6 Leadership Lessons from Being a Father

Yesterday was Father’s Day, and my daughters updated their “Daddy books.” With the help of their mother, each daughter has a “Daddy book” that they update each year with a letter to me and a list of their favorite things to do with Dad. It is an amazing gift and something I look forward to each year. Reading their lists caused to me think about the similarities between leading and parenting.

As the apostle Paul led people to Christ, he viewed himself as their spiritual father. He compared leading people to fathering.

I’m not writing this to shame you, but to warn you as my dear children. For you can have 10,000 instructors in Christ, but you can’t have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. (I Corinthians 4:14-16)

Though I have an immense amount of growing to do as a leader, the Lord has used the experience of parenting to develop me. Here are 6 leadership lessons from being a father.

1. Lead each one differently.

Though my two girls essentially receive the same nurture, the Lord has created both of them very unique. Their personalities, communication styles, and motivations are different. If I parent each the same way, I won’t parent each of them best. In the same way, leaders who view themselves as servants of their teams are willing to lead people differently because each person on the team is different. To lead each person the same is to ignore the unique gifting, personality, and experience of those on the team.

2. Lead differently in unique stages.

The older my daughters get the more responsibility I will hand them. The longer I lead them, the more decisions will be theirs to make. I will lead them differently as they mature, as they enter different stages of life. Organizations go through life cycles too, and different approaches to leading are required. Wise leaders assess the organization as a whole and lead based on the needs during that season.

3. You cannot lead well without time.

Reading my “Daddy books” was a sober, yet joyful reminder that time with my daughters is of utmost importance. Most of their favorite things revolve around time alone with Dad. As I invest time into my daughters, I am in a much better position to encourage and challenge them. In the same way, a leader cannot influence the team without investing time in those on the team. Giving rules and edicts without offering time creates a bitter culture.

4. Discipline is loving.

I do not love my daughters well if I do not discipline them because I would be ultimately choosing being liked by them over their maturing. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that discipline is an act of love, that the Lord disciplines His true children for their good – “that they may share in His holiness” (Hebrews 12:10). Just as loving parents discipline their children, leaders who love those on their team love them enough to have difficult conversations, to provide accountability and coaching. It is unloving and self-centered for a leader to ignore problems and allow deficiencies to go underdeveloped.

5. You are always teaching.

This weekend at a restaurant, my youngest daughter said, “That man is bothering me. He is talking so loud!” I knew that didn’t come from her, so I asked where she learned that. She said, “You. When we were at breakfast the other morning you complained to mommy that the table next to us was too loud.” I didn’t even know she was listening. But she is always listening, and I am always teaching. Leaders are always teaching, especially when not wearing a microphone. Your actions speak much louder than your words. Those you lead can tell what is really important to you by watching you live.

6. You need Him.

Parenting is sanctifying, in part, because it confronts you with your weakness. You are in over your head. Parenting helps you see your need for grace, your need for Jesus. Leading does the same thing, especially if you endeavor to make a significant impact. You are confronted with your fragility, your weakness, which is great if it drives you to your knees in desperation for Him.