At a recent workshop in Wellington, I was in conversation with a group of senior managers about the people whom they believed were most effective leaders in times of change. After some reflection, here are some of the words that come out to describe those people:


One of the managers stopped for a bit and said “You know what? I think one word sums up all of those qualities: ‘Childlike’.”

Really? To many, the word ‘childlike’ sits in the same basket as ‘childish’. It comes with all sorts of connotations: immature, unsophisticated, simplistic. Yet we were talking about highly effective leaders in challenging, complex environments. And they were childlike. Hmm.

When you think about it, those words on the flipchart above are what young kids are like.

Kids are authentic. They are who they are. No facade.

Kids are vulnerable. They share their fears, and what they don’t understand.

Kids challenge us with their curious questions. “Why do grown-ups always seem so busy?” “Why can’t you play now?” “Where did I come from?” Questions that make us stop and think about the stories we are living out.

Kids know how to live in the present. They’re adept at listening and responding to what’s happening around them, in the moment. There’s less ruminating about the past, and less anxiety about the future.

If that’s childlike, then we need more grownups to look to kids for what great leadership looks like.

How can you be more childlike today?


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