10 LEADERSHIP LIFE LESSONS MY PARENTS TAUGHT ME


On the 10th of July, a couple of decades ago, two wonderful people got together and to these wonderful people, I owe my existence! The two people who got together are my amazing mom and dad and today it’s their wedding anniversary. It’s an emotional time for my family especially my mom since it would be the third year without my dad.

Both my parents have played a very important role in shaping my personality and in helping me become who I am. While my dad inculcated  in me, a great deal of confidence and risk-taking attributes, my mom’s advice and encouragement has been especially pivotal in helping me develop gratitude and deal with setbacks. I wanted to make this day special and hence decided to share life lessons this dynamic duo has passed on to me that have really helped me progress in my personal and my professional life. All of these life lessons also happen to be great leadership lessons.

And here they go:

1.Humility will only make you more successful

No matter how successful, popular, well-liked, rich or well-connected you become, always remember that no one starts big. My parents always made it a point to stay grounded and modest and we have learned by their example. My dad always said that if you happened to help anyone in any situation that is because God enabled you to do and not because of your own resourcefulness and it is, in fact, a blessing to be able to support people in any capacity.

Humility is also a virtue for your inner well-being. Even professionally this trait can really facilitate your progress as it has, mine. Humble leaders are in tune with their teams and are often the most well-liked of leaders.

2. Always be grateful

My mom has always strongly emphasized the importance of gratitude. She believes that if we are grateful then we can and will achieve more.

She taught me that negativity and unhappiness can be infectious and contagious as can be happiness, positivity, and gratitude. When you are grateful, you attract positive energy all around you and vice versa.

Every day you have a choice…The choice to wake up happy and content or to wake up complaining, complaining about what you don’t have enough of- (Not) enough money, enough choices, enough opportunities, enough love, enough grades etc. If you chose the latter then that’s how life will always be for you, not enough. However, when you are thankful, content and happy for the countless blessings that you do have, that’s how life will be for you, content & happy. Today, successful leaders across the globe encourage practicing gratitude as it is that one factor that can make all the difference in your life, that one practice which can eliminate half of your stress straight away.

3. Communicate with confidence and speak your mind even if most don’t agree but also be accepting of other viewpoints

Public speaking runs in my family. My granddad, my father, my brother, my sister, my mom and I, we all love speaking, talking, and socializing. If we were to take up speaking as a profession, our gigs would make us billionaires by now, or not. But honestly, speaking to an audience has mostly been an enjoyable experience for us. My father particularly, never had any  reservations about speaking even in the presence of hundreds of delegates in various conferences and that too spontaneously and often without prep. His speeches were entertaining with a dash of humor. Even when he did rehearse, I would remember asking him- ‘what if you forget?’ he said that it didn’t and wouldn’t matter as no one knew what his speech was about anyway. He used to tell me to never be afraid to disagree or have an opinion even if it’s an unpopular one but to be at the same time, respectful and tolerant of what others think as well. He said that if you are good and you are right, you will be able to convince others if not, they will convince you! Remember what is right should always be more important and bigger than your own ego. So, if you are wrong, then don’t hesitate to admit.

Great & courageous leaders are confident, eloquent, eager to put themselves forward, do not get influenced by others and are moreover, never afraid to admit when they are wrong.

4. Networking is crucial in any career or business you choose to pursue

The art of networking was passed on to me by both my parents and my siblings have been wonderful at it too. Despite being an extrovert I, however, wasn’t very comfortable about networking until I started running my own businesses and that’s when I realized how important it is to make meaningful connections. I still miss how if I needed any contact or source anywhere at all, my dad would come to my rescue each time, unfailingly. Luckily, my brother is now my go to person. But still, you can’t always rely on other people’s contacts to get a job done –you have to strive to make your own connections.

My dad always made it a point to meet new people not only in our own city and country but in every new country that we traveled to. To date, we have some great family friends across the globe belonging to various faiths and cultures. My parents strongly believed that networking can lead to many different opportunities and potential ways in which you can work together with other people.

I remember when I once asked him as to why this was so important for him, he said to me, ‘Hira, ultimately, it’s not about whom you know, but rather who knows you!’

Herminia Ibarra, INSEAD Professor of Organizational Behaviour says networking is a requirement for business leaders in today’s competitive business environment.

“As you move up within an organization or a career path, doing the actual work itself becomes less and less your role and getting work done through people becomes more and more your responsibility,” she says. “That’s where networks come in. Informal connections that give you information, ideas, resources support, political intelligence…”

5. Never lose your identity nor lose touch with your roots no matter how tough it is

My parents always reminded me that there will be times when it will be difficult to follow your faith, your traditions, and your values because you will be surrounded by people who do not necessarily believe in what you do- that’s okay but make sure you make them value and respect your beliefs as you respect theirs. My dad always used to say that strength of character is determined and tested the most when you are not amongst like-minded people, and yet, you have the courage to follow and practice what you need to do, no matter what others think of it. This is also a quality which is exhibited by successful leaders across the globe -to be culturally sensitive and receptive but to be also aware of who you are and not lose touch with your roots.

