Become a Great Leader by Acting like a Child

 

small child dressed in a business with a bag

If I told you that you can increase your executive presence and strengthen your leadership power by acting like a toddler, you would think I am absolutely insane. But think about it. The reckless abandonment with which toddlers approach interactions, requests and relationships yield great results. Most people find themselves smiling at, charmed by and wanting to appease a toddler.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not telling you to go into your next meeting throwing a toddler-sized tantrum. I am, however, encouraging you to consider these five toddler behaviors that, if applied to your leadership, have the power to make you persuasive, charming and powerful.

Ask a million questions

Toddlers are at that magical age when they don’t have preconceived notions about what they should and shouldn’t know. They aren’t afraid to admit that they don’t know something and ask questions all the time. Our society embraces their questions and feeds this curiosity. Sometime between age 4 and age 34, 44, or 54 we became scared to ask questions, fearing that doing so will make us seem less compelling. Contrary to popular belief, effective questioning and active listening actually elevates your intelligence level and also allows people to feel heard and empowered, ultimately improving your executive presence.

 

Provide immediate feedback instead of brewing on it

Have you ever noticed that toddlers are not shy about telling you that you have disappointed them? Toddler feedback sounds something like this “I’m mad at you! You forgot to buy my favorite breakfast cereal.” Their feedback is direct, specific, and immediate. As professionals, we tend to control our emotions too much and thus delay the immediacy of giving feedback in real time. But great leaders, those who really move the needle, give immediate feedback. Feedback that is specific, actionable, and direct, just like my three-year-old son, Andrew.

 

Clear about asking for what they want

Toddlers know exactly what they want. If they want to go to Mars, they don’t really care how to get there, as long as you take them. Toddlers see the bigger picture and share their ultimate goals. Clarity of purpose is a vital leadership skill. Without the direct guidance that you as a leader can provide, your team might take a project in the wrong direction. This will set everyone back and create a high level of frustration. Exceptional leaders are great at communicating their goals and vision to others. Their team is grateful for their leadership and is willing to follow them anywhere they lead, even if it is a trip to Mars.

 

Persistence

If you have ever tried to put an energized toddler to sleep you, you have experienced what persistence looks like. It doesn’t matter what arguments you use; your child will be comfortable defending his opinion to the end. Although they might encounter obstacles along the way, exceptional leaders are persistent and ready to fight for their and their teams’ ideas, business, and agendas. They attack projects with the same persistence and grit that toddlers use when they refuse to go to bed.

 

Smile at people, even the strangers

Kids look for the good in people and smile at everyone and anyone all the time. Childhood is full of smiles and laughter. Yet, somewhere down the line as we grew up and in an aim to be taken seriously, smiling became a rarity. Great leaders know how to make others feel appreciated, at ease and valued, and a smile is often their weapon of choice.

 

Dale Carnegie once wrote, “Your smile is a messenger of your good will. Your smile brightens the lives of all who see it. To someone who has seen a dozen people frown, scowl or turn their faces away, your smile is like the sun breaking through the clouds.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “Become a Great Leader by Acting like a Child

  • Hi Helen,
    Thank you for continuing to share keen insights on being an effective leader. As an experienced mother the ability to go into toddler mode is a skill one should never lose. I definitely agree that toddler mode deployed effectively is indeed a very strategic method to achieve objectives; combined with other modes of communication.

  • Interesting because I ask questions and I’m told I have too many questions. And, I smile all the time because I’m just a smiley person, no other reason. I’m told that I must be hiding something because no one is that happy. Where is the line with these approaches? Clearly one exists that pivots a person to a darker side for these things.

    • The application of these behaviors is very personal and requires tweaking. What this tells me is that you are great and leadership material!

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