Tuesday, September 29, 2009
"Parent"ship--Are Good Parents Considered Good Leaders?
I was talking to my mother just the other day, as I was debating topics to touch upon for the blog. To jumpstart my thought process, she asked me who I considered to be the greatest “leader.” My response: “You.” The more I dwelled upon it, the more I began to postulate about the role leadership plays in parenthood…or “parent”ship perhaps.
If you consider yourself to have grown up in what you have deemed under the guidance of great “parent”ship, reflect for a moment on what it IS about your parental figures that made them so successful in turning you as young, intelligent, achievers out into this challenging world. Did they motivate, inspire, and seek to develop you as a person? Did they lead by example? Maybe it was just their understanding and compassion that you foundation admirable?
Browsing through many of the theorists observed during class time, parenting to me exhibits several prime examples of those characteristics we as young academics have deemed “leader” worthy. Heifitz claims that leadership is value-laden that is an activity focusing on mobilizing, influencing, adaptive work, with the end-goal as the target. Could this not too be said of parents, who want their children to be independent, successful individuals? Parenting is a “relationship” just as leadership is a relationship, both between leaders and followers (MacGregor).
And isn’t communication key between parent and child with regards to expectations (Hackman and Johnson). Even obedience to authority (Milgram) is demonstrated in a “parent”ship. Don’t we ask of our children to learn to obey and respect authorities? I also would argue that the majority of parents exercise “socialized leaderhip” (Sashken), working as a leader for great goods, goals, and needs rather than their own selfish needs. What about good or poor parenting? Could we then compare this to good and bad leadership? When I think of bad parenting, I think of either emotionally overbearing parenting, or apathetic, turn-the-other-cheek parenting. I might also say the same as ineffective leaders, whose subordinates feel that their managers (key word: “managers” as opposed to leaders) either do not care about their performance, or hover to the point of inability to perform.
The role of “power” in parenting, I also see as significant. We touched on in class the hierarchy of powers during our class discussion. I have to say, I think that for parenting, the influence of the power varies over the development of the child. From young on, our parents have both a legitimate power, but also a coercive and rewards power. Maybe as a child you were rewarded when you said “please” and “thank you,” through rewarding power. But if you ever pushed back, refusing to finish your green peas, there was threatening of no desert or receiving an early bedtime. Over time though, I would ague that the power shifts from reward and coercive power, to referent and expert power. Through high-school and college, we begin to maybe not see our parents are vessels of punishment and reward, but instead as individuals once in our shoes, whom we have now come to respect.
If we are to accept that “parent”ship is a type of leading responsibility, I then postulate if leadership can be taught in such a respect. We have wondered whether leadership can or cannot be taught. I then ask, can parenting be taught or is it too situationally and innately influenced, in much the same way that we question whether leadership can be taught? Similarly, are there certain traits that might make some parents better than others, or do all parents come across the opportunity to be shaped and developed by the environment of the child? Personally, I believe that “value” can be taught. But, good parenting, or “parentship” I think is much like we have discussed in class: I think it can be improved and expanded upon, but that there are many other factors that feed into successful leaders.
“Parent”ship takes the holistic meaning of a “full-time” job. There is no “vacation” time. There is no “quitting,” “relocating,” or “firing.” It’s a commitment. I believe that parents are indeed a type of great leader. While yes, they may be able to hire and fire, and true, may have an additional emotional component to the job, I believe good parents can indeed be seen as good leaders. HOWEVER, I would argue against one who says that good leaders exhibit characteristics that make good parents.