Category Archives: Leadership

“Stay-at-Home Dad” – Making it work

We have some friends who are contemplating the husband/father quitting work to be a stay-at-home dad and care for the kids.  My husband and I have had this arrangement since 2008 and it has been wonderful for our family.  Our children are happier, our marriage is stronger and we enjoy each other much more than we could when we were a two income family with loads of stress and no free time.

IronmanBut this arrangement isn’t for everyone and if the benefits don’t outweigh the costs (loss of a second income is a big deal!) then it can cause far greater problems.  Why does our situation work so well for us?  We think it boils down to four key points.

1. His job is to support me – those are his words, not mine.  If that means cancelling a poker game because I have to go out of town – no problem.  If I have to miss family dinner because an out of town exec wants an evening meeting – no problem.  If he has two sick, grumpy kids crying for their mom, he handles it.  The complete ownership on his part creates a guilt-free environment for me so I can focus on maximizing my opportunities and, hopefully, our income.

Leadership Traits – Nature or Nurture?

I have been thinking a lot about leadership lately and I have been fortunate enough to work for some amazing leaders – two that come to mind specifically who have shaped my career, urged me to take wise chances and made me a better person, in addition to a better employee.  I also had an recent college graduate ask me what it took to be effective in a leadership role.  I really had to think about it and my conclusions are contained in this blog.  There are loads of books written on this very subject, so I will add my observations to the wealth of research and opinions out there.

1. Process Information Efficiently – all of the leaders that I have witnessed in action are extremely smart. And it isn’t specifically

Image Source: http://www.agemattersclinic.com/UW-Dementia-Website.php

Image Source: http://www.agemattersclinic.com/UW-Dementia-Website.php

book-smart or street-smart, but they all have the ability to process and assimilate information very quickly.  They can take two seemingly unrelated data points and see the connective tissue that everyone else misses.  They can thoughtfully consider a catastrophic situation and figure out a way to manage through it.  They can ponder a decision and see multiple ways that it might impact future events.  It is really remarkable to watch, because an effective leader is always thinking, they don’t take anything at face-value, they ask insightful questions and often, they truly are the smartest person in the room.

2. Excellent Ability to Recall – if you pay attention to the effective leaders that you have come across in your career, most have an excellent memory.  Most leaders can recall numbers – $2.5M in revenue for that product, a 41.5% margin, a $25.89 stock price – and they can pull these numbers into a conversation at a crucial time.  This is not to suggest that they know everything and never refer back to notes or get data from their teams, but most leaders can recall the relevant financial information for their business and can use that data when they are processing information very quickly (see above).  They can also recall conversations, decisions, attendees and dates.  This ability to recollect pertinent information sets true leaders apart and enables them to make decisions and move forward more quickly than the masses who must look up the facts before they can proceed.

What drives innovation?

Innovation

Image Source: http://www.jeffdelp.com/2011/07/05/21st-century-educating-part-3-innovation/

We are in the process of converting my 79 year old mother to a smart phone and as I watch her learn and ultimately embrace this new technology, it got me thinking about innovation.  What drives our great innovators to constantly create and challenge the status quo?

Restlessness

As a species, we are restless.  And innovators are more restless than the general population.  This restlessness manifests itself as a need to tinker, to improve, to always look for something better, faster, smaller, bigger, more reliable, longer lasting – whatever limitation exists, the restless innovator wants to conquer. For an example of this restlessness, we can look to aviation.  On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers flew the first powered flight.  Their dissatisfaction with the attempts at that time led them to envision flight differently and they were ultimately successful.  But the human condition of restlessness persists and we now have a plane  whose cargo bay is longer than that historic first flight in Kittyhawk, NC. (The first flight was 120 feet, the cargo bay is 143 feet). This quote from Thomas Edison sums it up: “Restlessness is discontent — and discontent is the first necessity of progress.”