Leadership Failure - Treating Employees Like Children

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Join Tom Brown, Executive Director of Operations at Brewer Science, as he shares inspirational leadership advice and professional growth stories.


​As a wily veteran of parenting and corporate management, what I appreciate most is the ability to watch my kids grow into adults. You can share and engage them in more modern leadership styles—a shEmployeesChildren2ared leadership of trust and transparency where servant leadership begins to take root.

The challenges associated with raising young kids are squarely at odds with leadership today. The autocratic style, where you are the ultimate authority setting boundaries and providing discipline, is not found in successful companies. If there’s one thing you take away from this, please do not treat your direct reports like children.

Leadership is learned through experience and observation, putting new managers in a place where homing in on the experience as a parent might seem relevant. However, it’s essential to realize the trust is not built-in as with the relationship with your kids. At work, trust must be earned by your actions and deeds.

Helicopter Parent Equals Micromanager

Just like it is much easier to recognize when another parent is a helicopter parent, so too is it easier to recognize when another leader is a micromanager. We all know the well-intentioned parent who schedules every play date and can be found hovering nearby to prevent their fall or paint their picture—planning out the lives of their kids, orchestrating every step, and making decisions to ensure that they do not fail.

We also are familiar with the micromanager boss who proofreads every report, makes you run every decision through them, and wants to be copied on all of your emails. It doesn’t seem like a plan or experiment is ever correct unless they can add a change to make it better. You are not sure if they don’t trust you or if they don’t think you can do the job.

Don’t Make My Mistakes

The need for parents to protect their kids is natural. You try to teach and prevent mistakes from happening. You don’t want your kid touching the stove just to find out that it’s hot. So, you go out of your way to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes you did. You have probably heard the acronym FAIL: First Attempt In Learning.  We can use processes and procedures to help provide guidelines at work, but employees need to understand challenges and risk mitigation. They don’t need to be told what to do and simply execute. They need to understand so that they can grow, improve, and develop. Sharing experiences and wisdom are different from telling people what to do.

Personally, my leadership mistakes are vast and cover the gambit.  I do try to share my experiences with others so that they can add to their collective knowledge base to help make them aware of potential risks, but in the end, it is their choice on whether to accept the advice. 

Shared Vision vs. My Vision

Studies show the more recent generations entering the workforce have a greater need to be impactful and part of something larger. Because of this, it is extremely critical that leaders work with their team members to create and refine a shared vision. In past generations, the leader would set the vision, and everyone would then work towards that vision because it was their job. Now, people want to understand the why and even want to have a say in the vision. Communicating early and often is essential to aligning and growing the vision. 

My Way or the Highwayimages

“Because I said so.” How many times was that phrase uttered in your house growing up? Reflect, was this effective when your parents told you this? Didn’t you always wonder “Why?” and this lack of an answer was frustrating and counterproductive?

At work, you empower your team and work with them on skills and relationships to make decisions by those closest to the action and not have to “run them up the ladder” and await the blessing before moving forward. In a lean, fast-paced company, waiting for bureaucratic responses is the difference between world class and shutting the doors.


Empower Others

Leaders lead. That’s what they do. Whether they have the title to back them or not. Be empathetic. Treat people with respect. Encourage ownership of the problem AND the solution. 
At work, you earn the trust of your employees based on your actions. You walk the walk. You live the values and demonstrate your foundational principles. You show respect for the rules and processes. The love you show them and that they see in you. The respect you show them and others and the respect that others show to you. Living life with them and not through them is the key to seeing them take flight beyond today.

Brewer Science is a company that believes deeply in sustaining long-term success through value-based culture, diversity, and growth. Learn more about Brewer Science’s company culture.


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About Author

Tom Brown
Tom Brown

Tom received his BS in Engineering Management in 1993 from the University of Missouri-Rolla. Upon graduation, Tom began his career at Brewer Science as a part-time employee in sales and now serves as the Executive Director, Manufacturing, Quality & Logistics. Of all the exceptional aspects of Brewer Science, Tom is most impressed by working in “an environment that continually challenges you to be your best and puts you into positions that forces you to stretch beyond what you thought was possible.” He says he feels “blessed to work with so many people who share a desire to make a difference—in each other's lives, in the company, in the community, and in the industry.”

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