Your Childhood Influenced Your Leadership Style

  1. Your Childhood Influenced Your Leadership Style
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Your Childhood Influenced Your Leadership Style

As discussed in the previous article in this “Women’s Leadership Anxiety and Confidence” article series, your parents were your first role models for leadership. Even if you eventually totally rejected their leadership style, their methods of managing your family influenced your leadership style, success and confidence. Your childhood experiences also established specific triggers for leadership anxiety.

Unless you’re an employee in a family-owned business and your parent is the CEO or your immediate supervisor, your parent should probably not be directing your work or influencing your leadership confidence today. Even though your parent has no business in your business, until you do some inner work to discover Your Authentic Leadership Style, a parent’s beliefs, comments and behaviors can diminish your leadership confidence and success on a daily basis.

Article one of this series discussed the effects of the beliefs and behaviors of:

  • overly critical parents who belittle their child’s abilities or performance and fail to provide sufficient positive feedback, support and encouragement,
  • self-absorbed parents with narcissistic behaviors,
  • parents who try to elevate their own self-esteem by programming their children for the parent’s version of success,
  • perfectionist parents whose unrealistic standards of behavior and achievement cause a child to feel inadequate and judge themselves harshly when they make mistakes, and
  • controlling, domineering or demanding parents

In this second article of the Women’s Leadership Anxiety and Confidence series, we explore eight additional parenting styles. We note how specific parental challenges, beliefs, behaviors and styles can decrease your leadership confidence and success.

More Examples of Hidden Causes of Leadership Anxiety

  • An emotionally unavailable parent meets a child’s physical needs but fails to nurture the child to feel cared for and emotionally secure and stable. Such children will usually be uncomfortable with their own emotions. Their craving to receive what isn’t available, true love and nurturing from their caretakers, is such a prickly feeling that the children compensate for not having their needs met and develop a rationalizing belief system that they are not worthy of receiving what they need and deserve. Without intervention, a life-long pattern usually develops so they become adults who have difficulty receiving what they need and deserve. When a child with an emotionally unavailable parent becomes a leader, they will benefit immensely from leadership coaching that helps them ensure they feel worthy of support and can also self-nurture and self-soothe. The leadership coach helps this leader develop a solid support system so the leader’s personal needs for love, support and reinforcement are met outside of the workplace. Because they won’t feel dependent on upper management, employees, clients, customers or other people at work to bolster their self-esteem, they’ll be objective with all groups. Leadership coaching will also help this leader receive and accept both negative and positive feedback at work, placing both in proper perspective.
  • A parent who is envious of their child’s abilities may display this by making disparaging comments, gaslighting to change facts and manipulating the child’s environment to prevent their success. All of this weakens the child’s confidence and self-esteem. It may be difficult for the child to trust other people, especially those in powerful positions, because their parent behaved in an unethical way. If this child becomes a leader, they may assume other people have more control over their life than they actually possess. Leadership coaching can be especially helpful because the leader will develop a new level of self-trust while they more accurately perceive situations and people.
  • A parent whose emotional insecurities are displayed by trying to act superior to other people because the parent feels inferior. This type of parenting causes confusion and self-doubt in the vulnerable child because children truly want to believe in their parents and trust they are honorable caretakers. Unfortunately, the type of parental behavior I’m describing is seldom limited to inappropriate bragging or belittling people other than the child. Usually, the child will also be disparaged inappropriately, which creates more confusion, self-judgment and guilt. If this child becomes a leader, it’s important to use leadership coaching to elevate confidence, help the leader develop a deeper level of self-trust and be able to easily perceive people with similar dysfunctional behaviors to their parent. All of this will help the leader accurately interpret the actions of their employees and superiors, especially when someone’s words should not be accepted at face value.
  • A parent who is overly punitive regarding minor infractions or mistakes. In this case, the fear of pain or castigation makes most such children develop risk-aversion and lose the will to experiment in healthy ways that can produce personal growth. Usually, the child’s fears travel with them through life, at least to some degree. At work, they may play it safe when it would be better for their career and their organization if they took a healthy risk. Leadership coaching that includes confidence elevation and exercises to calculate the reliability of their support network, as well as pro-and-con possibilities of intelligent risk-taking, are immensely helpful.
  • A chronically angry or explosive parent can create a feedback loop in the child’s brain warning them that human emotions are unpredictable and dangerous and that people cannot be trusted. Often, such children compensate by growing up out of touch with their own emotions. Many don’t trust themselves to safely and constructively experience emotions and can be afraid of people who are upset. The situation is similar with a chemically imbalanced, abusive or addicted parent who can be unpredictable or unsafe. The home can lack healthy boundaries. Leaders who grew up in these environments greatly benefit from leadership coaching regarding self-trust, emotional regulation, setting and maintaining boundaries, assertiveness and emotional intelligence in the workplace.
  • A chronically anxious, severely depressed or seriously ill parent who lacks the stability or confidence to fulfill their parenting responsibilities. In this case, some children lose the opportunity to experience a healthy childhood. When children become caretakers for their parents and siblings at a young age, they often later hesitate to say “No” to inappropriate work demands as adults. If these children become leaders, they may excuse the poor performance of employees or superiors. This makes the leader prone to burn-out. Another frequent outcome is an eventual emotional outburst because of resentment that festers under the surface of people-pleasing behavior associated with a survival-oriented personality based on fulfilling other people’s desires while denying their own needs. Leadership coaching can help leaders from such environments recognize and compliment their unusual caregiving strengths but refrain from caretaking employees or superiors who fail to complete their fair share of work. Leadership coaching is a proven way to decrease leadership anxiety and empower the leader to gain life balance.
  • An overly-helpful parent who is over-protective doesn’t allow their child to make mistakes so they can learn and grow. The child may expect other people to do things the child could do for themselves. As an adult leader, this person may sometimes doubt their ability to resolve their own challenges or make decisions. Leadership coaching, including confidence building, while clarifying authentic leadership decision-making boundaries has proven to be helpful. Assertiveness training is also helpful for many leadership coaching clients.
  • Parents who deliver conflicting messages to their child. When one parent tells the child, “You’re a good person” but the other parent says, “You’re not worthy”, children are confused because they want and need consistent messages from parents. Even though most children will usually say they don’t like restrictions, kids feel safer with consistent rules because they know they can trust their caregivers to mean what they say. When children who had to navigate a choppy sea of mixed messages become leaders in organizations where upper management is inconsistent, conflicting statements and actions often trigger past associations in the leader’s brain that are based on their childhood experiences. Leadership anxiety will escalate. The leader will notice an uneasy feeling in their gut or a persistent thought like, “I can’t trust this organization to look out for me or my team members, even though management claims to support us”. The situation will become more uncomfortable, if, as a child, the leader was told to ignore troubling signals and trust authority figures, even though the child’s perceptions were accurate. Leadership coaching provides proven tools to help leaders trust their own judgment even more, discern truth from fiction and learn how to effectively be a stable middle layer between upper management and employees, especially during conflicts. All of this alleviates leadership anxiety while building leadership trust.

Did You Grow Up in a Family with a Leadership Style Like Any of Those Described Above?

If you grew up in any of the environments described in this article or the previous article in this “Women’s Leadership Anxiety and Confidence” series, it’s imperative that you discover how your parents influenced your leadership style, confidence and success. If you fail to do this, you’ll most likely continue to attract superiors, team members, clients, or customers who present you with the same challenges your parents posed during childhood.

For over 20 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of smart, talented leaders and emerging leaders who were struggling with leadership challenges of all kinds. Among other things, I helped them clear unhelpful beliefs and behaviors they had unconsciously inherited from their families. In the process, they discovered their natural, authentic leadership style, which was usually quite different from their parent’s family management patterns.

My Women’s Leadership Coaching clients are no longer stuck in the past. They’re confident. They’re thriving in leadership careers. They continue to build successful teams and enjoy excellent support systems. Upper management sincerely appreciates and rewards their work.

Use Women’s Leadership Coaching to Alleviate Your Leadership Anxiety

Leadership Coaching is a proven way to alleviate leadership anxiety and escalate your confidence and success. That’s why the vast majority of thriving woman leaders advise other female leaders and emerging leaders to “hire a coach.”

The average ROI (return on investment) of leadership coaching is over 500%. Click here to complete a short application so I can contact you for a complimentary, no obligation, 20-minute consultation. If we decide we’re a good fit as client and coach, we’ll discuss a coaching agreement. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and being of assistance.

© 2019 Doris Helge, Ph.D. as interviewed on “The Today Show,” CNN and NPR. Certified Master Leadership and Executive Coach Doris Helge is author of bestselling books, including “Joy on the Job” and “Transforming Pain Into Power.” Doris has helped hundreds of leaders like you meet every challenge you’re facing. To make sure you receive each weekly tip, click here to join our mailing list.


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About the Author

Doris Helge

© 2019 Doris Helge, Ph.D. at www.WomensLeadershipTips.com Doris Helge, Ph.D., MCC is a Certified Master Executive Leadership Coach and author of bestselling books, including “Joy on the Job.” Click here now to sign up for your complimentary Leadership Coaching Consultation.

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