Leadership Lessons From Your Inner Child

  • Douglas A. Ready
  • January 23, 2019

By tapping into their inner child, leaders can blend the bold thinking and action of childhood while maintaining responsibility to the bottom line — an important balance in digital leadership.

When I turned five, I got a new bike. I didn’t know how to ride it, but I took it to a nearby hill anyway, a willing warrior, ready to ride. Was I prepared? Would I be brave enough to overcome the anxiety of facing the unknown? The truth is those questions never occurred to me at the time. Reflecting on this experience decades later, I realized I wasn’t just a willing warrior — I was an ecstatically enthusiastic one. Today, I can’t help but wonder why it seemed so much easier to take on significant new challenges as a five-year-old than it is for me now. As a child, did I have gifts that I somehow lost over the years? Was I foolish then and more responsible now? Upon further reflection, I have come to realize that I’ve been fighting a decades-long battle to not lose many of those gifts that made it relatively easy to learn new things when I was young.

So, let me pose a few questions: What were some of those gifts? Why have I been in danger of losing them? What does this have to do with learning to lead in the digital economy?

Here’s what I remember about myself as a child:

  1. I was bold. I took risks. I knew not getting it perfectly right the first time or two would have short-term consequences, but I didn’t consider that “failing” — it was just a matter of acquiring a skinned knee and a bruise or two. I couldn’t have cared less because I was learning something new and having fun doing it.
  2. I learned fast. I found creative ways of falling so as to minimize those skinned knees and bruises.
  3. I experimented, used my innate powers of critical thinking, and was resourceful. There were no fancy bicycle helmets when I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, but one of my other prized possessions, my replica New York Giants football helmet, served multiple purposes that day.
  4. I was flexible and resilient. Maybe it was just being five, but no matter how many times I fell, I got right back up and barreled down that hill again. And suddenly, my confidence grew as my mechanical skills converged in positive ways with my attitude of being unafraid.