9 Traits a Leader Can Learn From a Toddler

toddler walking

Recently I attended a weekend event as part of the “Your Success” program. It delivered an enlightening model that replaces our negative story with one that empowers us instead. If you feel like you’re holding yourself back as a leader, this might be why.

Isn’t it amazing to watch a toddler experience life? They have a remarkable way of approaching everything with determination. Like when they are learning to walk. They wobble, take a tentative step, fall over, cry, laugh then get back up and do it again. Have you ever heard the words “that sucked, I’m not doing that ever again!” out of the mouth of a toddler learning to walk? Of course not! So what happens as we grow up and forget all about the determination to become great at something?

To appreciate this fully, we must step back and reflect on the experiences we had as a child. All of us have experienced things that are significant to us in our early years, before the age of 10 years old. The giants (important adults such as parents) in our world may have ignored, criticised or denied us something. From that we determined a negative meaning about ourselves.

We rely on our giants during this stage of our lives – our existence would cease if they were not around to look after us. As such, we rationalise that whatever they say MUST be true. For example, if your parents seemed to have little time for you and were often distracted by other things when you talked to them, you may have gone out of your way to be heard. Maybe you tried that little bit harder in school because the approval came when you received good grades? So you decided as a child you had to please other people in order to be recognised. It worked as a child, but now as a leader this behaviour is causing you angst. It might show up in the guise of people pleasing. Because you want to be nice to everyone, those difficult conversations are put on the back burner and you feel like you have let yourself down.

Let’s look to the inner toddler in us for leadership guidance:

Love & Joy – In a time before we learnt how to pass judgement on others, we experienced great pleasure and happiness in our world. I remember my own children, their little arms wrapped around and squeezed me tight, giving so much love without any condition. What’s possible when we focus less on judgement and more on joy?

Courage – Little kids don’t understand the fear that comes with the unknown. It’s why we need to put grates around fireplaces. But it’s also their ability to give things a go without listening to the negative voice in their head that drives their behaviour. When can you show bravery in the face of uncertainty?

Resilience – Toddlers fall over, get back up and try again. As we grow up it seems our ability to bounce back after a set back starts to diminish. We’ll get knocked back from a job that we really want and tell ourselves it didn’t matter anyway. We justify not going for our dream leadership role and accept mediocre in order to keep ourselves safe. How can we approach our dreams with the ability to keep taking small steps so that one-day we can run?

Creativity – I remember watching my children colour in, draw and play imaginary games with their toys. As they have got older, the X-Box and DVDs have replaced that creativity. As I’ve grown up “responsibility” has replaced my creativity. When was the last time you spent time with your team allowing both you and them the space to brainstorm new ideas?

Compassion – Seeing a toddler comfort an animal or younger sibling is something that melts my heart. They have a way of expressing their concern for another in a way that nothing exists except for them. When your team member wants to talk do you continue to multi-skill? Imagine how they would feel if you stopped, made eye contact, were present and actively listened?

Behavioural flexibility – Watch a child play. If the jigsaw puzzle bit doesn’t fit, they’ll try another piece. If they can’t get the round circle in the square hole they keep trying until they find the round hole. Sometimes we get so stuck in the way we do things we forget to change. Rather than be upset that you weren’t able to influence someone, try something different. And if that doesn’t work, try something different. Then put that track on repeat until you get the result you want!

Passion – Christmas time in any household with kids brings about a sense of excitement. Barely controlling their anticipation at the wonders that await them under the tree, it’s often said that it’s the kids that make Christmas Day worthwhile. You were able to believe in Santa when you were a child. Perhaps you could believe in leadership ability long enough to let your passion shine?

Curiosity – Who remembers the ad about the Great Wall of China being built ‘to keep the rabbits out’? It was a creative response to the relentless question kids ask – “why”? As we grow older, we can fall into the false illusion that we know everything. We make assumptions about how others feel and at times we allow these assumptions to dictate our own actions. Next time you catch yourself making an assumption, stop and check in. Be insatiably curious instead and see where that takes you.

When you take on the traits of a toddler you can see yourself at your core. Forgive the giants (significant adults) in your life for the events that occurred. You no longer need to live out the story you protected yourself with when you were a child. Bring out the authentic leader in you – it’s your time to shine.

I see you

Want to find out more? Contact for a complimentary, no-obligation discovery session so we can find out if we’re a great match. Here is what our clients are saying about coaching by Inspiring Success:

Thanks for a fantastically insightful session this morning. I feel really released from some past limiting beliefs that I think have denied me a lot of happiness and lightness in life!! You really rocked in doing this session! – Ellenor C, 2015

Working with Vanessa opened up valuable insights into my past that allowed me to reclaim a renewed and inspired connection to myself. I am so grateful for your guidance in my break through Vanessa. Highly recommend the opportunity to work with her. Delighted with my result today and excited moving forward. – John H, 2015

I’ve literally just gotten off the phone to you from your very generous session exploring my core, crud and crust. WOW!! I’m lost for words at the beautiful gift that you have just given me. I am eternally grateful. – Anita v, 2015



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