Leadership takes on many forms and occurs in many environments and social contexts. One of those crucial contexts is in the home. Parents have a major and awesome role in the development of future leaders by way of the influence they have in raising their children. Given the usual pressures involved in raising children, parents may squirm at this notion that they must also take on the added burden of raising leaders. However, let me assure you parents, this responsibility is already embedded in the functions you perform daily. Hopefully, this will encourage you to read on.

Most of our prolific leaders in the world today will point back to some point during their childhood when they encountered something profound that made them knew leadership was engrained in their future. And such points or insights are usually associated with actions or interventions by their parents. While the role of mothers in this respect can never be overstated in raising healthy, caring and responsible children, the role of fathers may sometimes fall below the radar. However, the importance of the role of fathers in raising children has not diminished over the years and could be argued to have increased in recent times as families become less cohesive due to a greater focus on co-habitation and common law relationships than marriages.

One publication that reinforces the importance of fathering in the lives of children was commissioned by the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect within the Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The publication “The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children”, authored by Jeffrey Rosenberg and W. Bradford Wilcox, 2006, offers key insights into the role of fathering and why it is relevant to the development of future leaders.

A father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier. Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children’s father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a better mother. Indeed, the quality of the relationship affects the parenting behavior of both parents. They are more responsive, aff ectionate, and confident with their infants; more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; and better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support.

Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict within the relationship in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females. Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships. In contrast, research has shown that husbands who display anger, show contempt for, or who stonewall their wives (i.e., “the silent treatment”) are more likely to have children who are anxious, withdrawn, or antisocial.

Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. Infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers (e.g., babies whose fathers respond quickly to their cries and who are more securely attached; that is, they can explore their environment comfortably when a parent is nearby and can readily accept comfort from their parent after a brief separation. A number of studies suggest they also are more sociable and popular with other children throughout early childhood.

Playing with Kids

The way fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child’s emotional and social development. Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior.

Roughhousing with dad, for example, can teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions.

Generally speaking, fathers also tend to promote independence and an orientation to the outside world. Fathers often push achievement while mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development. As a result, children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them and more likely to exhibit self-control and pro-social behavior.

Effective Fathering

Fostering a positive relationship with the children’s mother

One of the most important ways that men can be good fathers is by treating the mother of their children with affection, respect, and consideration. The virtues that a father displays in his relationship with the mother of his children set an important example for the children. Children who witness affectionate, respectful, and sacrificial behaviour on the part of their father are more likely to treat their own, future spouses in a similar fashion.

Spending time with children

Fathers should spend considerable time with their children playing and having fun. As discussed earlier, fathers’ play has a unique role in the child’s development, teaching, for example, how to explore the world and how to keep aggressive impulses in check.

Fathers should maintain the active, physical, and playful style of fathering as their children age. In other words, when it comes to father-child fun, active pursuits like tossing the football, playing basketball, hiking, or going to the library are more valuable than spending time in passive activities such as watching television—for their relationship and for their child’s emotional wellbeing, social development, and physical fitness.

Fathers should engage in productive activities with their children such as household chores, washing dishes after dinner, or cleaning up the backyard. Research consistently shows that such shared activities promote a sense of responsibility and significance in children that is, in turn, linked to greater self-esteem, academic and occupational achievement, psychological well-being, and civic engagement later in life.

Fathers should spend time fostering their children’s intellectual growth. Some studies suggest that fathers’ involvement in educational activities—from reading to their children to meeting with their child’s teacher—is more important for their children’s academic success than their mother’s involvement.

Nurturing children

  • Nurturing by a father serves several important purposes:
  • Helps fathers build close relationships with their children.
  • Fosters psychological well-being and self-worth in their children.
  • Provides children with a healthy model of masculinity.
  • Helps protect girls from prematurely seeking the romantic and sexual attention of men.

With infants, fathers should be responsive to their babies’ cries, hold and hug them often, and participate in their basic care (e.g., feeding, changing diapers). Throughout the rest of early childhood, fathers should praise their children when they behave well or accomplish something, hug and kiss their children often, and comfort them when they are sad or scared.

Fathers should continue to praise adolescents, especially when they achieve significant accomplishments.

One advantage of having two parents rather than one is that two parents can share the load of parenting. Discipline often is difficult and frustrating; hence, fathers can make raising children easier for all in the family by taking up a substantial share of child discipline. Fathers seem to be uniquely successful in disciplining boys, perhaps in part because boys are often more likely to respond to discipline by a man.

baby approaching men s black sunglasses
Photo by Biova Nakou on Pexels.com

Serving as a guide to the outside world

Another important function that fathers serve in the lives of their children is as guides to the world outside the home. When children are in preschool, fathers can best prepare their children for the outside world by engaging in vigorous, physical play and encouraging small steps in the direction of autonomy.

