Who’s Your Daddy
We sit at the feet of successful leaders like children being cared for by parents. Our childishness speaks to lack of power, fear of failure, and the false hope that someone will take care of us.
Adoration and need for nurture speak to lack, not sufficiency, when leaders are viewed as parents.
Leader as parent:
We’re fond of saying we want a family culture within organizations. If that means respectful relationships, caring communication, and supportive environments, I’m all for it. But…
It’s sick when “family culture” means leaders are parents.
When leaders are mommies and daddies they:
- Protect. But, employees aren’t dependent children.
- Set the rules.
- Withhold information because the kids can’t handle the truth.
- Know. All-knowing parents aren’t all knowing. They just seem that way.
- Know what’s best.
- Manipulate. “If you are a good little girl…”
- Have the power.
Grownups don’t need parents.
My dad died, June 25, 2012. I miss him. He left me a legacy of hard work, reading books, and loving mom. Some of him lives in me. I’m thankful. But, he stopped being my protector when I left home at 18.
Grownups need partners.
Partner rather than parent:
Peter Block, author of, “Stewardship,” believes partnership is a healthier way to look at our relationship with leaders. Partners:
- Share responsibility.
- Trust each other.
- Practice transparency, anything less violates the relationship. Parents aren’t transparent with children.
- Expect each other to fulfill their end of the bargain.
- Hold each other accountable.
Bonus: Partners share power.
The belief that leaders are fathers/mothers propagates helplessness and nurtures leadership arrogance and superiority. Daddy-leaders are control freaks regardless of their benevolence.
How would things change if leaders were partners rather than parents?
This entire post is inspired by my reading of, “Stewardship: Choosing Service Over Self-Interest,” by Peter Block.
I’m giving away twenty-five copies of “Stewardship.” To become eligible, leave a comment on yesterday’s post. Click here: “Overcoming the Disappointment of HR.”
Great stuff today Dan, many thanks!
I like number 2, trust each other.
When Why’s are connected trust grows, trust grows loyalty results.
M Mead paraphrased, “Couple of Why Connected Inspired Dudes and/or Dudettes can change the world”! Yep one mind at a time!
Do what get results like what the CPA firm did when they began to Start with Why. Wakey Wakey!!!! hehe
Their close rate on new business went from 30% to 90%? Wha, Wha, What? Yep 90%!
Anyone want those results in your life, business, relationships?
Start With Why!
Results not ingredients.
You made me think about the idea of following best practices. If we aren’t careful, this too becomes helplessness. Copying what others do suggests contexts are the same, they seldom are.
However, I’m not for throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Ok so the CPA Firm read Simon’s book. Started with Why, close rate went from 30 to 90%.
All right there on the video from the owner of the CPA firm.
No analysis paralysis, just simple see, do. Then results. Simple.
Wonder if the owner of the CPA firm is thinking “I am SO GLAD I did not overthink this and just DID it”?
For me context is informed. Read the book, watch the video, then have info to form an opinion. I never been to the moon so if you ask me what the moon is like I am gonna humbly respond, “don’t know never been there”. See the integrity?
This way when I do this Dan I am sharing with others my experience, not my opinion. Always seems to work out more effectively that way.
Have a great one Dan, I am!
Here is what I am for! Whatever I am doing if it is at 30% and some dude can show me a way, as long as it is ethical, legal and moral that can give me an increase in my close rate to 90%????? I am IN!!!!!!!!!!! You? Simple!
I totally agree, Dan. So many employees are frustrated and disempowered by the having a parent manager. The big question is what to do if your manager doesn’t “get it”: how do you get a Parent to become an Adult, or as you say, a Partner?
One strategy is adopt the Partner position first: take up that attitude and you may find they reciprocate. Trust is key to it, and if you show trust first the other person often matches it.
I am going to share this post with a group of alumni from my leadership classes, if I may.
Love how you added, “How do we transform parent relationships into partner relationships.” What a great question.
I’ve found Blocks book filled with practical ideas for about how to shift from helplessness to power.
Hope you left a comment on yesterday’s post – http://bit.ly/12mSr3P – to become eligible for 1 of 25 complimentary copies that I’m giving away.
