Parenting is a Leadership Incubator

December 22, 2008 — 2 Comments

Tonight  I was forced to make a decision with GTB:

  1. Teach him to obey his earthly father as he would his heavenly Father, and simply eat the food in front of him because he was asked to.
  2. Get creative and generate a desire to eat the food that is placed in front of him through making it generally entertaining, catering to his emotion.

Both options would achieve the desired result, and yet in somewhat different manners.  Option 1 is good for a child’s discipline, but not very fun for either and seems somewhat coercive.  This option, exercised too often, leads to exasperated and discouraged children.  Option 2 tends to be more fun for both parties, and yet is really a form of manipulation, and exercised too often will neglect discipline.

This dilemma forced me to think about leadership as a whole, and how we have choices to use both positional influence and relational influence in leadership.  One appeals to our inherent authority based on title or role, whereas the other depends on our relational capital with an individual.  Both are necessary and useful in leadership, and both are equally difficult to discern proper use.

Positional influence, characterized by direction and command, is easily turned into egotism and elitism, shifting focus from humbly leading others to self-aggrandizement, as well as simple laziness.  Positional influence when leveraged well, uses opportunities of delegation for development of those under the leader’s authority.

Relational influence, characterized by charisma and invitation,  can just as easily be manipulative to achieve an end, ignoring the process of discipline and development in favor of simply accomplishing a task.  It can be effectively used to empower an individual to discover desires they didn’t know they had, as well as accomplish a task on mutually agreeable terms (a “win, win, win” for Office fans).

In my limited experience, I have found both methods to be useful when my heart is humble, and both methods to be disastrous when my heart is anything other than humble.  Effective leadership utilizes both kinds of influence out of humility, and does so to the maximization of a team’s effectiveness.  Which takes us back to parenting, and the necessity of discernment in a particular situation.

For those of you that are still reading, I chose Option 2, and GTB ended up eating almost all of his tuna melt using the ol’ airplane in the hanger trick.  He’ll learn discipline at other meals…

Todd Engstrom

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Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth. God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

2 responses to Parenting is a Leadership Incubator

  1. This was really interesting to read, Todd – thanks for explaining what’s behind the two options. Yet again, I realize how much must go into being a parent. Y’all do a good job!!! Thanks for letting all of us watch and learn.

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