As a parent, how would you describe your leadership style?
Sometimes you may feel like a jolly clown jovially leading your kids, while other times you may feel like a ferocious wolfman chasing your kids around the house while they scream. Or maybe you feel like the Pillsbury dough boy who giggles whenever his belly is poked, or other times you feel like a dictator whose orders must be heeded….or else. However you would describe your parenting leadership style, everyone has a style.
Leadership style refers to the way you think about how you lead others. It’s the way you make decisions and how you view yourself in relation to your employees (children). It refers to how you solve problems and accomplish goals. Leadership style matters in organizations and it’s interesting how much research has gone into effective leadership styles. If it’s important for great organizational leaders to understand how they lead others, then parents should also. I’d like to talk about 4 different styles, authoritarian, participative, and situational, focusing mostly on situational. Before I begin this discussion, it is important to note that in the business world these styles refer to how one effectively accomplishes tasks. As a parent it’s best to look at these through the eyes of how you accomplish tasks and make decisions with your children, not as behavior-modification tools.
Autocratic Leadership Style:
Autocratic leaders retain most of the authority in their business, organization, or household. They are very goal-oriented. They make confident decisions, expect that people will follow through, and aren’t too worried about what people think of their decisions (Dubrin, 2013).
If you think about it, this has been the dominant leadership style for hundreds, even thousands of years. Kings and queens, ladies and lords maintained authority while ruling the land. Modern organizations were built around the boss who made the big decisions. This has influenced our idea of family where the parent confidently leads his/her family and expects them to follow his/her lead. Obedience in all things should be immediate and absolute.
Pos.: If your family needs a change, is working towards a goal, or needs something done, this is an effective leadership style (Bawany, 2015, p. 29). Autocratic leadership is also very effective in a crisis (2013). This leadership style sets clear expectations and can also effectively paint a vision for the future. Things can get done faster.
Neg.: As society and business has slowly moved away from this as the dominant leadership style, so too is the family. This style can be polarizing and challenging to an employee who thinks differently than the leader. It runs the risk of missing out on creative solutions for the sake of speed.
Participative Leadership Style
Participative leaders are open and make decisions side by side with employees. They might collaborate or consult with employees before making a final decision. They encourage group discussion and invite feedback (2013).
Pos.: This style of leadership is great for development and employee empowerment. It gives space and time for effective and creative problem solving. Employees grow in responsibility and ownership of the organization and vision.
Neg.: This leadership style inevitably leads to many meetings and so takes a lot of time. A problem can also arise if the employees polled for a decision are unreliable or immature. The family that asks their kids what they should have for dinner every night would probably only eat pizza.
Trait Leadership Theory
This theory focuses on the traits or behaviors of a quality leader. For example, the authors of The Leadership Challenge have been doing research since the late 1980’s on traits of a leader people will willingly follow. They’ve surprisingly found that 5 specific traits have stayed at the top of the list for the past 30 years and that these traits remain high across the globe. The top 5 traits of a quality leader are honesty, forward-thinking, competent, and inspiring (Kouzes & Posner, 2012, p. p. 35). The goal of trait theory is to identify desirable traits and then develop these traits in ourselves as leaders.
Pos.: The best part of trait theory is that it makes leadership attainable to anyone. Everyone can work to develop certain traits in themselves.
Neg.: The downside to trait theory is that it doesn’t go very far to explain how a leader acts, thinks, or makes decisions. I could say the best fireman is brave, but that doesn’t clarify how a good fireman should behave and make decisions to be the best fireman. It’s a helpful puzzle piece, but not the whole picture.
There are all kinds of leadership theories and each are effective in their own way. It is helpful and important for parents to consider how they make decisions and accomplish tasks with their children. Which of these three do you feel most connected to? There’s still one more I’d like you to consider- Situational Leadership Theory.
Also, if you like this idea and would like to learn more, look into parenting styles. It lists 4 styles as you can see discussed here. Here’s an image showing the 4. My issue with these 4 is that they each seem pretty extreme and it creates only one ideal style while the rest will create terrible, evil children. I don’t think that’s realistic.
Don’t forget to like, share, or subscribe to these posts. I began a group on Facebook called Thorne Inc., specifically for posts about parenting like this. I share a few funny memos and such there that I don’t post here. Enjoy!
- Bawany, S., (2015). Importance of leaders with the right leadership styles. Leadership excellence essentials presented by HR.com. Sept.
- Dubrin,A., (2013). Leadership (7th ed.). South-Western: Cengage Learning.
- Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge. San Francisco: The Leadership Challenge.