FamilyLeadershipLeadership Challenge

Five #Epic Leadership Challenges for Dads

One of the best parts of my day job is that it provides me ample opportunities to learn about, put into practice and reflect on a variety of ideas about leadership.  As a leader in my organization I am privileged to work with and serve some fantastic people who inspire me every single day to do as leadership guru John C. Maxwell says which is to “know the way, go the way, and show the way” while learning every single day.

This learning and practice leading others has tremendous benefits for my role as an #epic dad. For that I am thankful.

Many of the same concepts that I put into practice and many of the skills I am honing every day are also valuable when applied within the context of serving as a key leader of my family. Lately I have been sharing Kouzes and Posner’s work around the five practices of exemplary leadership with the other two members of my “lead team”.  These five practices, which have been distilled from decades of observation of the world’s best leaders in every field imaginable, are a set of observable behaviors that can help define what successful leadership looks like.

I also believe that these five practices, when considered though the lens of how to be an #epic dad and leader in our families, can provide us with some guidance and actionable ideas for how to step firmly into a position of family leadership.

The five practices of Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Practices Inventory (LPI) are as follows:

-Model the Way

– Inspire a Shared Vision

– Challenge the Process

– Enable Others to Act

– Encourage the Heart.

It’s about now where I feel compelled to mention that I am not receiving any kind of benefit or income from endorsing or sharing this adaptation of the LPI with you. I have included a link where you can purchase the book The Leadership Challenge as a resource but that is my only “skin in the game” here.

I really believe that if we are intentional with our behavior around these five practices as dads and as leaders, we will help our families find greater direction, purpose, strength, happiness and most of all love.

The Five Practices as they Relate to Being an #Epic Dad

Model the Way

This first behavior is all about you and your personal values and beliefs as a dad. To make clear to your kids, your wife/partner, extended family, friends, etc.  what is important to you, and what values will guide you in your role as an #epic dad, you must be crystal clear on your values and principles yourself.

You then must be able to teach your kids about these values and find ways to let them see you putting them into action. If honesty is something you want to see develop in your kids, let them see examples of you being honest. If compassion is a key principle, find ways of putting this value into practice in ways that your kids can see and understand.

Don’t stop with the observable behaviors though. Talk with your kids about your values, why they’re important and get them to explain to you how they understand what this looks, sounds, and feels like at their age. You’ll be surprised at how intuitive our kids can be.

Don’t be afraid to let them challenge your thinking at times. If your values are solid and your principles are genuine, these challenges will only serve to strengthen your family. As an #epic dad, hold yourself accountable for your beliefs and do not shirk from your important responsibility to hold your kids accountable to your family’s values as well.

The more you talk the talk and walk the walk with your values, the deeper those ideas and behaviors will take root not only in your kids, but in you as well.

Actions You Can Take to Model the Way

  • When making important decisions as a family, talk to your kids about how your principles and values helped guide you in plotting your course.
  • Look at your calendar. How you spend your time is a huge observable indicator of what you value. Make sure you schedule in time for things that are important to you and your family.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat words and phrases you want your kids to internalize about your family’s values. Try to help them feel why these ideas are important in their lives.
  • Tell your kids stories that illustrate a family value. Talk with them about the underlying message of the story.

Inspire a Shared Vision

As a dad, I think about the future. I think about what the future holds for my kids, my community, my nation, and my planet. It’s our role as #epic dads to use our internal compasses to help chart our family’s path forward into uncertain times. It’s our job to be enthusiastic and positive promoters of what is possible for our kids.

We help them believe that they can make an impact on this world through grit, determination, talent, and even some luck. We show our kids how to lift their eyes from the path right in front of them to the promising horizon of possibility and passionately champion their efforts to stretch for that horizon.  It’s hard to be inspiring, day in and day out.  However this is exactly what our kids need from us. It is our #epic responsibility to breathe life into their dreams until they can do so themselves.

This practice of the exemplary leader and #epic dad is fraught with pitfalls for the unwary. It is difficult to balance the shared aspect of Inspiring a Shared vision for your kids. For example, it is critical here to ask yourself from time to time, is it Jimmy’s dream to play in the NHL or be a doctor … or is it mine? Give space for your vision and your kid’s real dreams for the future to coexist.

