Leadership Lessons from Mr. Rogers

A primer of instant nostalgia for anyone who grew up within a more than three-decade period spanning 1967 to 2001, Fred Rogers’ venerable Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood has become the hallmark of wholesome educational programming for children.

From tying your shoes to standing up against racism and discrimination, each 30-minute episode featured Rogers speaking directly into the camera to his viewers sharing life lessons, stories, and a trip via trolley into the “Neighborhood of Make Believe.”

In his own way, Mr. Rogers was truly one of the greatest leaders, and his words and actions that inspired generations of children are just as relevant today for leaders at all levels of business.

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”
Once you reach a leadership position, all the hard work, learning, and development it took to get there doesn’t just come to a full stop. The most effective leaders have an insatiable thirst for knowledge and opportunities to continue developing their skills and expertise. For most, finally becoming a leader is just the beginning of the next phase in their journey.

“The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.”
Honesty is an essential quality of great leadership. Employees want to know the people who are leading them can be trusted. In fact,  according to the 2017 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, 61% of employees said trust in senior management is very important to their job satisfaction.

“Often out of periods of losing come the greatest strivings toward a new winning streak.”
You don’t become a leader without experiencing your fair share of failure along the way. In fact, it’s often in failure that someone’s leadership potential is truly defined. “Failing forward” is a key characteristic of great leadership. Instead of making a full stop and dwelling on what went wrong, learn from the mistake and keep pushing forward with the lessons that were learned. In most cases, you’ll come out on the other side even stronger than before.

“We all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are.”
Teamwork makes the dream work, and the best teams are often comprised of individuals from a broad spectrum of backgrounds, beliefs, work styles, personalities, and more. Obviously, a team needs to be able to work effectively work together, but when everyone is cut from the same cloth, you often lose the unique perspective, experiences, and expertise individuals from different walks of life bring to the table.

“The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.”
Even in the most buttoned-up work environments, great leaders know the importance of indulging their inner child from time to time. Whether it’s building up employee engagement and morale through teamwork games and outings or brainstorming a new, creative approach to a difficult project, staying curious and encouraging your teams to have a little fun is often the productivity boost they need to stay focused and moving forward.

What are some of your favorite Mr. Rogers quotes? How do you apply them to your leadership style? Let us know in the comments section below.

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