Really appreciate your thoughts on how to transform the relationship. I’ve found myself in this situation over and over. (Not sure how that happens.) It’s suffocating and exhausting though, having to constantly reassert your boundaries, (which is often taken as ‘rebellion’ not surprisingly).
Thanks for sharing Dan. That’s incredibly insightful!
Seems especially important to understand when there is a large age discrepancy in an organization. Also wondering how to deal with followers who treat me like a parent. How do leaders challenge that status and move the follower into a partnership?
David, I see followers who long for daddy. I think some traditional leadership structures encourage it. Out of one side of our mouths we preach empowerment but we still need to be needed.
Moving toward partnership in my world begins when people really believe they have ownership, authority, and responsibility. It’s so easy to undermine these qualities with intervention.
In a partnership, preparation seems to be paramount. Preparing people for a new relationship by defining the relationship TOGETHER, like partners, Not unilaterally, like parents. We define the relationship not me.
Your question is powerful…maybe I’ll write about it tomorrow… who knows?
This article has undoubtedly changed my life & perspective forEVER! This was the very answer I’ve been looking for. Now that I see the error in my ways, I can make the adjustment and keep growing my business!
WOW is all I can say!
Thank you for your commitment to leadership & your commitment to your followers. Your insight is so valuable. We are grateful.
Best wishes Terris.
My experience indicates that the road from parent to partner takes some time… Enjoy…
Insightful article. In particular “#3. Practice transparency, anything less violates the relationship.”
How do you get transparency from your team?
Thanks Nancy and great question.
How do we get people to be transparent with us. ?? hmmm
Some never will. But….
1. Be transparent ourselves.
2. Reward transparency.
3. Deal openly, honestly, compassionately, with failure.
4. Help people move up and out of our departments because it’s good for them, even if it’s harder for us.
5. Expect it, call for it, and explain why it’s important…
6. Affirming and exploring, rather than correcting, when people say what they think.
7. Talking less.
8. Being candid so that people feel like their actions are based on reliable information.
9. Not protecting people from reality. Addressing tough issues with kindness.
10. Owning our failures and making them right.
11. Address their fears about transparency in gentle ways.
12. Stop acting like a superior who has all the power.
13. Negotiate the use of power… share it.
14. Care for people as people.
Looks like another post on the way… Cheers
I like “hold each other accountable”. I think we forget that accountability works both ways. How do we provide the security for people to hold us accountable? I think it boils down to a development of trust over time. What are some other pointers you might have?
Hi Anthony…great question and suggestion.
When I don’t follow through, I want to sweep it under the carpet and people don’t want to bring it up.
Mutual accountability might need to begin by holding ourselves accountable to others… “I didn’t follow through when I said I would.”
We could also ask, “What makes it uncomfortable for you to hold me accountable?”
I agree that when leaders behave like fathers, they tend to protect. And protection inhibits growth. When followers get protection, they do not learn and prone to become dependent. They also do not either achieve or explore other options. And when it comes to challenging time, they suffer because leaders do not able to protect them because of many factors.
When Leaders start behaving like partners, they allow followers to learn and feel. They become self managed team and less dependent on leaders. In such cases, leaders become mentor. I also feel that sometimes, when leaders behave like father, is helpful to followers. It depends upon the level of maturity and stage of followers. So, mixing up strategy could be better depending upon various circumstances and sensitivity of followers. So, both kind of leadership style has its own merits and demerits. Leaders need to understand what works in what situations.
Leaders could be fathers like dads are with adult children. Advisers if they have relevant experiences for example.
Thanks for sharing your insights
I like the insight. This seems so obvious but is usually the problem with many products and services. I have also seen this within an organization where the project leader will skew the project toward his own bias, leaving the end user with a suboptimal product that usually becomes an unsustained project.
Great points that I haven’t thought about, Dan. Especially in the restaurant and retail industries, managers tend to take the parental role for their team. Not surprisingly, performance falters. Just like real parents, they’re either too soft on their team or are hell-bent on protecting them…or both!
Thanks Justin…love “hell-bent.” I think it should be used more frequently. 🙂
That’s exactly where our teams are headed if we’re blinding ourselves by becoming “parents” to our followers. :-p
I think the post breaks down because it assumes that all parents do is negative. You build character, courage, integrity, decisiveness, openness, kindness, generosity, confidence and all of the “good things” we want in a Leader as well as a child.