Actions You Can Take to Inspire a Shared Vision

  • Listen to your kids about what’s important to them and what they think about their future. Make time to talk to them about this as they grow. This will help you gain insight into how to guide and inspire them to reach for a positive and powerful future for themselves.
  • Make a list of all the things you would like to accomplish as a family. Talk about the “why” behind the things on your list and ask, “what can we be doing as a family to be able to do these things”?
  • Share your own dreams and hopes with your kids. Talk about what you are trying to do to reach your goals and why they excite you to move towards the future.
  • Show your kids and spouse that you listen to what’s important to them about the future by incorporating these ideas into your family’s plans.

Challenge the Process

This behavior of the #epic dad or exemplary leader is about embracing challenge. As a dad, challenge yourself and your family to try new things, go new places, meet new people and go on new adventures.

Help your kids challenge themselves by appropriately challenging them to do new of difficult things. Support them through the frustration and fear which can sometimes overwhelm them. Celebrate your spouse when they demonstrate that they are facing challenges and working to overcome them.

Listen to your kids about ideas to try new things and look for opportunities to face challenges together. Teach your kids to be resilient in the face of challenge and also show them how to help others overcome challenges.

Resist the temptation to be stuck in a particular way of acting or being as a family because, “it’s what we’ve always done”.

Actions You Can Take to Inspire a Shared Vision

  • Seek experiences outside of your comfort zone as a family. Go skiing, serve at a soup kitchen, go to the opera, go on a challenging hike, go paint balling … together.
  • Pick something that you can work on to be better at each day and talk about this process with your kids. Ask them to accept this challenge as well.
  • Set some goals as an #epic dad and as a family. Encourage your kids to have goals and help them as they work towards these goals. Celebrate each others’ successes!
  • Show your kids that you are always learning. Talk about the books you read, courses you take, podcasts you listen to, and things you learned at work. Model that today’s world needs people who can constantly be learning and know how to learn.

Enable Others to Act

We are not leaders of a family of one. We can’t be #epic dads without our kids and without our spouses and other important players in our kids’ lives. This characteristic of the effective leader focuses on the relationships you have as a family. Loving family relationships based on mutual respect, love, and commitment to each other allow us to enable our children to increasingly act according to their own values, thoughts, and dreams as they mature.

Make it safe for your kids to make decisions and carry out actions, knowing that they will make mistakes. Help them learn from these mistakes, hold them accountable to your family’s values, and if necessary show them how they can re-calibrate their internal compass. Kids need this space to make mistakes, we all do. We also need the safety and security to know that our family will love us and support us through our inevitable “oops” moments.

 Actions You Can Take to Enable Others to Act

  • Tell your kids “I trust you and I believe in you”. Repeat this until they can’t help but know it in their bones. Let them know that trust is foundational to your relationship and that it is important that they can trust you, and you can trust them.
  • Listen, listen, and listen some more to your kids. Really get to know them and what makes them tick. Look for ways that they can show you they are trustworthy and responsible. Praise them for making the right decision in a difficult situation.
  • Have a system worked out with your teenage children where they can discreetly contact you and you will come and get them from whatever situation they find themselves in … no matter what. Talk about how you appreciate the decision they made to remove themselves from the situation.
  • Find ways, no matter how small, to safely make your kids feel like they have some control over themselves and their lives. Praise them for exercising this freedom and control responsibly.

Encourage the Heart

Being an #epic dad can certainly be tough. It can be insanely fun and rewarding though when you put this element into practice by recognizing, celebrating, playing with, praising, and showing pride in your kids and spouse.

Make them feel like the most important people in the world through your words and actions. Love your kids openly, fiercely, heroically, and with #epic intent. Make time to celebrate together and to celebrate each of your loved ones individually. Let them know you notice their small and big wins, rejoice in their accomplishments, and make a huge deal about their efforts to stay resilient.

This element seems so simple and yet in practice is easy to overlook in the fast-paced lives we live these days.  This is the single most neglected behavior for thousands of leaders globally according to Kouzes and Posner’s studies of these leadership practices in action. Let’s commit to our kids that we won’t ignore encouraging their hearts as #epic dads.

Actions You Can Take to Encourage the Heart

  • Be creative with how you recognize your kids. Be spontaneous and creative. Have fun.
  • Communicate your positive expectations of your kids clearly and regularly. Catch them being “good” when they meet your expectations and praise them.
  • Find out the types of encouragement that works for your kids. Don’t assume what works for one will work for the others.
  • Have fun with your kids. Make them the center of attention and tell them that you are doing so. Make them feel like they are important and that you are showing them this through your words and actions.

For more information about the Leadership Challenge, the Five Behaviours of an Exemplary Leader and the Leadership Practices Inventory visit Kouzes and Posner’s site:

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Greg Esteves

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