GUEST BLOG — by Matt Sweetwood (@MSweetwood)

There’s no shortage of articles out there about what it takes to make a great leader and plenty of articles on what it takes to be a great parent (see my blog). And maybe not that many folks who have figured out how to be great at either. I have aspired to both myself, as the single and sole parent of five children for over 18 years and president of NJ’s largest camera store and photographic supply company, for over 30 years with 80 employees.
It’s occurred to me that that maybe the skills of being a great parent and a great leader aren”t that far apart. What if they are actually the same thing?

Here’s how I see the four fundamental qualities you need to be a great leader in business:

  1. You need to be desperate for success. Competition is fierce, government regulations and taxes always increase, costs always rise, technology advances quickly, and the unexpected happens. Desperation comes from knowing failure could happen at any time as you need to stay on top of it all, 24/7.
  1. You have to be creative – no way around it – otherwise you just come up with mediocrity and the competition will pass you by. In the 1990’s I use to say, “If your business is not growing it’s dying.” In 2015 my proverb is, “If you aren’t re-inventing yourself frequently, you’re dying.”
  1. You have to be inspirational. Want to have productive and loyal employees? Want customers to be advocates for your business? Only inspirational leaders accomplish both.
  1. You have to stay open to synchronicity, intuition and the very real possibility that you don”t know all that you need on your own. Putting yourself out there listening to those that know better and believing with all your heart that it’s going to succeed.

And of course you can”t pull off any of those leadership qualities without energy. I realize I get my energy from my kids – To feed them, provide for them, get them through college and provide for a BIG and happy life for all of us. This gets me going every time.


And this brings me to the four things I aspire to and I believe helped me, and still help me to be a great (according to my kids and their online casino fabulous lives) parent.

  1. I am desperate for their success – for all five of them to live healthy, happy and autonomous lives. And executing individual life plans, with desperation and sacrifice, to get them there.
  2. I have to be creative every day – otherwise they learn to be mediocre and I become more mediocre by the day.  My life gets smaller, boring and the fun disappears. There was no way to raise five kids on my own, run a business, and have an enjoyable life without being creative in making all of that happen simultaneously.
  3. I need to be inspirational – inspire them to do their best – inspire them to want to please themselves and me – inspire them through trust and inclusion. And of course inspire them as their sole parental role model. I repeated to myself daily, “kids do as you do.” Want them to be leaders, be a leader by example to them.
  4. I have to stay open to synchronicity, intuition and let me just say it – “God.” The great joy, mystery and results in my children”s lives that seemed so implausible at the time their mother abandoned us all 18 years ago and I sat there a young man who needed desperately to grow up myself – never truly came from me alone. Yet somehow in the end, against difficult odds, we made it – and made it big.

And so in looking at what it takes to be both a great leader and a great parent, I”m thinking they are one in the same.

What do you think?


Matt Sweetwood Bio:

Over the past two decades, Matt Sweetwood has become the nation’s leading advocate for single dads everywhere. In 1996, after his wife’s personality disorder turned violent, Matt was awarded full custody of their five children ages 18 months to 8 years old. Since then, he raised his children on his own, gaining expertise in a range of single parenting and custody issues, including dating while caring for children and the legal, social, academic, and institutional prejudices against men who are single parents. Today Matt’s children are grown, and he is currently writing his first book, a free-ranging and heartfelt memoir of his experiences

Matt has appeared as a regular contributor on Fox News, NBC Today Show, CBS TV, News 12 NJ, Sports Radio NY, and other high-profile programs. He has also spoken publicly for organizations like Panasonic, Canon, PMDA, UPS, FedEx, NJ Devils Hockey and BMW CCA, and is a member of the prestigious CMO Club.

Proving his contention that single dads can lead exciting, balanced lives, Matt is a die-hard NJ Devils’ hockey fan, an advanced auto racer with the BMW Club, and of course, an avid photographer. He holds degrees in mathematics from Rutgers and the University of Pennsylvania.

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