Leadership and Parenting Lessons from The Subway

Lessons from The SubwayI had to tell you this story especially after I wrote a few days ago on permission. It was a packed, yet eerily quiet subway car during rush hour. As I waited on the platform everything seemed normal…lots of people waiting and ready to go to work. Some people with coffee, some listening to music, and some like myself, reading. As the train approached I was not prepared for what I would experience as I stepped on the number 4 train. What turned out to be a horrible experience ended up being lessons from the subway.

As I took that step onto the subway I heard a very annoying and loud scream from what sounded like a little boy. I thought to myself…this is kind of crazy, but the screaming stopped as quickly as it started. As I nestled into the crowd I began to hear a man about 10 ft. from me talk to himself about something being “f’d” up, and he went on and on for at least 10 minutes…until.

Until, he was out matched by this little boy who out of nowhere began his screaming tirade again. This time he added to his tantrum by kicking the seat and punching the windows. Now he didn’t use the language that the gentlemen a few feet from him did, but he did express his hatred for the 4 train and how he wanted to throw it in the trash.

Personally, I have a dislike for the 4/5/6 train like most people, but I do respect it as my main form of transportation.

Back to the story. This tantrum went on for the entire trip. All the while his mother allowed it to go on. There were a few instances where she told him to “shut up”, and “I’m going to call your father right now”, which is funny because you can’t use the phone down there, and then she began to use the “f” word at this 7 year old boy. And it all started to make sense.

Luckily for me they actually got off on the same stop as me, and I saw this boy bite his mother on the arm!

The light went on, and I realized something: what I permit to happen will continue to happen. As I parent, if I let my children get away with disrespect then it will continue. If I let them throw a fit in an effort for them to get their way then behavior like that will continue. Same is true in leadership. If I permit team members to perform in a way that is not productive then it will continue to happen. 

The other lesson that I learned is; what I model to those I lead will be repeated. This boy deserved extreme discipline for the way he acted, but it is really not his fault. Bad children are a result of bad parenting. The boy was just modeling what he has seen. The mother is modeling what she has seen.

And in the workplace staffers model what they see from those that are above them.

The sad thing is the first man I mentioned who was talking to himself is who the little boy will turn out to be. That is the model for his future.

What are the things you are permitting to happen under your watch, and how can you begin to model something different?

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  • Dan Black

    Great thoughts here!!! Reading this reminds me about how our actions and attitude can impact those around us.

    • Luke Roland

      Thanks Dan!