5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Son

April 5, 2018

Sara Eolin

Sara Eolin is the founder and managing director of Rocket Film. As a successful business leader, there isn’t a single part of her business that she’s not involved in, whether it’s biz dev, on-set production, or management. As a veteran of the production industry for over 15 years, Sara’s career spans from assistant producer at Grey, director of integrated production at Lowe, to executive producer at Aero Film before founding her own production company.

“Business Leader” and “Mother” aren’t titles that go together as often as they should. Several things empowered me to grow my career, but nothing like being a mother to my son. Being a mother meant making constant decisions that will have a lasting impact for a lifetime. A LIFETIME. In many ways, business is much, much easier, and certainly helped retune my outlook on my life in the field for the better. Here are some of the top tips that I’ve learned from my son…. 

Know your audience 

Nate, the tiny New York-accented Buddha that he is, offered his wisdom on this when I asked the question all parents ask their child, “Why do you talk about butts all the time?”  Nate looked at me with intense seriousness, “Because it always gets a laugh.” He’s right! In a room full of eight-year-olds, it does.

Remember who you’re talking to. Think about their POV. I once had a boss that complained about the toilsome upkeep on his Porsche. I was low on the totem pole and was worrying if I could afford to buy chicken that week.  As a leader, you don’t get to complain to people who work for you. It only makes you look petty and create resentment. (Also, over the age of nine, cool it with the butt talk.)

Get enough sleep 

I joke that Nate has two states: happy and tired. Every time I try to wrap my brain around why he’s being difficult, I always think back to how much sleep did he get? It’s directly linked to being level-headed, having the patience to listen, and make good decisions.

Not only do you need to get enough sleep, but you shouldn’t ask or expect your people to work ridiculous hours. Lack of sleep makes everyone edgy and nobody does their best work when they are exhausted. It can also make you clumsy, which is dangerous. It’s just not worth it. Get some sleep! As everyone knows: clear head, full heart, can’t lose. 

Honesty is the best policy

Say you’re not supposed to use your iPad until the weekend. But it’s a half day from school on a Thursday. That’s kinda like a weekend? You’re told "no," but sneakily bring it into bed anyway. Busted. 

Remember, you’re always caught in a lie. Be it a white lie, big lie, or telling someone they’re doing a great job when they’re not, it’s really hard to always tell the truth—especially when you think telling a slight fib would be easier in the short term. It’s worse when it comes back and bites you in the ass, and it always does. And when you’re running the show, that chips away at others' trust in you, and your reputation is the most important currency you have.

Foster motivation, not competition

On the first day of soccer camp, I asked Nate how it went and he said, “GREAT! We TIED! And I caught a butterfly!” He’s not a competitive kid, but that doesn’t mean he’s not motivated. He can tie. That doesn’t mean that they’re both equally mediocre. It can mean that there is a wealth of greatness.

Succeeding in business doesn’t have to be to the detriment of someone else. More than one can succeed. Building up others around you makes the industry better and stronger, which creates stability. I’d rather tie on top of a skyscraper than win on top of a sand castle.

Don’t trust a fart

Welcome to the world of an eight-year-old boy, everyone! Bear with me a moment...Nate had a stomach bug and was on the mend. We were sitting at the table and his eyes grew wide and he ran from the table to the bathroom. He comes back and proudly proclaims, “Well, never trust a fart!” Gross, but super on-point.

The nice way to put this is truly, don’t take routine things for granted. Things that happen all the time can get overlooked to the point where if they backfire, you can have a big mess. Don’t ignore the people who do their job so well, as if you don’t even realize they’re there. Recognize and appreciate them the most.

Author's note: I’m VERY sorry to speak about you as a metaphorical fart, but when Nate’s older, this will be a much more poetic article…Promise.

Sara Eolin