What the children of Seattle taught me about leadership

ByFawad Khan

What the children of Seattle taught me about leadership

We had family visiting and over the weekend we took them over to the Seattle Center. Our kids wanted to visit the Marvel comics exhibition in the MoPOP museum. After the museum tour we decided to take the kids out to the Playground right next door. What I saw and observed there was an interesting phenomenon at play and made me think about leadership development and skills. Few of the things that were taking place in the play area also apply to leadership principles and development within a team, organization or a company.

Leadership development and skills: Seattle Center Playground/slide

Seattle Center Playground/slide


Enthusiasm and excitement are contagious

The playground had a really tall slide which one had to climb using the mesh styled ropes to get to the top. As soon as we got into the play area our kids got really excited looking at the slide and wanted to climb it to the top to come down the slide. Even my six year old daughter who sometimes is afraid of heights wanted to go to the top but she called me to be close to her as she was climbing up. One thing that struck me immediately was that our kids didn’t hesitate a minute when they saw so many other kids already doing it. As adults we also see this scenario at play in our workplaces where when our leaders or colleagues are enthusiastic and excited about what they are doing, they tend to unconsciously influence us to be as excited too and take us along this enthusiastic journey of theirs. I saw my daughter go halfway up the slide and then come down because she was either afraid or thought she couldn’t go all the way up. Then she stood there for around two minutes watching other kids going up laughing, smiling and coming down the slide. She changed her mind and decided to try going up to the top again. This is how powerful other people around us are in our lives! Thus, it’s important that we spend time around positive people who can encourage us and are really excited about what they are doing. 


Sharing and seeing success stories

We need to share and see success stories and then make an effort ourselves to succeed. This was so apparent from my daughter’s behavior of observing others after she decided to come down half way from the top on her first try. Looking at others succeeding gives us encouragement to take similar steps in life and try to be successful. This is evident in our workplaces where when we see our colleagues succeed with one type of project we end up trying to take on a similar or related project to see if we can be successful too. It is also a common practice in many work environments to have the successful people share their project stories and how they accomplished success. This kind of sharing is really powerful and influences us indirectly to be successful with our own projects and initiatives. Another way a professional can be influenced positively is by listening to the interviews of successful people or reading/listening to books or biographies of successful people. These stories tell us not only how these people succeeded but gives us encouragement and ideas on how we can be successful in our personal and professional endeavors. My son kept coming to us every time he came down the slide and telling us how many times he had gone up and down the slide. Another younger kid in our group would listen to him and then run back to go up the slide and he repeated that multiple times as he heard my son talk about his accomplishments. This is how potent the stories and sharing can be to help others succeed in their efforts.


Gaining energy and confidence

I noticed that every time my son came to me and told me about how many times he had successfully climbed up to the top and down the slide he had gained more confidence in his abilities and had more energy than the previous time. Same principles work in our professional environments where when we are successful with one particular initiative we end up gaining confidence and get a boost of energy to doing well in others and taking on bigger challenges. It is important that you try your best to succeed in some projects where you have control because the energy you will get from that will help you be successful in other difficult projects where you may not have full control of all aspects of the project.


Needing mentors along the way

As I sat there looking at the slide, I noticed that there were some older teenager kids who were also trying to go to the top of the slide and were enjoying it along with the younger kids. When my daughter came down the first time she told me that one of the older kids helped her get to the top of the slide. This kind of scenario also exists in our workplaces where we have experienced people who can help us get to the top. I realized this many years back that I needed a mentor, with more experience than mine, to help me with situations and difficult problems I encountered at my workplace. Mentors because of their experience and knowledge of their domain are essential to guiding us in the right direction when we face situations at work where you may not know what is the right way to handle or what decision to make. My mentor has helped me multiple times in the last few years in successfully tackling difficult scenarios that I came along. 

If you get time, check out this other post of mine on the importance of compassion and humanity in leadership.

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About the author

Fawad Khan administrator

I have 20+ years of experience in Information Technology, training, startups and strategy with last ten year's emphasis on Cloud Computing technologies and services. Topics of interest for me include Digital Transformation, Cloud, AI, ML, IoT, Blockchain, Emerging Technologies, Education, Training, Leadership and other related topics. I am always very interested and eager to hear/discuss different opinions, feedback and perspectives.

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