“We all know that leadership —  whether you are the CEO, or the manager, or the mom — is about the ability to influence the thoughts, emotions, and actions of other human beings” wrote Tony Robbins in a recent blog post.

Leadership is a concept, not a person.  It becomes a physical entity when one chooses to embody the characteristics of leadership in the way they influence, motivate, teach and train organizations to emulate their own example.  Leaders are not born, they are made.  Whether you are creating a leader at work or at home, no leadership ingredient is more important than mentoring.

Mentorship is an ancient art. In earlier generations, young apprentices would be mentored by skilled craftsmen to learn a trade. They arrived eager to learn and left with the skills, expertise and experience to make a living. This art continues today in many trades and professions – including medicine.

A mentor’s job isn’t to boss people around, to tell them what to do or how to do it; it is to pass on knowledge, skills and experience, and guide his mentees to their desired outcome. Put another way, a mentor doesn’t dictate how to get to the destination, but instead helps to read the map and delineates the waypoints along the charted course. The mentor knows the terrain and is a good guide in times of uncertainty.

Mentoring works at the office and it works at home. This is the way in which I developed each of the key members of my team in the past 20 years, and more importantly, this is how I parented my daughter as a single dad since the age of seven. “Personal strengths and interpersonal skills that are essential to exercising effective leadership also apply to being an effective parent,” said Dennis E. Coates, PhD, a teenage brain development expert.

In fact, my experience in building and growing a business, as well as leading and mentoring my team at work served as the blue print for parenting my beautiful daughter.  Now at 25, a loving, emotionally healthy, responsible, un-entitled, thriving adult, she‘s become a contributing author to CDO Chief Daddy Officer: The Business of Fatherhood, a book I recently published explaining the seamless transfer of business skills to personal relationships and parenting.

Those in my dad’s generation approached parenting like a dictatorship: “What I say goes”. It is certainly true that any organization needs authority and structure, and a family is no exception. I discovered, however, that authority at work or at home does not need to be expressed in a dictatorial fashion.

If we keep our goals in mind – raising emotionally healthy, responsible, un-entitled, functional adults – we see that the best approach to parenting is hands-on, deeply involved mentorship. Children are like sponges, ready to absorb everything we say and do. Our goal is for them to absorb the information and skills needed to care for themselves and make the world a better place.

We ultimately want to guide our children on their journey, not travel it for them. In the end, the parenting process is about guiding and supporting our children on the journey from dependence to independence.

In business we must cope with the reality of limited resources and prioritize what gets our time, attention and funds. As mentors to our children, we need to decide which values and skills are most important to us. If we want our children to be respectful and polite, we need to begin to monitor those behaviors early in their development. The same goes for being hardworking, responsible and kind.

As you begin mentoring your children, here are a few things to consider.

  • Give thought to situations you want to expose them to, that will help develop compassion and empathy.
  • Ask meaningful questions that draw out thoughts, concerns and ideas, instead of asking trivial questions that go nowhere, such as “How was your day?”
  • Teach them about money management so they know how to handle finances and stay out of debt.
  • Make time to be there physically and emotionally so they know they can count on you.
  • Offer encouragement and praise when their behavior is consistent with your plan.

As we set our priorities, we must keep in mind how children learn. They learn by watching us, not just listening to us. The way you act and react is how your child will learn to behave. So lead and mentor by example and explanation both at work and at home and I promise you will meet with success on both fronts.