The Mentor Leader (Father-Mother figure) is responsible to help those he is able to influence to shed the dependent ties of immaturity and embrace the role as partner.
Like raising children, the objective is to keep teaching and to be open to the time when the child begins to teach the parent. The whole family is impacted by the increase in capabilities. The parent is no longer the parent because the child makes their own decisions, they have just been very successful in the efforts that THEY have invested in the kids to get them to that point of maturity.
I think the post breaks down in several places. For example, it doesn’t take into account adult children’s healthy relationships with their parents.
The fundamental assumptions I’m poking at include, “father knows best” and the innate superiority of parents. Both of these qualities bolster our giving power to leaders and in so doing we move toward our own weakness. We embrace a subtle form of helplessness in the process.
Even the mentor/parent connection is dangerous and for the most part unuseful. My mentor isn’t my father. Mentors aren’t parents although, parents may be mentors.
On this one I am a little conflicted. I agree that I don’t necessarily want a mother or father figure as my leader. I also never look to be a father figure, but the closely related counseling figure can at times, and in certain organizations, be very helpful and even a part of empowerment as it gives guidance, understanding and direction. In most business organizations that would rarely work, but in smaller cooperative ones, it can be an effective method when kept in appropriate boundaries and balanced with other appropriate leadership styles. Which, I guess is why I believe good leaders are often very contextual to the situation.
Giving and seeking counsel seems to me to be a good thing as long as it doesn’t foster dependence which is one of the things I’m pointing out in the unhealthy leader as parent model.
Good stuff. This article really hit “home” for me 🙂 Thanks Dan.
You make me wonder, Dan . . . which is the worst kind of parent manager: The one who sustains the relationship because without it, he/she isn’t comfortable managing (and needs this particular relationship to feel confirmed as a manager)? Or the manager who feels he/she can’t loosen the reins enough to let staff members perform on their own?
Both seem dsyfunctional to me.
Although, in continuing your parental analogy, I can understand (yet, not agree with) why some managers/leaders can’t let go. As a parent, there was nothing harder than anticipating the time — then reaching the time — when I had to “release” a child to be her own person. And trust that my direction and example was enough — without me continuing to be there every step of the way.
Thanks Scott. I think your illustration points out the seduction of leadership. Leaders can be seduced by admiration, for example.
Couldn’t agree more with your observation that letting go is hard. What if they fail? What if I’m not needed?
I thought this was really good way to discribe one aspect of healthy verses unhealthy leadership!
In this reading I can see where I have been in several roles from the sparkely eyed child willing to follow anyone because of the lack of nurturing as a child to the controling leader that needs to be in a position where people need him and to the place where I am now trying to give leadership away by inviting people to join me. i have been on this journey for ten years and after reading this I m seeing that I still have work to do in some places.
Thanks for sharing this!
Welcome to the journey! Thanks for your comment
I wonder if we can’t distinguish between types of relationships with parents more.
For example, a small child to a parent is, as you say, helpless and powerless. However, the relationship between a grown adult and their parents still has many benefits without the downfall of them completely controlling me or needing their help along every step of a process.
I would not say that my relationship with my parents is that of a partnership, yet it is healthy. Simply put, they have years of experiences and knowledge I do not. I can learn from them, be counseled by them, and still gain valuable insight from them.
I agree with your premise that employees should not need to be micromanaged by their employers. I do somewhat disagree that a boss should become a ‘partner’. Ideally, that boss got there by years of hard work and experience, and, thus, this means he has tools and experiences an employee does not have.
Should we run to a boss for every problem? Should we need constant approval for our actions? Absolutely not. But I think a corporate structure benefits from having a strong, confident figure leading it. This figure is not an authoritarian, but he is an authority, a resource to be used should, and when, the time arises.
I’d like to hear your thoughts on what I’ve said. Thanks!
Thanks for your insights. Love how you expand the ideas of parent/leader.
Leaderless organizations are doomed. The question is what does “strong” and “leader” mean. I suggest in a healthy organization that these two questions are answered by everyone involved. Not exclusively by people at the top.
Could there be a “develop and release” model? ..parents don’t retain their “protection” role forever.. Are these protective instincts necessarily bad? At layoff time, when a manager works hard to facilitate smooth transitions is this “parent-like” action a bad thing? (He/she has little to gain, these people are leaving his/her influence sphere?)
