As someone who’s both a leader and a father, I find myself drawn to think about the parallels between those two roles—especially around this time of year, when Father’s Day calls us all to think about the importance of fathers and the contributions they make to the lives of those around them.
Naturally, there are some obvious distinctions between the two. The bond between parent and child goes much deeper than any connections of leadership, however close. And there are issues of control and accountability in parenting that don’t apply—at least not in the same way—in leadership.
But the bottom line is that both fatherhood and leadership are about building strong relationships with similar goals—passing along to someone else the skills and attitudes they need to navigate the path before them, then trusting them enough to let them go.
Here are some basic fathering skills that any leader can benefit from:
Be involved every day.
The old school of fatherhood delegated most of the day-to-day care to mothers, with dads swooping in from time to time to undertake a special task and then disappearing back to the den. But we now know that everyone benefits when fathers are present and involved at every step, from diaper changes to adolescent drama and young-adult transitions. It’s the same with your team—when you’re there to provide guidance and assistance every day, not just when annual evaluations are due or there’s a problem, your leadership is much more effective.
Build their confidence.
Kids who know that someone has faith in their abilities do better, and part of being a great dad is challenging them to grow while instilling them with a sense of confidence that will carry them forward through the challenges of adult life. When you apply the same kind of challenge and validation to your team members, they’re also empowered to excel—in the moment and in the years to come.
Hold them accountable.
The flip side of confidence is accountability, and good fathers make sure that their children develop a sense of accountability—for developing their strengths, working through their challenges, owning their failures, and doing what they can to make their mistakes right. In the same way, your team needs not just external systems of accountability but the expectation that every member will hold themselves accountable.
Model what you want to see.
In both cases, someone is looking to you for an example of how to act. And in both cases, it’s not enough to communicate your expectations—you have to live them to your best every day, or what you’re modeling is hypocrisy.
Whether you’re a father (or, for that matter, a mother) or not, whether your relationship with your own father was great or flawed, you can bring the highest principles of fatherhood to the relationships you build with the people you’re leading. They may not make you homemade cards or bring you waffles in bed, but you can know that they’ll carry those principles with them far into the future, whether you’re near or far.