THE PARENT LEADERSHIP PARADIGM

https://youtu.be/n59ljFfdSQc

The often rehearsed concept and statement that we hear today, not just in Christian circles, but also in corporate sectors, is the term servant leadership. This has gained acceptance in contrast to and as opposed to professional leadership. I term all other previous leadership styles, viz. traditional, charismatic and bureaucratic, as professional leadership.

Traditional leadership is where power is given to the leader based on traditions of the past and their power was tied to their past leaders. The traditional leadership style is based on the belief that power is bestowed on the leader, in keeping with the traditions of the past. 

Charismatic leadership is basically the method of encouraging particular behaviours in others by way of eloquent communication, persuasion and force of personality. Charismatic leaders motivate followers to get things done or improve the way certain things are done. 

Bureaucratic leadership is one whereby employees are made to follow specific rules and lines of authority created by the superiors. These leaders function based on official regulations fixed by higher authorities within the organization. The bureaucratic leadership pattern focuses on the administrative needs an organization has and is used mostly in the public sector, which relies heavily on consistency and adherence to rules and regulations to get whatever results they seek.

In contrast, the servant leader’s goal is to serve rather than just focusing on the thriving of their company or organizations. Servant leaders have turned the traditional power leadership model upside down, putting the people, or employees in a business context, at the very top and the leader at the bottom. Armed with the attitude to serve the employees above them, servant leaders focus on ‘empowering and uplifting those who work for them rather than  commanding, showing humility instead of brandishing authority, and always looking to enhance the development of their staff members in ways that unlock potential, creativity and sense of purpose.’  

Even though the Servant Leadership concept and practice are much superior to professional leadership motifs, I believe that there is yet another leadership way which is higher and nobler. This leadership type, modelled, championed and showcased in the Bible, can be named or termed as parent leadership. 

The main focus of parent leadership is nurture rather than just achieving outcomes, attaining goals or reaching targets. It is about shaping and moulding the individual, considering them as inheritors of the leader’s character, culture, ethics, especially in work. 

Marks of parent leadership

  1. A parent leader focuses on the person in addition to overseeing the completion of the task and achieving of the desired outcome. He or she considers grooming of the individual as being of paramount importance as much as the completion of the job on hand.
  2. A parent leader measures his or her output or success by the transformation of the person, rather than just by the output gained in the successful completion of the job or project entrusted to them.
  3. A parent leader finds motivation, energy and fulfilment in the outcome of the person, ie., how the people entrusted to them shape up. They pour their enthusiasm into identifying and learning about the individual and what motivates them and then use these inputs to form the individual. 
  4. A parent leader has the uncanny ability to see below the surface and identify potential as well as weaknesses that are inherent in their trainees. Their focus will be to fortify and make room for their strengths while helping them to overcome weaknesses and flaws that will hinder the progress of the individual.
  5. A parent leader understands that changing the person, though it needs more effort and time, will ultimately result in better project results and more successful task outcomes.
  6. A parent leader takes responsibility for the individual and is empathetic, both to the dreams and failures of their team members. He or she does not throw their people under the bus, but stands up for them and pleads their cause.
  7. A parent leader considers those under him or her as disciples, protegees and inheritors, rather than as just employees or co-workers or team members.
  8. A parent leader is secure in who they are and hence do not find it hard to rejoice in the successes of their people. In fact, they feel thrilled when those under them do overtake them, for they know the part they played in that growth.
  9. A parent leader always gives his or her blessing to those who branch out from under their care. They willingly allow them to move on for they know how far they can impact. They understand that for the person to stay behind would stunt growth and therefore, release their personnel to fly high.
  10. A parent leader is never fearful of damaging his or her reputation by exercising strict discipline or strong measures. Their goal is to do so for the benefit of the person and hence are unafraid to exercise the rod, when and where it is required.

Parent leadership combines all of the other leadership styles, but adds a distinct and unique ingredient to it that spices up and flavours their craft – the art of care and nurture. 

Parent leadership is considering those given under you as your progeny and therefore, learning to rejoice in their growth and prosperity.

Parent leadership involves self-sacrifice and humility. It is to understand your own limits and limitations, comprehend the part you have to play and be willing to step back, into obscurity if needed, in order for your apprentices to move forward.

True Biblical leadership is parent leadership, especially in the church. It is no wonder leaders in the church need to have proven their mettle at home. It is in nurturing their families and taking responsibility for their growth and progress, leaders learn the art of parenting well. It is then they become eligible to lead and exercise authority in the bigger family, the church!

To the professional or traditional leader, his management is a post, a position and a vocation. 

To the servant leader, his administration is not a vocation or a style. It is a calling, stewardship and an influence! 

However, to the parent leader, his persuasion is a commitment and a sacred trust. To him or her, getting the work done is not enough; seeing their charge blossom and flower means much more. To them to see their ‘kid’ transform is reward enough.

