18 March 2021
The internal changes that companies have seen over the pandemic don’t just touch the professional world. They also reach into people’s private spheres. More than ever, it’s clear to see that old leadership models no longer work. We need to break down past barriers and frameworks as we try to answer new questions with kindness. Only then will we be able to unearth the wonder that this new normal can offer us.
Fatherhood can represent a new leadership model in itself. Listening, empathy, kindness and care are the soft skills and leadership behaviours used most frequently by fathers. These same characteristics form a ‘caring leadership‘ model: something that an increasing number of companies are looking for today.
But what impact do fatherhood experiences have on leadership styles? We spoke about this further at the Life Ready Conference on the 17th March 2021: The era of father leaders – New styles of leadership one year into the pandemic. Here’s what our panel of senior management and father leaders had to say.
“From the moment we find out that we’re expecting a baby, we learn to become more attentive. We’re attentive to our partners during their pregnancies, and subsequently we’re more attentive to our children. We notice their needs, their diet, their wishlist, their routines and their sleeping patterns. This feeling has been heightened through the pandemic. We’re spending more time with each other. We’re learning to focus our attention on those around us.
When a baby is born, the people surrounding them find that their identities and roles change. They find themselves in a new context. You can notice the difference even in the words they use with each other. For example, when a child becomes a brother or sister, they are no longer the person they were before the new baby arrived. We discover who we are through our different dimensions. The same thing has happened through the pandemic: we’ve had to abandon ideas of who we thought we were in order to meet other people’s needs. We’ve learned to see ourselves through our children’s eyes. We see ourselves differently and observe ourselves from a different perspective.
“When I think about what I’ve learned through my parenting experiences, the best word I can find is kindness. We are so fortunate to be able to raise human beings. But I quickly learned that they have their own characters, their own attitudes and their own ways of doing things. Rather than trying to teach my children something, I’ve discovered the importance of helping them to discover their own potential. We can try to walk alongside them, but there’s a lot that they can do themselves. We can apply that learning to work as well. If we want to bring the best out of people, we need to show kindness. It’s what makes the world go round.
We all have different roles in life. When we’re new parents, we feel like we’re our children’s heroes. We become a point of reference for them. Then, when they grow up, they discover we’re not perfect and that we have our own weaknesses. They help us to see those weaknesses too, keeping us grounded. Essentially, our children teach us how to be humble.”
“Being a parent is a gift. It puts us in contact with others that stem from ourselves. It’s like connecting with a part of your identity that’s external to yourself. Through parenting, I’ve learned to build relationships. Children need us to walk alongside them. They expect a personal relationship, with their own individual connection to us and their unique experiences. I have four children across different ages, so fatherhood for me means developing close relationships with four different people at the same time.
I’ve also learned to develop family relationships. The concept of family grows and develops over time as new people are added into the mix. Family is like a dance, it’s complex. My relationship with my child doesn’t just involve the two of us. It’s about me and my child within the context of my relationship with my partner and our wider family. So as fathers, we need to be present. We need others to know how we feel about them. Our kids need to know that they are loved. I try to tell my kids that I love them on a daily basis. It makes them feel safe and calm, even when they’re facing complex situations. We need them to know that we are there for them. It doesn’t matter how old they are – it’s super important.
When it comes to leadership, hierarchies don’t work. Leadership has to be relational and interactive. You have to make yourself available to others. Children and employees alike need to do things for themselves. But they must never feel alone. For this to happen, they need to know they can count on their manager.”
This blog is part of a series on leadership and fatherhood. Excerpts have been translated from our recent Life Ready Conference held on the 17th March 2021: The era of father leaders – New styles of leadership one year into the pandemic.