By Susan Ford Collins
As the stages of life advance, the stages of our responsiblities advance too. From taking care of ourselves, to taking care of our spouses and businesses, to most exciting and most challenging of all... taking care of our children and our children's children. What is expected of us then?
First, we are responsible for being trustworthy leaders, for allowing those who follow us to have confidence in us until we can help build their self-confidence. We are responsible for keeping them safe and educating them until they can take over these responsibilities themselves.
Second, we need to sense when those who follow us need more freedom, when they’re ready for more independence. We must sense when to shift from acknowledging compliance to our rules, to acknowledging their production and competition, their creativity and innovation. And teaching them how to acknowledge themselves.
Third, we need to assist our children as they begin dreaming their own dreams—pre-experiencing desired outcomes with them and assisting them in finding appropriate methods for completing them.
Fourth, we need to communicate patiently and skillfully, making it safe for them to share likes and dislikes, choices and preferences—handling their “infant dreams like tiny precious butterflies.” By respecting their wishes now, we encourage them to respect others’ wishes in the future.
Fifth, we must provide the expertise they will need until we can find other experts to assist them, or they learn how to select experts on their own.
Sixth, we are responsible for updating their fears and disappointments, for learning how to do this ourselves or finding experts who can. We need to regularly update old rules and limits we’ve set for them, helping to expand their Safe Zone and contract their Danger Zone. Opening the door to The Potential Zone, the zone where they will create our future as well.
Seventh, we need to hold their outcomes with them, especially when they don't have the foggiest idea what to do next, when they get discouraged or fall into the depths of impossibility. We need to cheer them all the way to completion and greater self-confidence.
Eighth, we are responsible for shielding their dreams from the cold drafts and scorching heat of others’ disagreement. We need to say things they will need to say to themselves. Yes, you can.(Yes, I can.) You need to think of another way. (I need to think of another way.) Or, let's hold this dream together until we can find co-dreamers who will nurture it with us.
Ninth, we are responsible for switching negative thoughts to positive ones. I know you feel you can't, but I know you can. What do you really want? How will you feel when you've completed it? What difference will it make in your life, and others’ lives? Even when they’re frustrated or disappointed in us, we need to encourage them to keep asking for what they want from us, and from others.
Tenth, as leaders, we are responsible for maintaining our health and balance—monitoring our food and exercise and the effect it is having on us, on our moods and emotions, so they will know how to maintain their balance as well. We need to remember… we are leading by example 24/7.
And, of course, we need to extend the same care and sensitivity to our followers at work and in the world.
(c) Susan Ford Collins. For permission to use this article, email email@example.com
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Your Working Life: Caroline Dowd-Higgins interviews Susan Ford Collins