3 Leadership Lessons From My 3 Kids

As Father’s Day approaches once again, I’m reminded of all of the leadership involved in fatherhood and all that fatherhood teaches me about leadership. As children grow, so should your leadership. 

I have 3 kids who continuously stretch me as a father and as a leader.Here are 3 things my children are teaching me about leadership.

1. Failure Is A Great Option

My eldest son, Tristan, is 8 and is currently into 2 sports: basketball and soccer. One comes very easy to him and the other is more of a challenge. He started two camps this week - one for each sport. At dinner after the first day, he expressed that he wanted to return to soccer camp but be done with basketball camp. Why? Well, it’s simple: at soccer camp he was the best and at basketball he wasn’t. Soccer brings on success and basketball brings on, what feels like, failure.

The lesson I am learning and trying to instill in him is that we cannot avoid adversity. That success might make you the best, but failure can make you better.

This past ministry year for me has not been the “best”. It’s been one defined by plateaus, to be honest. Everything has always been up and to the right for me in ministry, which is not normal. But I’m getting a dose of reality. And it’s been good for me. Hard, but good. 

What I’m reminded of is that failure is not only an option – it can be a really good one. It’s one that produces insight, learning, character and hope. When I look around at my team, we can look each other in the eye and honestly say that this has been a year when we have gotten much better – maybe not bigger, but much better.

Romans 5:3-4 reminds us that …we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

@@Do not ignore failure and do not run from failure. It will either make you better or bitter.@@

2. Preparation Over Preservation

My daughter, Avalynn, is 6 and is fearless – to the point that an unfortunate spill off of the trampoline landed her in the ER with a concussion last week. If you’ve been in a parental situation where your child is in pain and you are out of control, you know the feeling. It’s nauseating. 

What this moment as a parent taught me is that being over-prepared is more valuable than over-preserving. 

We all know those types of parents…you’re thinking of one now. They are known as Helicopter Parents who are constantly hovering over their child so that no harm comes his or her way, thus robbing the child of the valuable lesson that a scuffed knee can teach. I can force my daughter to sit on the couch all day, everyday and never move in order to keep her safe. Or I can let her live and be prepared to handle all of the best and even the worst that life throws at her.

Similarly, one of our responsibilities as leaders in the church is to have our teams and our church prepared. And preparation must be for both the good and the bad. Fiscally, structurally, strategically, culturally – are you prepared to double in size and are you prepared for half of your people to never show up again? Are you shying away from risk out of self-preservation? Are you making hires that prepare or protect? 

We just brought my old pastor out of retirement to pastor the 55 and older community. No one is asking us to do this, but that generation is rapidly growing, and it’s on us to be prepared.

@@Be over-prepared, but don’t over-protect.@@ 

3. 1 + 2 (almost always) = 3

My youngest son, Aslan, is 4 and is in the thick of learning lessons. He’s constantly making the same mistakes over and over again - all of which can be avoided.

He slipped and fell down the stairs because his blanket was dragging on the ground.
He spilled milk on his lap because he didn’t lean over his cereal bowl.
He got smacked in the face by his sister because, well, he smacked her first. 

I always stop him to explain to him how 1 + 2 = 3 or A to B will lead you C. Setting the same course will, almost always, lead you to the same destination.

How much of what you are doing – in your leadership and in your church – is leading you to a predictable outcome that you don’t desire, yet you refuse to change your course? Maybe you’ve always done it a certain way. Maybe you’re stubborn enough to think things will change. Maybe you can’t bring yourself to let that staff member go or redirect that volunteer because they’ve served so faithfully. 

German philosopher Fredrick Nietzsche once said, "Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.” Sometimes doing things the way we’ve always done them becomes the goal. Too often, we do this and expect better and different outcomes. I think they have a word for this...

What lessons are your kids teaching you about leadership?