Wednesday Wisdom

May 20, 2020

Lead with Love

By Dr Kathy Weston

Lead with Love


In times of crisis and uncertainty, we often look to leaders for reassurance, support and inspiration; we might even crave it. Everyone has different views about the quality of our current political leadership, but I have been reflecting on the quality of leadership in family life, or lack of it.

There is often a stark division in parents’ minds between work and home life. Parents who inhabit highly demanding professional roles, requiring acute organisational, intra and inter-personal skills, can still struggle to feel that they are doing a good job at home.

I have always been fascinated by this! Why can’t an effective CEO of a multi-national company, in charge of managing hundreds, possibly thousands, of people every day, easily persuade his/her 6 year old to go to bed at night? Or have difficulty opening up to their partner about little things that irk them? Or fail to praise their teen effectively to help them stay motivated?

The answer may lie in the fact that there is an unhelpful mental separation between the skills required at home and those required in the workplace. In reality, parents have some fantastic occupational skills that can be applied effectively to family life and they are likely also to have many leadership qualities that could transfer effectively to parenting.

To me, this begs some important questions. What does effective leadership look like? And, critically, what does it look like within the domain of family life?


There are thousands of books written on the topic of leadership, across multiple fields. However, one resoundingly clear message from contemporary thinking on leadership, is that dictatorial leadership is out of fashion and relational leadership is back in vogue.

We know that for employees to feel motivated to work hard and be invested in an organisation, they need to be heard and valued. They need to feel that their talents are recognised and that their contributions to the business are noted. If you seek images associated with great leadership, you might find a picture of Obama high-fiving the janitor at the White House, Jacinta Ahern weeping alongside relatives of a massacre, or a member of royalty empathetically and genuinely listening to survivor stories.

Aside from being an active listener, effective leadership means being open to learning and actively seeking others’ viewpoints and ideas. Good leaders know that effective praise is highly motivating and that regular appraisal is a key part of improving organisational culture. In times of crises, successful leaders ‘check in’ regularly with staff, consult over their needs, reassure and alleviate fears. Leaders have clear visions, underpinned by a strong set of organisational values, which help navigate teams through difficult times.

What is it that we can learn as parents from reflecting on the nature of leadership?


Firstly, think of your family as a team where you are the leader(s). A global pandemic is threatening our health, our finances and our way of life. To lead your family through this difficult period, aim to create a sense of family cohesion, cultivate a team spirit, articulate your values and celebrate the times when you feel you are coping well.

Focus on the positives! Look for silver linings, wider lessons that your family have learned from and opportunities for personal growth. Consider the family goals that may need to be amended to reflect your resilient family culture – so, we can’t go on holiday this year, what will we plan for the next time we can? “I am really proud of the way we have…” is a great sentence starter to initiate a sense of team pride and progress.

As the half-term ‘holiday’ approaches, I strongly suggest that all team leaders audit how their team are doing, what they are feeling and help them to appraise what is working well and what isn’t. Be open to new ideas and ways of working.

We are now 55 days into lockdown; it is time for a motivating chat and a big group pat on the back. In noting how far we have come and how well we have managed, we give our team the energy and the inspiration to face whatever else comes our way.

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