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Leading is not the same as babysitting, but the analogy seems to fit.

I often hear leadership of a team compared to babysitting. Nothing could be further from the truth, but if we use the analogy of babysitting and apply it to leadership, there are some great lessons to be learned.

When you have a newborn, you want a babysitter with newborn experience, maybe CPR, and massive amounts of patience. Those are just a few of the qualities that might help you feel more comfortable with leaving your newborn in the presence of someone else while you’re away, yes?

When you have a five or six year old, you might find the needs for your babysitter have changed. Perhaps you now need someone who can teach a bit and help the child learn not only education, but boundaries. You may want someone who is firm, but kind, authoritative, but short of dictatorial. Yet, if you are going out for the evening and needing a sitter for your preteen child, the rules or needs again change and perhaps now you want someone who is able to be a friend without hovering over every move the young person makes. You want someone who will know that R rated movies are still not appropriate, but Sesame Street is likely not the show of choice. Perhaps in this case you’d even choose someone who is just a bit older than you child and who has just a bit more experience with a fire extinguisher and the temptations of peer pressure when everyone wants to party at your house because you’ve gone away for an evening or weekend.

Much like the needs change of the sitter you would choose for your child, the needs the team has of you as a leader, change as they grow, develop, mature in their skills, and learn the role you’ve asked them to play. Are you changing your leadership style and actions with the growth of that team you have the privilege of leading or are you still giving them a pacifier when they are contemplating a party?

Your leadership style must change. If the team has outgrown the kind of supervision and guidance you are giving, they might stagnate, or worse, rebel and look for those who appear to have the leadership skills they crave. Keep in mind, whatever you do as a leader is contagious and if you want to share a level of influence with them that works, you have to meet them where they are. Make sense?

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