The past 10 years in leadership has taught me many things, mainly that I still have much to learn. As the saying goes, ‘you learn something new every day’, I find this to ring true especially as I dive further into my career. The lessons I’ve taken in over the years, whether it was through the school of hard knocks or via someone who cared enough to help me, have all prepared me for an experience which is coming quickly.
The experience of being a parent.
Leadership doesn’t just exist in the workplace. There are many people around us who view leadership as a constant part of who they are, something they do at work, at home and even when no one is watching. My experiences with leadership have predominantly been focused in the office space up until recent when I got the opportunity to marry an amazing woman in 2014. Thanks to this new experience, I’ve learned much about myself and how I interact with others as a result of the perspective I’ve gained through being married. My leadership insights and abilities have also changed as a result thanks to the caring support my wife has shown me.
Fast forward to the start of 2016, my wife and I are now several weeks out from welcoming our first child, a girl, into the world. For those of you who are parents I’m sure you have all sorts of stories, memories and ‘watch out now’ warnings for my soon to be first time experience as a parent. I’m getting a lot of advice right now from those of you who have been there and done that, most of which has been helpful and much appreciated. Some of which has opened my eyes to a lot of things I hadn’t thought about before.
My wife and I are excited to welcome our daughter to our family, Miss Ava Rose Smith. Ava’s not even here yet and she’s already taught me so much, I can only imagine what I’ll learn once she’s actually here.
Which brings me to the reason I wrote this article.
Leadership, in my opinion, isn’t something that is turned on as you drive to work, then turned off once you walk out your office door. Leadership, good leadership for that matter, is a combination of a healthy state of mind, willingness to act and a care for others that goes beyond ourselves.
Strange, those very attributes are what I’ve been told are required to be a great parent.
I’ve had the better part of the last year to think long and hard about the type of parent I want to be. Similar to being a leader in an office setting, I’ve waxed on for some time now contemplating how I’m going to handle this new experience called parenting. Will I be able to rise to the occasion and help lead our family into the future? I certainly believe I’m fit for the challenge but must admit I’m a bit nervous. Nervous in a good way. Some of the things I’ve found myself tossing and turning on are:
If my soon to be daughter Ava could understand me now, I would tell her this:
Sweetheart, as your father my sole purpose in life is to do whatever I can to ensure you grow up with everything you’ll need to live happily, experience the many great things life has to offer and one day become a wild success of your own. When the day comes for you to start thinking about your own career or family I know I will have succeeded as a father if you know these five truths:
As one of the two leaders of our household I hope that by declaring my intentions I’ll be able to hold myself accountable to doing them consistently, even when times may be tough. I know it won’t be perfect but it’s a start. I learned this little trick when I was coming up in a leadership role at work. It’s one thing to write it down on paper but if you openly speak it to an audience, proclaiming your intentions, it has a very different level of accountability and often times results.
I look forward to being a parent for all the typical reasons people say they like being parents, but I also look forward to it because I view being a parent as an honor, something I’m humbly thankful to have the experience to do soon. I believe I’ll be a successful parent because interestingly enough, that’s also how I have viewed my leadership opportunities in my career. I didn’t always have this mindset. To give credit where it’s due I owe my parents more than what is possible to offer in this world for helping to instill this in me. I’m forever grateful for these life lessons and have tried my darnedest to implement them in my life, while sharing them with others as often as possible.
I’ve been told by many that parenting is a great experience but you must be ready for the inevitable ups and downs, moments of triumph and setbacks, but in the end if you believe in your family you will prevail. This advice has served me well in the professional setting as it’s important to know no one is perfect, mistakes will happen, but in the long run with the right attitude, care and determination we all can and will succeed.
As for my ability to parent, only time will tell what the outcome will be. My hope is that parenting is similar to leading professionally where you choose to care first about those you lead then help guide them to where they want to be, no matter the cost.
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child's success is the positive involvement of parents [their leaders].” - Jane D. Hull
About the Author
Travis Smith is the founder and managing director of Square-1 Engineering, a life sciences consulting firm, providing end to end technical project services to companies which design, develop and or manufacture products in Southern California. He successfully served the life sciences marketplace in SoCal for over 15 years specializing in engineering services, consulting, project outsourcing and leadership development. In 2019 he was recognized as a ‘40 Under 40’ honoree by the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce as a top leader in Orange County, CA.