Leading for prosperity? Be a good parent

Margo Groeneveld
07 Jun 2020

Last week during dinner with friends, one of them made a comment on leadership in these times of crisis that felt so true. She is an amazing child-therapist and reflected that good leadership is like running a family. It’s about making people feel safe, looking after them and making sure they can bring the best version of themselves. Creating a safe family leads to resilience, growth and eventually more prosperity. Bad leadership leads to unsafe and unpredictible environments, and the chaotic turmoil that comes with it. It can be traumatizing.

Tragically, we don’t need to go out and search far and long to see how that plays out these days. And we concluded our dinner feeling glad, maybe even relieved, to be living in the Netherlands.

Trauma-informed leadership
I’m not sure if trauma-informed leadership is an official, well investigated thing, yet it certainly should be. Trauma-informed leadership is about knowing what people need in order to not become traumatized and recognizing trauma-patterns if they arise. It is also about awareness of how you are impacting others around you. For years now I have been intrigued by how personalities of leaders and their coping patterns are reflected back into company cultures.

Leadership can have a big impact on our overall sense of safety. Leadership, trauma-informed or not, should be about keeping people safe first and foremost, physically and emotionally. And as logic this may sound, as hard as that is. Besides a virus running loose that impacts our sense of physical safety in ways we have forgotten, emotional safety is kind of complicated.

What we can learn from parenting
One of my take aways on leadership is the importance of clear guidelines, clarity on expectations, with a deep understanding of what people need to feel safe. This translates into transparant communication while leaving plenty of room for people to take control in their own way. Bringing out the best in them. And it takes loads of self-reflection, a willingness to learn rapidly on where you yourself are not creating a sense of safety. And it’s okay if that looks messy…

It is also about offering a sense of hope and optimism about the future. We will and are getting through this, and have already learned a great deal along the way! Creating the soil for resilience, to allow for healthy coping. Everyone in its own perfect, unique way. Call it guided empowerment. Just like a good parent would do.