Is it hard to believe such leaders exist? Is it a myth to expect parent leadership?

Maybe so, but I believe such leaders do exist. Many a teacher or instructor fully functions as a parent leader.

A parent leader is a rare find.

Blessed are if you find one or are under one!

*Pic courtesy google images

CARING FOR THE UNDERDOG

There was this guy who asked to be in my team for two reasons. One, he wanted to be part of the task we were handling. Two, he desired to be part of the team since few of them had become his friends. If people chose to be part of my group and request to be part of it, I generally will accept. I will check with their previous group head for an assessment, but will still take them in considering it a privilege that they chose to be under me. I may have reservations about them, but would wait to see their progress.

Now this guy did not come with great recommendations or experience. He quite new to it all and I was told that he may not measure up to standards. When I interacted with him, however, I sensed that he was one who had potential and content. I saw him as a raw recruit who could go either way and I would need to go the extra mile to train him. If he did not disapprove others’ negative report, I could end up with a question mark against my leadership. He was a risk to undertake.

Yet, I took him up and made him part of my team for two reasons – one, he was not tricky type of person but one with pure heart; two, I love a challenge, especially where everyone says it can’t be done. Call it my perversity if you want, but if it is said this is impossible, that’s when my hackles rise. I will take up the dare just to prove otherwise, more so if it is regarding a person!

It was not easy handling him for he was a live wire, very enthusiastic with high level of energy that would often exhaust me. Keeping him in line without getting unduly upset or angry was a challenge. To correct without breaking his spirit, to encourage experimentation without damage to others, to rein in his high hopes without destroying his outlook was an additional task over and above the project demands. What kept me going was the fact that someone chose to do that for me, paving the way for to be recognized as a leader.

It is very easy to take a top dog and polish him up or display him or her as a trophy of your skill. That is what is usual everywhere and leaders generally tend to be wary of the underdog. It doesn’t take much to polish a diamond with the right shaping and setting, but it tests your mettle to recognize a coal can be made into a diamond and be the furnace that would bring that transformation. It is easy to take a student with 80% marks and give the teaching and training to achieve centum, but to take a 50% or even a just pass case and make them achieve 90-100% is costly and time-consuming.

We often take the easy way for that is the seemingly smart thing to do. Yet, if the Lord had thought of any of us like that, we wouldn’t be where we are today. A story is told of Michelangelo, the greatest sculptor and painter of all times. His teacher presented his class with a piece of exquisite marble and asked them what they saw. Everyone commented on the texture, shape, size, its pristine colour and other aspects/attributes of the stone. Michelangelo said, I see an angel in it. His master’s reply: Go and release it!

That’s what confronts us when we meet people or are given a team to lead. To become a master craftsman is to have insight to see through the exterior of words, conduct, appearance and shortcomings and penetrate to the core. It is to draw out the hidden talents of the person, give room for errors, take responsibility for any damage that ensues and patiently endure even ridicule from your peers. It is a patient carving of a soul through the chisel of correction and the soft tapping by the mallet of discipline, taking care not to damage the costly marble – the precious human spirit.

David, the shepherd boy, was an underdog in the family. Born in a family of 11 (his father Jesse had 8 sons and 3 daughters), he was given the most in important task of all – acting for the sheep. When there was an important occasion, Prophet Samuel’s visit to his home, he wasn’t even considered important enough to be called home to be part of the feast. Samuel had to specifically ask for him before he was summoned. Yet this one who was considered the most insignificant of all was the one God chose to become king over the nation.

Beloved by God, the Psalmter of Israel, he became the forerunner of the true Shepherd of Israel, Jesus Christ. Slayer of a giant, Goliath, a mighty man of valor, worshipper par excellence, he rose to be the best ruler of all and henceforth, to be known as of his lineage was considered an honor and a privilege.

God saw the underdog and picked him up to be His own shepherd for the nation. Through him the country became consolidated and a power to be reckoned with. God saw his heart that was oriented towards Him and passionate for His glory and he earned the divine favor.

A leader must be sensitive enough to be able to look beyond the outside to recognize the potential within. A leader must develop intuition and discernment to be able to pick a gem hidden in a covering of dirt and then work hard to scrape away until it’s worth is seen. A leader must not reject, but be quick to identify, single out and nurture the underdog.

The guy I was speaking about rose to the occasion and proved his accusers and doubters wrong. He grew to be worthy of a team and I recommended him to be made a leader. What touched me much was his willing submission, ability to listen to reason, take correction and bounce back even from confrontation with renewed vigor and strength. He is one whom I consider a feather in my cap and I am always proud to refer to him as an example of what acceptance and care can do.

To identify potential and input for it to be released is exhilarating!

