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What books are you reading on parenting and leadership?

Why do I link parenting and leadership?

We live in relationship, with ourselves and others. The wellbeing of our families and workplaces depends on how we develop and manage our relationships. Ken Gergen, author of Relational Being, succinctly declares:

Whatever value we place upon ourselves or others, and whatever hope we may have for the future, depends on the welfare of relationship … Without care of relationship we also risk an ending. [1]

We care for our relationships through the why, how, what, when, where, and how-long of our conversations in our relationships. The skills we apply in our conversations are the same whether we are in a parenting or a leadership relationship, only adjusted for the circumstances. For example, we may say good morning to our children with a hug, and to our colleagues without the hug. In each case we are acknowledging and valuing the other in our relationship, a core value (some may say ‘skill’) in our leading and parenting.

What skills am I thinking about?

Experts tell us (and I agree) that to be an effective leader (and I would say parent) we must have, depending on your preference for language, ‘soft skills’, ‘emotional intelligence’ (Daniel Goleman), or ‘human skills’ (Simon Sinek). My preference is ‘relational skills’, emphasising that we live in relationship. The language of ‘soft skills’ can be a challenge for men endorsing the social message that men are tough and ‘boys don’t cry’. The reference to ‘soft’ can also be misleading. Sometimes a leader or parent must take a stand and declare what needs to be done, no questions asked. We may call this ‘the hard edge’ of soft skills or call them what they are: ‘relational skills’.

Having said this, I am a fan of Daniel Goleman from the time of his seminal 1995 book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. Updating his thoughts in 2021, Goleman offers twelve competencies of emotional intelligence: emotional self-awareness, self-regulation, positivity, achievement, adaptability, empathy, organisational awareness, influence, coaching, inspiring, teamwork, and conflict management. [2] This list covers most if not all ‘soft skills’ declared by experts to be qualities of good leadership, and again, I would say of good parenting. I see these competencies as embedded in and outcomes of our conversations.

This brings me to the four books:

Effective conversations for developing Goleman’s twelve competencies of emotional intelligence are those where:

We have an open mind, a growth mindset

We have a growth mindset when we see all around us calls to curiosity that encourage us to engage in conversations to create possibilities. Carol S. Dweck is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, she takes us into the importance of understanding how every aspect of our lives is influenced by our mindset.

We notice our moods and emotions

We notice our moods and emotions as we enter and take part in our conversations. Susan David is a co-founder of The Institute of Coaching at McLean, Harvard Medical School Affiliate. Her ground-breaking Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life takes the reader into the world of managing and learning from our emotions.

We listen

We listen, mindful we are given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Kate Murphy is a journalist with a career based on being a good listener. In You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, she tells stories of listening, along the way interviewing experts in the craft.

We are curious

We are curious, recognising the ‘power of knowing what you don't know’. Adam Grant is an American psychologist, author, and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. As I discussed in my first blog on my website (we cannot change what we do not notice), Grant says it all in the book’s title Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know. He alerts us to the importance of ‘rethinking’. I see this as especially important in noticing and rethinking our prejudices, biases, and judgments that we absorb from birth from our parents and others in our circle of influence.

These books help us learn to have better conversations on how to adapt the advice of experts for our leadership and parenting in our circumstances, for example:

  • From how to have a ‘hard’ conversation to how to get your child to sleep.

  • How to refrain from any controlling or ‘I am the expert’ instincts we may have.

  • How to reach consensus when our views, including our reactions to an expert’s advice, differ from our colleagues or partner.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Please contact me though my website.

1. Kenneth J. Gergen, Relational Being: Beyond Self and Community, Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 396. 2. Daniel Goleman, The Twelve Competencies of Emotional Intelligence, 30 June 2021,, viewed 1 July 2021.

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