In today’s society, many people are consumed with their activities at work. It takes top priority over everything else. By working hard, living in a nice home, driving a nice car, and having their children attend the best schools, many view this as fulfilling their responsibilities at home. In addition, many leaders believe that their leadership activities are confined only to work. Further, they believe that the biggest impact that they can have is to mentor a young colleague. I say this respectfully – but the biggest leadership impact that anyone can have is at home.
Let’s take a closer look at this concept. The foundation of leadership is character. You can have all of the skills that you want, but if people don’t respect you, they will not follow you. It doesn’t matter how much money is involved; eventually, people leave those whom they don’t respect. Leaders do not develop character when they start their work life; they begin to develop it at an early age. As a parent, you can have the greatest impact on your children by teaching them the values of respect, honor, and hard work at home. These are the characteristics that your children will carry with them into the workplace and it will go a long way in determining the level of their future success. Children don’t develop character by listening to what their parents say but by observing what they do. As a leader at home, you can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk.
I have seen this play out in my own life. As a parent, I realize that I have the greatest impact on my children at home. I also realized that in order to make that impact, I had to be present on a consistent basis. I had a good paying job that provided financial security for my family but it came with a price. I was always gone. I live in Austin, Texas but traveled every week to work in Washington, DC. I was away from home for 4-5 nights per week and when I was home, I was unable to be a full participant in the family. We moved to Texas four years ago so that my daughter could attend a school that could accommodate her special needs. What was supposed to be a short-term travel schedule turned into a long term headache. I was becoming a part-time father with my family and my health was beginning to suffer. It was time for a change. That is when I made the decision to look at career opportunities that were closer to home and concentrate full-time on leadership development (something that I did as part of my previous position). I realized, I could always find another occupation but not another family.
Since coming home, I have designed a life where I can be successful at work and at home. I have once again become a full-time husband and father. I even found time to do something that I had never done. I planned a road trip where I could spend two weeks of concentrated family time without any distractions. I incorporated activities for every member of the family but mostly we used the time to grow closer. I am not saying that everything is perfect, but there is now a bond that didn’t exist before. In addition, I am starting to see my children display the character traits that I have tried to instill in them in the past. Since coming home, I have discovered three important facts:
- My presence is needed. Yes, I need to make a living but it can’t be at the expense of my family.
- The most important commodity that I have is time. I can always make money but I can’t regain time with my family. Once it is gone, it’s gone.
- My legacy is my family. I will have a far more lasting impact with my family than I will at any job.
The time that I spend with my family and the lessons that I teach my children will impact the world for generations to come. You don’t have to lead a multi-million dollar corporation to have a large impact on the future. In the Bible, God made Abraham the father of many nations. However, he didn’t start with many tribes, he only started with one – his own.