A few years ago, my business partner, Keith Coats, wrote a superb little book, “Everything I Know About Leadership I Learnt from the Kids” (it’s officially out of print, but you can still buy new copies from Amazon.co.uk and Kalahari.net). The book is written for leaders in all walks of life. Each chapter is a short story from Keith’s experience with his own children (and the children of a few friends, including my own), followed by a reflection and some remarkable insights on leadership. It really is a gem of a book.
And it has forever tuned me into the leadership lessons I can learn from my own children. I have three daughters, aged 5 to 11 at present, and they’re a constant source of joy, anxiety, love, learning, terror, pride, thrill and focus – all at the same time.
On Friday, I did a day long workshop on Global Trends with the private bankers at Coutts (the bank of The Queen and David Beckham). Given the audience, I decided to dress up, and arrived at breakfast with the family wearing a suit, tie, cufflinks – the full works. This is very unusual for me – my standard apparel is “business casual”. I must admit that I was feeling very posh and sophisticated, and quite pleased with myself as I thought about what the day had in store.
But my youngest daughter brought me down to size nicely as she saw me at breakfast: “Look, Daddy’s pretending to be a doctor!”. In her little world, the only people she has ever seen wearing ties are medical doctors, and her world is also neatly broken up into “real” and “pretend”.
There is a lot of “pretend” in the world of work. Some of it is necessary, as we present a version of ourselves to our colleagues and clients. We don’t need them to know everything about us – just those bits necessary to do our jobs. And that’s fine. But sometimes we begin to get sucked into some of the “pretend” worlds we create. And that ultimately can undermine who we really are.