Six ways being a father has made me a better leader

Tim Mart, father of two young children and founder of coaching and training provider Know You More, talks about the business skills fatherhood has taught him.

 

I wanted to be a dad by 30. I figured it gave me a good chance of still being able to kick a ball in the park with my children when they were teenagers. Now coaching my firstborn’s football team, my legs will tell you I should have started a little earlier. Footballing daydreams to one side, I knew that becoming a parent would change my life, of course I did. I could never have imagined the personal growth that I would go through and how I’d evolve as a leader.

Within four years of being a parent, my leadership skills grew to such an extent that I successfully swapped out the cosy world of financial services and set off on a mission to empower our leaders of the future.

Becoming a dad made me a better leader. Here are six reasons why.

1. Making better decisions

When you become a dad, decisions feel more layered. Something now exists that’s bigger than you, more important than you. That makes you pause that little bit longer and weigh up options carefully.

Over time, I can see how this has also shaped my business decisions. I naturally find myself mulling over how decisions affect the company, the people in our team, and wider systems like our industry and community. The experience of being a parent nudged me towards more thoughtful and less impulsive decision-making, identifying the benefits changes will bring now and ensuring that they will still be present in the long term.

2. Inspiration

Remember when your child first rode a bike without stabilisers? That mix of pride and nail-biting anxiety. I’d say that’s leadership in a nutshell. Being a dad has taught me the art of cheerleading from the sidelines and always building people up. At work, I enjoy slipping into the role of mentor and giving confidence to those taking their wobbling first steps into new challenges. It’s not about doing it for them, but about making them believe they can do it themselves. And when they finally nail it? It’s just about as sweet as watching your little one zoom off on two wheels.

3. Adaptability

If parenting teaches you anything, it’s that plans are made to be broken. One minute you’re heading to the park, the next you’re in the supermarket buying a clean set of clothes after an irresistibly chewy glowstick was left in the back seat of the car. It is a crash course in surfing the chaos. When something goes sideways or a client throws a curveball, I’m rarely fazed. I can pivot faster than a toddler spotting an ice cream. You develop this ability to roll with the punches, and I get great satisfaction from problem solving and finding creative solutions on the fly.

4. Responsibility

Becoming a dad is like suddenly being handed the controls to a complicated, slightly grubby spaceship. There’s no user manual (to be ignored) and you’re being told you have no choice but to make it fly. Every parent feels that massive shift in responsibility and it’s the one that takes hold the quickest. The upside is that it’s made it much easier to take responsibility for my career and now my role in leading a business.

Whether it’s team growth, successes or confronting financial challenges, the buck stops with me. It’s made me more proactive, more protective (in a good way), and more invested in the long game and building a sustainable business. When you are responsible for shaping the future’s wonderful wee humans, the monthly finance meeting feels a lot less daunting.

5. Empathy

It starts off as a troubleshooting exercise. ‘Hungry, no. Nappy, no. Ahhh you want bunny!’ Then over years of paying close attention this sensitivity develops. You become equipped with an emotional radar that can pick up the slightest change. I find myself now tuning into people’s unspoken cues or reading between the lines in their WhatsApp messages. There’s this nice balance between focusing on what needs doing and how people feel about it. It has led to many vulnerable conversations and asking ourselves questions like ‘what are we tolerating just now as a team?’. I like to believe this empathy has created a more open, honest, and surprisingly productive work environment.

6. Patience

Having your teenager arrive in the hallway one minute before you need to leave the house and enquire where their tie is is a masterclass in patience right there. This is a hard-earned skill and has been a lifesaver in leadership. When a team member can’t quite do something as quickly as I’d expect yet, is struggling to get their head round a new concept, or a project is moving at a glacial pace, I can feel my “dad patience” kicking in. I’ve learned to take a breath, break things down, and guide without losing my cool. And let’s be honest, if you can calmly explain for the third time in a week that it’s in the same place it always is, you can handle pretty much any workplace drama.

In the end, being a dad has undoubtedly made me a better leader. It has taught me to see the bigger picture, to nurture potential, and to lead with both my head and my heart. Who knew that sleepless nights, sticky fingers, and bedtime stories were secretly training me for leading a business? The downside is that you can add playrooms alongside boardrooms as another place where no one laughs at your jokes and you have to face the sad reality that you were never really as good at football as you thought you were.

*Tim Mart is the founder of Know You More.



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