Most of us are inclined to consider seven-year-old children harmless. If they’re not controlled, they can however cause devastation.
A recent report from the US of a seven-year-old boy shooting dead his grandmother for insisting that he clean his room ended in a double tragedy when the boy ran away immediately afterwards and killed himself.
A story like this demonstrates just how dangerous a seven-year-old can, in fact, be.
When a child is not taught from young to control their emotions, things can very quickly get out of control with tragic results. In a world where children are taught to express themselves with very little self-control, we would do well to consider the role that control plays in the development of good leaders.
Volumes of books and dozens of courses exist to explain the difference between influence and control. They explain that leaders must seek to influence rather than control people.
There is however a need for more than influencing skills if you want to succeed as a leader. You need some very strong "control" skills as well, but not in the way you might think. And you must learn to apply these control skills to a very significant person in your life – YOU.
The person you really need to learn to control is the seven-year-old child who lives inside of you and who has been living inside of you, well, ever since you were seven. That seven-year-old child NEVER wants to grow up and will therefore always remain seven and stubborn, and therefore wants to behave exactly how s/he wishes.
Now you might be surprised to learn that you’ve still got a seven-year-old child living inside you so, if you’re battling to believe this, consider the following …
Ever been cut off in traffic? Remember how angry you got? Remember how you swore and felt the blood boil inside of you? Remember how you wondered how dare that person do what they did to you? That was your seven-year-old child.
Ever reacted spitefully to something someone said to you – even though you regretted it afterwards? Remember how you couldn’t stop yourself even though you knew you shouldn’t say what you said? That was your seven-year-old child. And the more you think about it, the more you’ll find how in charge your seven-year-old child really is.
I have engaged with many executives who can’t control their seven-year-old child. They don’t realise how foolish they make themselves look. Many politicians can’t control their seven-year-old child and neither can many sports people. As you think about it, you’ll recognise people you live with and work with who can’t control their seven-year-old child.
Now that you know about your seven-year-old child, what can you do about it? Firstly, you need to acknowledge the existence of the seven-year-old living inside of you. If you’re going to live in denial about this, your seven-year-old will continue to run the show for you with embarrassing results.
Parents around the world will agree that a seven-year-old child is a challenge. They know just how wilful a seven-year-old is. They know how difficult it is to discipline them and how stubborn a seven-year-old can be.
You therefore have to be brave when you face your seven-year-old head on when they want to have their own way. It takes courage to handle a seven-year-old child. It’s not for the faint hearted. That’s why many parents buckle. As a parent you are not there to win a popularity contest, so, next time you find the seven-year-old child inside of you wanting to have its way, be firm, stop it in its tracks and don’t give in to its immature, selfish, spoilt behaviour.
If you don't control your seven-year-old, it will embarrass you, hold you back and make a fool of you. It will cause problems in your interpersonal relationships and cause you to lose credibility so that no-one will take you seriously and you will never have much influence over others. They will never tell you this, so you will never know.
Only once you’ve got a firm hold on your seven-year-old’s behaviour, can you start to build your credibility and influence. Of course, once you've got that kid firmly under control, do you know what your next challenge will be? Putting up with all the other seven-year-olds around you – and that’s going to really test your emotional maturity!
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches business leaders and managers of all generations how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the "Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter".