What does it mean to “grow up?” We hear it so often as a child, as in “you can do that when you grow up.” As we begin to grow up, we start to hear the question, “When will you learn to grow up?” And then, once we do grow up, we are finally referred to as a “grownup.” How did the verb ever become a noun? So now that you are grown up, and in a role of leadership, do you act like a grownup?
What does a grownup act like? What roles do grownups take on that are reserved for them? Are people in leadership positions expected to act like a grownup? Or do many people, because they feel privileged in their leadership position, continue to act less than grownup? Take a moment and consider leadership behavior you have witnessed over the past several days or weeks (you might even consider your own leadership behavior). Where have you seen grownup behavior in action – where have you seen less than grownup behavior in action – and having witnessed less than grownup behavior, haven’t you found yourself wanting to scream (in the same manner and tone your mother or father used with you) “When will you learn to grow up?”
What does grownup leadership behavior look like? Here are a few examples:
· Grown leaders take responsibility – it is not someone else’s fault (even if it is). And when it is someone else’s fault, the grownup leader will work with the individual to fix whatever problem has ensued and move forward. Remember how as children we blamed our younger brothers and sisters when we messed up?
· Grownup leaders don’t whine – they define reality and deal with the issue at hand. They speak positively of others in public, even when those others are causing them incredible grief. Didn’t our mothers used to tell us that whining was for babies?
· Grownup leaders let others win at times – they find ways to build confidence in those whom they can easily beat by not always demanding their own way. Remember when your dad “accidently” lost games he played with you?
· Grownup leaders speak their minds – they realize they have something valuable to offer. Using both careful thought AND the ability to think out loud, grownup leaders are willing to share their opinions. Remember, it’s only children who should be seen and not heard.
· Grownup leaders show up – they don’t miss important events. Sometimes it’s difficult to be at every event…all the time…for every person, but leaders know that their presence is important. Remember how we used to be told that when we got a real job, we wouldn’t be able to sleep late anymore?
· Grownup leaders pitch in – even when they are not asked to. Being aware of what needs to be done and doing it is one of those aspects of leadership that often go unnoticed – but grownup leaders do it anyway. Remember how as children we got to go and play while the adults cleaned up?
Next time you notice someone in a leadership position acting like a grownup, take a moment to thank them. Of course, they won’t see their behavior as anything abnormal, so be ready to tell them a story of that person in a leadership position you know who hasn’t yet grown up. And then look for ways in which you can act more like a grownup for those you lead.