Effective leaders put family before career

Author: Rosette Wamambe. PHOTO/COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Some balls, like that of family, once we allow it to fall the consequences maybe irreversible

This month, I am doing a series of life lessons that came through for me as I attended the Maxwell International Leadership Conference in Florida, Orlando in USA in March.

One of the things my favourite professor taught me in business school was that when you get onto a plane, make the most of that time up there and read a book or do some meaningful work instead of just watching movies. I have followed this advice and, in fact, some of my best work or planning for my business or life has happened when I’m several feet off the ground. Before you say good for you and roll your eyes, let me share a story of another leader who makes the most of their time in an airplane.

The year was 2016 and I was travelling from Kampala to Abidjan, Ivory Coast. A friend of ours then shared with me that he had gotten an idea of how to start a cattle farm. Being the engineer he is, he had gone ahead and drawn what the farm would look like. His vision made the wait bearable as I listened to his talk and the enthusiasm with which he shared it.  Several months later, he shared on social media that he was taking the first batch of cattle to the farm. I recall smiling to myself as the clear picture of how that dream was birthed came to my mind.

I tell this story because this time round as I travelled from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, the flight time was 11 hours and then from Amsterdam to Orlando was 10 hours, I knew I would have to go against my professor’s advice and watch some TV to survive this trip. So, I watched three movies on my way to Orlando. The return journey I mostly slept and listened to calm music as I made plans to put into effect what I had learned at the conference.

One of the movies I watched which left an impact on me and I recommended it to two women on the second leg of the journey is called The Son, a 2022 film directed by Florian Zeller. I cannot summarise the story but all I can say is if you are a parent of a teenage son, watch this movie.

Watching this movie reminded me of a book I read in 2005 called The Heart of Success by Rob Parsons who quotes Sir Tom Farmer, chairman and chief executive of Kwik Fit Holdings who said, “Too often those of us heavily involved in the business world are in danger of losing out on our most important asset – our family”.

As leaders we can all agree on one fact and that is, we do what we do and make the sacrifices we make for the good of our immediate families. What I wonder though is when things get tough, why is it that the very people we put at the back of the burner first are our immediate families?

It was good to see that at the Maxwell Conference one of the booths that received the most visitors was the youth and parenting booth. I also noticed that a number of families are into this programme as husband and wife. I remember one of my mentors mentioning that her husband does the finances and taxes for their business.

In my view, it is not very difficult to put your family before your career or business. What is required is for one to be intentional from the word go. To always keep in mind that as we juggle different balls as leaders, there comes a time when we have to remember that whereas certain balls can fall and bounce back into our hands, some balls like that of family once we allow it to fall the consequences maybe irreversible.

We need to ask for wisdom to take care of those our creator gives us because in my view, since children are indeed a gift from God, we are stewards and we need to give an account to the giver of this gift on how we stewarded these gifts to enable them fulfil the potential for which they were created.

Our reflection question this week is for each of us as leaders to reflect on how well we are putting our family before our career or business and then make firm commitments that we can follow and hold ourselves accountable to.

Wamambe is a transformational leadership coach with the Maxwell Certified Leadership Team    [email protected]