Managers and Mentors are not necessarily manipulators.. IMO you have disproportionately inflated the “protective” side of managers in today’s blog. (I’ll read this again after work, perhaps I’ve missed something!)
I like this Develop and Release idea a lot. Very appropriate parenting model and leadership model for staff interactions.
Great insight Ken. Wouldn’t it be foolish to walk in one day and say, “You’re all empowered” and then walk away. Moving toward partnership is a difficult and potentially perilous journey. Develop and release makes sense. Especially if all parties are involved in both aspects of the process. Thanks
This piece is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back because most of us have been looking at our leaders as parents. We expect them to nurture and pamper us and putting aside the main goal of us being there. Therefore, it affects our growing skills related to the job because someone is always there to rescue us when we faltered.
The ideas in this post call us to grow up, take responsibility, and partner with those in our organizations. Frankly, it’s a bit unnerving to some. It’s definitely dangerous but I think worthwhile.
I think there are a lot of toxic leaders out there just like there are a lot of toxic parents.
Like the Mother Jones article this month on Meth showed, there are a lot of leaders who start cooking and using and who begin to totally ignore the needs of their children. Maybe MONEY or GREED takes the place of the chemical stimulant and drives them to focus totally on themselves and their pals and forget to benefit anyone else.
We see so much of that in so many things these days. So much of our society seems tied up in the 1% who are the Big Haves to the dreadful impact on the others.
I really do not think our Bankster Daddies are doing much for Main Street or the general population. I do not think our Congressional Daddies are doing much for job creation or for the poorest and neediest.
We DO need to be more like a family in many ways. And the parents with power need to pay more attention to the development of the kids.
Love your last sentence … if we ever expect to move into partnership we need to develop people.. daddies included. Thanks for your insights.
An eye opening post! The normal perception of a leader is changed once you understand the difference between the role of a father and that of a partner.
A partner brings in equality in many things and a collaborative approach to work jointly and succeed with combined strengths of a similar type or diversed, yet complimentary to bring in the extra vigor to succeed.
Hope, the leaders at the top level realizes the relevance and importance of working as partners and trust their followers with greater respect and freedom for their contributions.
Dr Asher, thanks for listing out some advantages to partnership…the idea is useful and powerful for organizations. Cheers.
This is absolutely true. At organizations you tend to see the leaders like some sort of parents, we trust in them and expect them to protect us in certain way, but the true is that we´re all partners and we should all share responsabilities and trust each other like you said. Great Post!
Thanks and best wishes!
And they all said, “AMEN!”
Please excuse me. Must now leave to share this on Twitter about a million times over.
Thanks Drew and thanks for your support!
Great ideas Dan. Sorry to hear about your dad. Lost my mom last summer also. Seems like some cultures tend to be more paternalistic.
This is an interesting post.
The list above of what parents do…is no more inspiring a model for parenting then it is for leadership.
I believe great leadership, like great parenting ( or great teaching for that matter), at its best is less about power or position and more about the quality of relationships and love.
Great leaders create safe environments for people to grow, to express their ideas and perspectives, take initiative, exercise and develop judgment, pursue their aspirations- and become increasingly co-creative partners-
I believe schools and families could benefit from the wisdom that is emerging from the neuroscience of leadership, and from the kind of WE-centric, engaging cultures and environments that great leaders create.
Thanks for another though-provoking post.
I’m thinking of this from the “Spiritual Father” perspective. How many ministries are dysfunctional because of this mentality. You are very point on. This type of culture within churches stunts growth because the Father type leader is too insecure and controlling to develop true leaders among “sons and daughters”.
Years ago I heard a quote from a pastor with the Willow Creek Association. He said that during job interviews he would ask himself “What does this person need from me and will I need to re-parent them”. Sadly as a leader I have found myself asking that same question. Do they have needs that were never met at home? Do they have a problem with authority because it was abused in the home? Maybe the question should be “who was your daddy” rather than “who’s your daddy”?
Thank you for this brilliant post! This is truly a very good read! I love #1 and #4. I think they work hand-in-hand. Sharing responsibilities and expecting each other to fulfill their duties is a must. Thank you for this amazing article!