Traditionally, the father has primarily been a breadwinner: he works hard at his job to financially support his family. He is also a hero to his children, and a model of masculinity to his boys. By the end of the twentieth century the scope of fatherhood had expanded to include involvement. The “involved father” is an active, nurturant father. In 2015, the concept of the “relational father,” a father who is devoted to and invested in the development of his offspring was added to the lexicon.
The evolution of the role of fathers is largely fuelled by the benefits involved fathers have on the overall development of children. Fathers, generally, are excited by this revelation and aspire to be as involved as possible in their children’s lives. Fathers will be happy to know that fatherhood also benefits them in many ways.
Fatherhood makes you a better man
Since the 1970s, the Fathering Movement has helped many fathers to see themselves as more than just the breadwinner of the family, and awakened them to the need to be Involved Fathers. Ample time has passed for an objective evaluation on the impact of involved fathers, not only on children but also on fathers themselves, to be done. Numerous studies have found that fatherhood results in changes no other roles can produce.
Prior to having children, men recounted that they had been self-centered. Taking responsibility for children, however, places fathers into an imbalanced relationship, where fathers array a greater degree of responsibility than do their children. Thus, for some men, having children and being involved with them was perceived to contribute to a heightened awareness of others’ perspectives, needs, and a generally enhanced sensitivity to others’ emotions. Other fathers discussed a sense of increased empathy and the ability to discern the importance of honouring others’ feelings and perspectives. The net result is that involved dads tend to become other centered, which is a hallmark of maturity.
Some researchers found changes in a father’s sense of self or self-definition as a result of parenting. They also found instances of emotional or psychological growth. Hass found that a child tempers a man, making him more loving, giving, patient, more sensitive to others and his own feelings. Coltrane believed a man became more complete because fathering encourages development of emotional expression and caring aspects of his personality. Lewis discerned that “contact with a baby exposed the intimate side of a man’s character, allowing the father to be altruistic or expressive.” Palkovitz recognised that an increase in empathy correspond to a decrease in egocentricism. Overall, fatherhood allowed men a chance to learn the skills that create emotional intimacy and to understand the value of relationship.
Fatherhood develops leadership
Are men better at leading? An analysis of thousands of 360-degree reviews, women outscored men on 17 of the 19 capabilities that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones. Two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree – taking initiative and driving for results – have long been thought of as particularly male strengths. As it happened, men outscored women significantly on only one management competence in this survey – the ability to develop a strategic perspective.
How did women get so good at these traits? Are they the result of nurture or nature? Most stereotypes would have us believe that women naturally excel at “nurturing” competencies such as developing others and building relationships. Ann Crittenden, author of the book “If You’ve Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything,” wants us to know that leadership training begins at home and female leaders, particularly those who are also mothers, had their skills honed through the parenting experiences.
“Since becoming an involved parent I feel I worry a lot less about workplace issues I can’t control. I find it easier to structure things and prioritise tasks.” says Damien Livingston. He says his role as a parent has influenced a change in his approach to work. “I think these days as a manager I act a lot more like a ‘father’ than I would have in the past. I find if I’m looking after the team, the results tend to look after themselves.
The world is in need of a different kind of leadership in the 21st century – one that is created in the crucible of life, not a classroom. One that embodies selflessness, empathy, patience, wisdom, compassion, and more. It is called Fathering Leadership – the type of leadership you’d want.
Bergman, S.J. (1991). Men’s psychological development: A relational perspective. Work in Progress, No. 48. Wellesley, MA: Stone Center Working Paper Series.
Hass, A. (1994). The gift of fatherhood: How men’s lives are transformed by their children. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Coltrane, S. (1995). The future of fatherhood: Social, demographic, and economic influences on men’s family involvements. In W. Mars igloo (Ed.), Fatherhood: Contemporary theory, research and social policy (255-274). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Biddulph, S. (1995). Manhood: An action plan for changing men’s lives (2 ed.). Sydney: Finch Publishing.
Palkovitz, R. (2002). Involved fathering and men’s adult development. Mahwah, N. J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Watson-Phillips, Carol. (2017). Co-identity with son is core component in father’s development: Same-gendered Father/Son relationships foster relational development in fathers.
Justin V Di Giulio. Are leaders made or born? January 2014
Zenger Folkman 2019
Palkovitz, Rob. Involved Fathering and Men’s Adult Development: Provisional Balances. Psychology Press, 2014. P. 71-71
Gabe McGrath. Dads flex to success. Sydney Morning Herald, April 9, 2016