helped me to figure out how to state my concerns during rounds and actually ask for what I felt was right as the parent of this tiny fragile life. I had not fully realized until this point that I could and should be a part of this decision making process. I am so grateful to the nurses that became a part of my family during that time. I learned so much that carried over into so many other areas of my life.
Five years later I had my daughter Isabella. I also had health concerns during my pregnancy with her and feared that I would go through some of the same issues with her once she came. Thankfully this time around even though she also came a bit early, she was very healthy. However, once Isabella moved into her toddler years one thing that I began to understand is that her and Caleb were nothing alike. It required a whole new level of understanding who she was in order to parent and lead her appropriately. Now I had to figure out how to differentiate.
By this point I also learned that Caleb has autism, so his brain works a little differently. In learning about autism at my many visits to Children’s Hospital it became clear to me that patience, kindness, acceptance and understanding go a long way with all children. When you can dial those qualities up you can better lead. It’s looking like I’ll be using a lot of strengths to lead my children through life!
I learned that there are many ways to build this strength. A huge thing I learned from developing my leadership strength is that finding an appropriate balance between curiosity and honesty will allow for effective communication, which is part of being a strong leader. Listening and responding clearly make it possible to actually work together with others and accomplish goals. Leadership can be a bit abstract too, in the sense that it doesn’t have to always be people you are leading. I found that I can also lead my feelings by intentionally focusing on positive thoughts. I found that I can be a leader in my work by valuing my own ideas and contributions enough to put them out on the table, by taking more risks and putting my whole self into it. I became a better advocate for myself through those experiences. I became a leader at home and as a parent. Leading little lives has a funny way of making that happen whether you are ready for it or not.
Join us as we take the month of January to further explore the strength of Leadership.
For more information on VIA Institute on Character or to take the free survey visit: http://www.viacharacter.org