6. Being hospitable is foundational in building relationships

Ever since I was a kid, my home has always been open for family and friends. Both my parents, especially, my mom, has been quite popular amongst friends and family for her warmth, welcoming nature and hospitality and I’d like to believe I am somewhat a earning a similar reputation. Whether it was people coming to stay in or just visiting to enjoy feasts prepared by her, we always had people coming in and my mom loved hosting parties. This, of course, won my parents, and especially my mom, the respect, and admiration of all friends and family members and strengthened the bonds my parents shared with their loved ones. Hospitableness is the key to successful personal and professional networking. According to Ken Gosnell, many people do not consider the trait of hospitality a leadership trait.  ‘However, hospitality is an essential trait to successful leadership’ he adds. ‘Hospitality causes the leader to focus the areas of service, environment, safety, and engagement. Hospitable leaders’ grow great companies because they have the right spirit and attitude.’ he concludes.

Ever wondered what makes leaders like Justin Trudeau so popular and have such a large fan following? They are welcoming and hospitable to everyone including the immigrants.

7. Resilience will never be easy but it is necessary

In the beginning of my career and to date my mom has been pivotal in helping me embrace resilience and has always encouraged us to keep moving forward, and to stay positive, irrespective, of what life throws at us. ‘Always be thankful for what you have achieved so far. But you won’t always be lucky. Give yourself permission to be disappointed when you fail…’ she once told me, ‘ sulk for a while if you want but then get up, wipe your tears and continue to fight on’ And that has been my mantra ever since

A blog Why resilience is the true heart of leadership states that if success, leadership, and fulfillment are why you went into business in the first place, then understanding how you respond to challenges, disappointments and crises is important. ‘Resilience is the mark of all success stories, much as it is the mark of every good leader.’

8. Don’t forget to celebrate the big  as well as little moments in life

My parents have always loved celebrating festivals and occasions and moreover, people. There is nothing they like more than making loved ones feel special. They have always encouraged us to be warm and courteous and to be eager to share other people’s happiness as well as their sorrows. I have seen my parents reciprocate generosity and thoughtful gestures with great magnanimity. If someone does something nice for you, have the deceny to acknowlege, remember and do something even nicer, for them! We have grown up seeing them acknowledge their friends and family members on all their achievements, successes, big days and especially when the latter were in distress or pain and needed them the most.

Great Leaders too have similar traits. They are there for their team in times of crises and they especially, love celebrating achievements and making their people feel special.

A blog- The power of victory: why great leaders celebrate small wins with their teams’ states ‘One of the key attributes of a great leader is to know how to react to the successes and failures of the company on a daily basis. Keeping your team working hard, happy, and productive is the way to success. If you manage all of your successes properly, you can achieve a lot of great things.’

9.When you wish good for others good things come back to you

Think good for others and good things will happen to you. My dad did not like being at the receiving end at all simply because he only knew how to give and that too without any expectations. Sometimes his own family would be in awe at his selflessness and how he left no stone unturned to help and favor anyone who needed his support without expecting anything in return. He had a heart of gold with not an ounce of malice for anyone, not even those who may have wronged him, a quality which amazed his own family, every single time. Both my parents have always reinforced the importance of helping people in need, often giving at the expense of their own needs.

As do all great leaders who put their people first, are well-intentioned and are always mindful of the needs and wants of their people.

10. Always go to bed with a clean conscience

My dad used to say…’There will be times when you feel tempted to opt the easy way out. Don’t! ‘I don’t want to lie in my grave with a dark conscience’ he would proudly say whenever, any family member commented on his extreme sense of righteousness. He used to tell us that you may not be successful all the time in fulfilling all your commitments but if your intentions are sincere and you are doing all that you can, to make things right, then eventually that’s all that matters.’ If you have done the right thing and you know it in your heart then no matter what everyone else says, you will sleep better, every single night.

And this is once again a trait which all followers keenly seek in their leaders. As Fred Kofman aptly put it ‘Great leadership is conscious leadership’ ‘Actions are judged by intentions’ my mom loves to quote again and again. ‘If you are well intentioned then God will take care of you and do what is in your best interest’

Hope you enjoyed reading these life lessons imparted by my parents. What is the best career advice given to you by your parents? What are the lessons you cherish the most and that have really helped you advance personally and professionally? I would love to learn more. Don’t forget to share your comments- I will be waiting….