Fatherhood as Leadership


At this time tomorrow, I will have just finished dinner. The fact that I will eat dinner is not remarkable. It is the dinner conversation that will be remarkable. Tomorrow, I will find out the gender of my first child. Whoa.

I found out that I will be a father when I arrived home after the very first meeting of my very first Ed. Leadership class. Since that evening, I have found myself observing and analyzing leaders in schools, politics, sports, and entertainment. Since that evening, I have found myself observing and analyzing fathers at grocery stores, schools, movie theaters, baseball games, and parks. Until last week, I was contemplating leadership and fatherhood as two separate entities. Then I received a new book from Buddy Tarrant, a father, grandfather, carpenter, church leader, and Sinatra lover. There is not a figure in my life that I view as more of a leader than this man. The book he gave me is Rick Johnson’s 10 Things Great Dads Do.

As I opened to the Table of Contents of another “dad book”, I was struck by the 10 Things being recommended to new dads. I flipped back to the front cover just to make sure that this was a “dad book” and not something that Tom Shields recommended for the upcoming week. It hit me at that moment. Perhaps, the qualities of a good leader are the same as a good father. Now, I have zero experience in the fatherhood field and my journey as leader is in its infancy. So, I do not pretend to read a book and think I will be a master father. Similarly, I do not read a case study and pretend to be a masterful school leader. Yet, I am hopeful in both arenas. Here are Rick Johnson’s 10 Things:

1.Have Fun! The Importance of Humor and Play
2. Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
3. Surround Yourself With Healthy Friends and Couples
4. Communicate With Your Children
5. Develop Your “Brand”
6. A Man’s Spirituality
7. Your Child’s Spirituality: Helping Your Children Find Their Way
8. Teaching Character: Allowing Your Children to Suffer
9. Children, Members of the Family
10. Not in My House: The Gatekeeper of the Home

My grandfather is from a different generation and I feel like some of these tips represent that difference in parenting. However, when I began to think of these tips as advice for leaders in families and schools, they became very useful. Successful leaders in schools and families embrace fun and play amongst coworkers and children. It is important to push yourself to have new experiences and courageous conversations that might take you out of your comfort zone. In school leadership, it is important to surround yourself with a great team of peers and mentors and keep the lines of communication open to build relationships with colleagues. The people who you are leading need to understand who you are and what your vision is as you market your brand. Your “brand” should be memorable to your children and your colleagues. The chapters on spirituality took me to the necessity of finding balance through reflection and mindfulness. Allowing your children to suffer translates to the need to allow the teachers you are leading to grow through failure in risk taking. When Johnson discusses children being essential contributing members of the family, I found myself thinking of the need for every colleague to feel valued and the expectation of contribution to the team. In many tough, stressful situations, it is the job of the leader to decide when to protect and shield others from unwanted negativity.

Maybe I’m just reading too much into this fatherhood as leadership stuff. Maybe books like Johnson’s over simplify the process of being a parent. However, I find myself at a very unique moment, and it would be unwise to assume this moment is coincidence. I am beginning two journeys of leadership at the exact same time. My fingers are crossed that both will benefit the other. Cheers to fatherhood making me a better school leader and Ed. Leadership making me a better father.

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