For instance, fathers can push preschoolers to learn to dress themselves, to shake hands with house guests, and, more generally, to deal with the frustrations of daily life. As children begin school, fathers can tell their children of their own experiences in school and encourage them to study hard, teach them about money management, or teach them a sport that will help their children learn about teamwork.
Fathers of adolescents should incorporate discussions of their core beliefs and life experiences into ordinary conversations with their teens and have meals with their children on a regular basis. Fathers should also include their children in some of their work or community activities so as to give their teenaged children a taste of their lives outside the home.

They also should talk to their children about peer pressure and the dangers of alcohol, drugs, early sexual activity, and violence. And fathers should take the lead in giving their adolescents a little more freedom as they grow older, so long as this freedom is coupled with the occasional word of encouragement and advice, along with consequences for abuses of that freedom.

In sum, fathers need to be preparing their children for the challenges and opportunities of adulthood by gradually giving them more opportunities to act independently and to make good use of their independence.

Protecting and providing

Certainly the role of father as protector and provider has changed over the years. Historically, fathers were viewed as chief financial provider for and protector of their children. As the traditional roles of mother and father, and likewise man and wife, have changed over the years, the distinctions have blurred, especially when it comes to who is the breadwinner.

For many men, feelings of inadequacy in the role of protector and provider can translate into frustration and anger, which may not be managed appropriately. Men who are under- or unemployed may feel powerless within the family. Child maltreatment can at times be a way of “getting even” with a partner whom the man sees as more powerful within the relationship.

Fathers also are still expected to provide protection in addition to providing for their family financially. From child-proofing a home when the child is very young to making sure their children are not threatened by other children or adults, fathers play an important role in making sure their children are safe. This is particularly important in communities that experience high rates of violence and crime. In fact, research clearly suggests that fathers in disadvantaged communities play a critical role in monitoring and controlling their own children, and even others’ children, and that such communities suff er when there are few fathers able to play this protective role.

Serving as a positive role model

While the direct relationship a father has with his child is of paramount value, fathers also exercise a strong influence on their children through the type of life they live in and outside the home.

Children will look to the adults in the household for emotional sustenance, including how to respond and behave moving forward. It is at such times of familial stress that the role model provided by the father is of the utmost importance.

Being a role model is not a simple or easy task. In the way that fathers treat other people, spend their time and money, and handle the joys and stresses of life, they provide a template of living for their children that often proves critical in guiding the behavior of their children, for better or worse. As discussed earlier, a father’s treatment of the opposite sex, his ability to control his own emotions, and his approach to work all play a formative role in shaping his sons’ and daughters’ approach to romantic relationships and marriage, interpersonal relationships, and school and work.

There are three points that can guide a father as he explores what kind of role model he is and wants to be:

  • Fathers should promote the mission of their families. It may sound odd to talk about a mission statement for a family but all healthy families have them, whether they are articulated or not. For instance, families that believe their children should be brought up with a sound spiritual foundation have, as part of their mission, raising children of faith. And families that believe that children must learn the benefits of hard work raise children who recognize and can embrace the virtues of working hard and applying one’s self to a goal.
  • Fathers should abide by the spirit and (where appropriate) the letter of the rules that govern family life. For example, a father who asks his teenager to obey his curfew should also make an effort to be home at a decent hour.
  • Fathers should acknowledge their mistakes to their children. Apologizing shows a man is capable of acknowledging and facing up to a mistake, fixing the mistake to the extent possible, and committing to moving forward—hardly a sign of weakness, much more so a sign of strength.

A father’s influence as a role model for his children is affected by the amount of time they spend together. Whether they live in the same home on a full-time basis or not, fathers should make a concerted effort to model behaviors and attitudes that they want to see their children display when they grow up.


It is clear that fathers have an important role in raising future leaders, but also the type of leader that will emerge. Leaders have various pedigrees and those that endure the challenges and changes that are common today require the type of strong foundation that good fathers can provide at an early stage of their lives. Fathers do this by positively impacting children’s cognitive ability and educational achievement, understand and the impact of the mother-father relationship on child outcomes, appreciating and nurturing the psychological well-being and social behavior of their children.

Parents are indispensable in the process of developing leaders that can transform the future and be great problem solvers for the challenges that they will inevitably need to be resolved. We see that fathers have as much stake as do mothers in ensuring that the leadership potential in their child is given every opportunity to flourish.

Categories : Categories : Leadership

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