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Leadership Lessons from Fatherhood: 7 Key Behaviors to Adopt

Father’s Day

For a spouse, there is no joy like realizing the person you married is not only a wonderful partner but also a loving father. I can’t deny my father’s influence on me, however it’s my husband’s practices as a father and eminent physician that have shaped my thinking about the relationship between fatherhood and leadership.

With Father’s Day on the horizon in the USA, here is an argument as to why you should follow the lead of any virtuoso parent. Effective leadership includes so much more than the ofttimes cited behaviors, such as possessing a clear vision and strategic thinking. It includes what are considered characteristically positive paternal behaviors, too. Here are seven practices to keep in mind on how to start or continue your leadership journey.

  1. Patience. Many parents work very long hours at demanding careers. Yet when children ask for their time, whether to discuss the day’s events or review a challenging math problem, even if they get home late in the evening from work some fathers put off their dinner or an hour of relaxation to patiently listen, advise or support (hugs included). We expect parents to be patient, to be relationship-oriented, though some are not. For leaders, patience is an underappreciated virtue.

    David Sluss, associate professor, Scheller College of Business, Georgia Tech, conducted a survey of 578 working professionals from a wide range of industries about their immediate supervisor’s leadership behaviors and level of patience. “Their responses revealed that patience had a powerful effect: When leaders demonstrated it (meaning their employees’ ratings put them in the highest quartile), their reports’ self-reported creativity and collaboration increased by an average of 16% and their productivity by 13%,” wrote Sluss in the Harvard Business Review.

  2. Active Listening. Practicing patience goes hand-in-hand with mindful listening. Effective fathering and leadership means forgoing monologues to listen more than speak. When fathers listen to what their children say about their challenges, interests and aspirations, it’s a way to say, “I feel you; I see you; I get you.” Active listening lets your child know you are interested in what they have to say, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA.

    As a leader, active listening is a good way to improve communication with team members, corporate stakeholders, and, quite frankly, anyone else. It also facilitates better understanding.

    Building positive relations is an important part of leadership, and listening is a critical part of building good relationships. Actively listening to others lets them know that you are interested in their needs, as well as what they’re trying to say. When people feel that you care about them, it will make them more likely to follow your leadership,” says Rick Fulwiler, PhD, CIH, CSHM, President of Transformational Leadership Associates, a program director at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the former Director of Health and Safety Worldwide at Procter and Gamble.

  3. Protecting their own: For most parents, protecting children is a given. We are fearless mama and papa bears, protecting our children from harm and adversity. In the workplace, I’ve witnessed leaders who do protect their own, acting as advocates for their employees, supporting people’s promotions and providing access to special projects. I’ve also seen leaders who do not, which adversely affects their employees and relationships.
  4. Rewarding agency. Effective fathers know when to help and when to step back. Micromanaging a child or employee doesn’t allow people to feel they have any control over their circumstances. At work, an individual’s agency can constitutionally emerge but can be hampered by aspects of their environment and management. Madelyn Blair Ph.D. explains that, “Agency is about a person having both capability and permission to complete a task.”

    When I interviewed Simon Usifo, president of 72andSunny Amsterdam, about leadership for a forthcoming book about advertising, co-authored with Greg Braun, Usifo said, “True leadership focuses on empowering others to grow and setting up everyone around you for success.” 

  5. Integrity. Modeling ethical behavior, regardless of circumstances or external pressures, fathers and leaders become role models. Very simply, a parent or leader must walk the talk consistently. 
  6. Recognize unconscious bias. People have a tendency to generalize by drawing conclusions about a person based on the character of a group or community, which often can have negative consequences when examining the actions or character of an individual. Leaders must recognize instances of unconscious bias as they make decisions as well as when they assess other people’s work and opinions. Whether a father or leader, champion the individual and diversity.
  7. Lead by learning. When a parent commits to lifelong learning, a child picks up on the value of that. Whether for the sake of curiosity, enlightenment, to sharpen skills, adapt to change, or keep up to date, lifelong learning leads to personal development; you become a role model. I’d go so far as to say, if you’re a leader, you have an obligation to do everything you can to enhance your thinking, skills and knowledge base. 

When I wrote the acknowledgements for my forthcoming book, A Career is a Promise (Routledge, 2023), I was made fully aware of just how many valuable leadership lessons I had amassed from my husband. Here’s the final one I will share with you, whether father or leader, be compassionate.

Happy Father’s Day! 

Robin Landa

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insights - Leadership Lessons from Fatherhood: 7 Key Behaviors to Adopt
Robin Landa
Robin Landa is a distinguished professor at Kean University and a globally recognized ideation expert. She is a well-known creativity expert and a best-selling author of books on ideation, creativity, branding, advertising, and design. She has won numerous awards and The Carnegie Foundation counts her among the “Great Teachers of Our Time.”

She is the author of twenty-five books including Graphic Design Solutions, 6th ed. (Cengage, 2019), Strategic Creativity: A Business Field Guide to Advertising, Branding, and Design (Routledge, 2022) and The New Art of Ideas: Unlock Your Creative Potential (Berrett-Koehler, 2022). Now she is co-authoring a book for Columbia University Press titled Shareworthy: Storytelling for Advertising.

Robin Landa is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website CLICK HERE.