To care for the underdog is any day rewarding and refreshing!

BEING THE LEAD DOG

In the Arctic areas, dog sleds have been traditionally in use for transportation, hauling supplies in areas inaccessible by other methods and in the explorations of the Arctics. Sled dog teams delivered mail to rural communities in Alaska and northern Canada and even today are being used by some rural communities, especially in areas of Alaska and Canada and throughout Greenland. They are also used for recreational purposes and racing events, such as the Iditarod Trail and the Yukon Quest.

The most critical part of the team, lead dogs set the pace and keep the other dogs on the trail. They are the dogs that respond to the musher’s commands of “gee” (right turn) and “haw” (left turn). Lead dogs must be alert and intelligent so they can find and follow the trail when it is covered over with snow. They do so through smell, sensing where other teams have passed, and feel, by feeling with their feet the packed trail beneath the loose snow covering. They also keep the other dogs in the team moving by pulling the gangline taut. Some dogs make better leaders in certain weather conditions but not others.

Being a leader rests not just on the ability to lead, but also on how well you can lead, especially in times of crises. Leader is one who leads by example and has the boldness to tell others, follow me. A leader by profession is different and distinct from one who is by instinct and by nature. The former does it for a season, for a time period, at certain places, because he/she has been given or placed in a position and for a compensation. The latter is a leader, wherever, whenever, always, irrespective of whether they are given or placed in a position and granted a wage or reward. Such a person will not abandon ship nor throw in the towel, but will rather forfeit their own benefits and prioritize the interest of the whole team. These are gems, stars that shine clear and bright, rare indeed is their kind!

Leaders, who lead just because they are one, don’t look for position nor vie for it, but do what they have to do just because of who they are. They lead on and by the authority of their nature or character, rather than by the power and authority of a position, or by rules and regulations or even a following. They are far removed from petty power struggles and fighting for their rights as they are secure in who they basically are and what they are destined to do. Such leadership, though normally intrinsic and inborn, can of course be learnt and acquired, if the basic principle involved here is understood. In such a kind of leading and mentoring, being (character, nature) supersedes demanding, talking, instructing, commanding or even doing. Here the power of leadership exists in the person and in who they are rather than what they do, by virtue of an endless life than of action. This is the secret behind the seeming reason for their security in the face of adversity or opposition or even rejection.

A leader of influence needs to understand the power of non-verbal impartation over verbal communication. A simple short movie done some years ago for a competition portrayed the progress of a yawn around a group of people. One person yawning set a series of yawns that traveled quite a distance around the area. Such is the power of example and existence! Impartation is a powerful aspect of leadership that is often neglected in favor of verbal use or abuse. If you want people to follow you even when you suggest the most outrageous risks and undertakings, learn to concentrate on growing and improving who you are, rather than what you do. Do not use camouflage or subterfuge to mask your inadequacies, but learn to be transparent and forthcoming. I often listen to Indra Nooyi, not because of her position, but more because I can see that what she says is who she is. She is not mouthing fancy words or clichés because she has to, but because she has practiced what she is articulating.


A leader cannot lead his/her people beyond who he/she is or what he can do and how far he has grown.  That’s why for your leadership to be sustainable or sustained, put efforts into improving who you are through some study or training and being mentored. Actually, a leader who is not being led cannot lead others, for he is not accountable, learning or improving. A true leader will seek counsel and advice to grow, consistently expand his/her horizons, continuously develop lateral skills and constantly supplement his/her own capabilities. Such person will always be a student so as to function effectively as teacher and leader. Life with or under such a person will be a roller-coaster of adventure as they are never static and set in their ways, but dynamic and ever self-actualizing in every instance.

I love that the Bible talks about Jesus, the greatest leader who led by example, as someone who ‘began to do and teach’. Any follower of this greatest teacher and rabbi of all times who led by example and see the impact as well as reach that He has had for and on generations, will not hesitate to emulate it.

Everything you say or do as a leader will be colored and coded by who you are. The context of your words will be the content of your life and the consequence of your being, rather than the cosmetic or costume of your appearance. Even though these latter do play a part in presentation, the completeness of your self will unconsciously compliment and complement as well as complete the core of your communication and determine as well as decide the success of it. If your being doesn’t back up your doing or your saying, people will accept you or your commands because they have to and not because they want to! By virtue of their position under you, they will honor you, but once out from under it, will despise or demean you. Such leadership doesn’t last or impact with dignity, but will have to be maintained through deceit, coercion and compulsion rather thriving on willing eager submission. Leadership then becomes a burden and a duty rather than an endless delight and a compelling mission.

Be a leader before demanding or commanding as a leader!

* Photo by James Padolsey on Unsplash and Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

*Information on dogsleds from https://iditarodoutsider.wordpress.com/tag/sled-dog-positions/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sled_dog