It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a T-ball coach. Life presents us with leadership opportunities. I have been in education for 15 years. I’ve been a head coach for football, basketball, and track. However, the one role that has taught me the most about leadership is being a father of six. Fatherhood has taught me three important lessons on what it means to be a true leader.
The most important lesson about leadership is quality time.
People want to know they matter to you. Time is the greatest indicator of value we have to give. But what I’ve learned is that quality matters more than quantity. At this moment I am a teacher and football coach. I spend two hours at home during the workweek that I can give to my family. I have more time on the weekends, but I have work responsibilities, too. There is no way I can give time to every child, every night. I don’t even try.
I DO make sure my children have my full attention - no cell phone. I make the conversation about what is going on in their life. Or with my younger kids, I let them choose the book to read before bed, and I make sure I tell them, in some form that I love them.
You might not want to start a staff meeting with the words, “I love you, guys.” But you can tell people they matter to your organization by turning off your phone before you engage in conversation. Ask questions about life outside the office. It is not easy to give time to everyone, but it is worth giving people quality time as a leader because people want to know they matter. The next lesson is developing the right routine.
This lesson is not about steps that make things run smoothly. It is about connecting to the purpose of the routines we establish, whether it is having a monthly meeting or doing tackling stations every practice.
Here is an example; people are always amazed that our family is always on time. We have a morning routine that allows us to be on time. My wife and I get up an hour before our kids. We wake our kids with enough time for them to have breakfast and get ready for the day. When we have a rough morning, instead of yelling at the kids, we reinforce that we need to be on time. It doesn’t always make the morning easier, just that the kids do understand why, and we stay on schedule.
In leadership positions we create routines, but many times we don’t communicate to others why we are doing it. Sometimes we even create routines because others have done it that way. Spend a little time investigating the routines you have. Can you express why they are there? Are there things you want to improve? Implementing a new routine, with a clear understanding of why, will help in that area. One aspect of being a true leader is achieving outcomes; connect how you achieve those outcomes with the why.
The last lesson, and maybe the hardest, is to take care of yourself.
We all know we should eat right, exercise, and drink more water. This is hard to do in the simple busyness of life. Add a leadership role to the schedule, and now it seems to be impossible. But it must be done.
This summer I went to see my doctor because I was just not feeling right. I knew it wasn't the flu or allergies. It was a blood pressure reading of 165/120. Hypertension. Easily fixed with medication and improving my eating and exercise. This is where being a dad really made an impact. When I got home my little girls all wanted to know if I was OK. All I could think of was how I needed to be here in good health to see my kids grow up.
We can’t be great leaders if we are not at our best.
Being at our best means taking care of ourselves; especially for the people we have the honor of leading.
Jamey Boelhower is a husband and a father of six, TIS, coach, and teacher for Sandy Creek high school in Nebraska. He is also an adjunct professor for CCC Hastings.