Leadership through Eyes of a Coach...Alan Booth

Monday, October 15, 2012


I just had a break through with a family owned business that has implications for all leaders.

With this client,  the CEO struggles with the challenge of how to deal with his son in his business so that he becomes more competent in an eventual leadership role.  What I have heard Father say is: "...how can we get Son to have a more organized desk...have a more professional looking haircut...not procrastinating to the last minute with his tax filings...get his new printer I bought him up and running?"

Son tells me what he needs most from Father is greater respect for his skills and experience - not the solutions to problems or directives on how to fix something. So my challenge is discovering how to make that happen.

With the last meeting with Father talking about how to simply listen better to Son, he has an Ah! Ha! He has come to the realization that this is extremely difficult because he still sees himself as the father, not the business person mentoring the development of an employee.

Reflecting on the leadership challenges presented to me in both public and privately held businesses, it seems that too may leaders take on that parenting role - one that communicates "I know better than you and you should respect that for your own success."  Or, "In making decisions I work hard to get input from my team, weigh it carefully, but in the end I make the final decision."

Sounds like the parent-child model to me.  And why not?  After all, most of us intimately know and have experienced that model in both being a child and/or in parenting our children. It is familiar and we are experts at deploying the family model.

The solution? Actions that have crept into the literature include "empowering others, teamwork, collaborating, etc."  But the first step is to STOP PARENTING.

My practice has developed a process to do that; it is difficult for the leader to do, takes persistence and new disciplines but progress can be tangible when the willingness to change is present.