Leadership in families is (also) no longer what it used to be

Drath (2001)* formulates three knowledge principles about leadership. They describe wonderfully the evolution of leadership. Also in family settings.

1) Leadership is a personal thing. The leader determines the vision, expects loyalty and is personally responsible for adaptive change. Followers follow because they trust the capacities of their leader. Leadership development is developing the leader and a matter of selection and succession planning.
Translated to families: the paternalistic family, with the father as the unquestioned authority figure, the mother as a ‘middle manager’ of the household, and the children as obedient followers. Leadership happens when mother and children are loyal. Challenging the authority of the father is disruptive.

2) Leadership as influence. There’s still a leader responsible for the direction, but he/she engages actively with the group. Commitment is alignment. It has to be earned, and adaptation to change can be bottom up. Followers follow because they have voice and their perspective is taken into account. Leadership development is developing influencing skills and a relational leadership identity.
Translated to families: the modern families with mothers and fathers who negotiate actively, influence each other and involve the children in the decision process. Pure command is no longer accepted. Leadership is earned by influencing, empowering, being open for debate. The person with the most influence on the direction of the family and aligns it’s members is the leader of the family.

3) Leadership as dialogue. Leadership happens in the co-construction of a new reality between equally important partners with different world views. Leadership is coordination and shared sense making. Commitment is to the process, not to individuals. Everybody is responsible for the collective leadership. E.g. two competitors who work together on a strategic project, the European Union without one “ruler”. Dialogue with as goal to understand the other is key in leadership development.
Translated to families: co-parenting. Father and mother are in it together, share the work, but can no longer dominate one another, not by authority and not by influence. If they try to dominate and push their own agenda, they and their children loose. If they are involved in a continuous dialogue with each other, their children, the new partners and their parents and so on, they create a unique and flourishing eco-system that transcends the different value systems and enables direction, commitment and adaptive change for the children.

Any comment?

*DRATH, W. (2001). The deep blue sea. Rethinking the source of leadership. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass, 185 p.


About Koen Marichal

Director Future Leadership Initiative at Antwerp Management School
This entry was posted in 2. Shared & collective, Comments & events, English and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Leadership in families is (also) no longer what it used to be

  1. Pingback: Obama & Romney: different leadership mindsets | Thefutureleadershipinitiative

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