How leaders became parents

Trevor Hudson
8 December 2022

An illustration of two stick mean and arrows to show a reinforcing dynamic or cycle

Leadership has been a core concern in organisational strategies pretty much since business began. More recently we have come to name ‘leadership’ as something separate, not just about business success but about creating success through or with people. But just as with any positive, progressive development there is often a ‘shadow’ that comes along for the ride.

Leaders are bombarded with expectations: ‘10 things all leaders can do to be better’, ‘ 5 ways to ensure that your vision is inspiring’ – the articles alone are a dizzying array of (often contradictory) things you must do to be an amazing leader. It can sometimes feel like leaders are expected to do everything. What if hidden in these expectations is exactly the problem? 

  • Convincing people of your vision isn’t a problem if it’s their vision too.

  • Change is more effective if everyone it impacts is part of the design.

  • You only need to ‘get people onside’ if what you want isn’t what they already want.

These expectations assume that one person can ‘look after’ a whole organisation. An uber-parent who can take care of all the needs of those below. That’s why it feels so tough – constantly trying to be a ‘good’ leader for people whose needs and wants shift regularly. 

The good news is, even if we haven’t completely realised it, we no longer need leaders who are everything to all people. Most workforces aren’t asking to be ‘looked after’ even if they occasionally look to others for answers to their problems (don’t we all?). The average workforce is the most educated it has ever been, and employees have access to almost infinite knowledge via the internet. No one needs spoon-feeding anymore. 

You can be the smartest person on the planet, but you will never be smarter than an entire organisation’s worth of grey matter. It might sound daunting to harness the distributed creativity and intelligence of an organisation, but that’s why we need leaders and leadership. 

At Tuff, we have found that leaders and employees want the same thing: freedom. Leaders want to be free of the impossible expectations of always being ‘in charge’. Everyone wants to be involved, be heard and be treated as equals. We have found that the journey isn’t easy and people sometimes want to fall back into what they already know. Familiarity is very tempting. But once anyone has some tools and approaches that give them access to being more adult-adult in their interactions, there is no going back.

Want to learn more or talk to someone at Tuff?

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