5 Leadership qualities of a good father

Father leaderIn this article I will be covering what I believe are the five most important leadership qualities of a good father.

What is your definition of a leader? Maybe you think of someone who is in charge or in control?

My definition would go something like this:

Leader (noun):  someone who is in a position to influence or motivate others.

If you think of it like that, whether we consider ourselves a natural leader or not, from the day we become parents,  all mothers and all fathers are leaders.

The importance of the mother child relationship has long been recognized but there is a growing body of evidence about the important role of fathers.  A study conducted in 2016 by the Michigan State University used data from about 730 families across America to conduct research into the effects parents stress and mental health problems such as depression had on their children. The study found that fathers relationships with their children play a surprisingly large role in their children’s health and development. This was particularly evident from toddlers through to fifth grade.

I have been in a number of professional roles where I have had to lead teams of people. So leadership is something I have studied and developed in my professional career. When I think of the qualities that make a great leader, there are five in particular that I believe are most important:

  1. A leader is visionary – They can see beyond the here and now and clearly describe what that future looks like.
  2. A leader is courageous – Nothing is certain in life and so in order to grow and be successful, a leader needs to take reasonable risks.
  3. A leader is respectful – You cannot influence and motivate people effectively without having their respect. To gain the respect of others a leader must be respectful and have empathy for the people they lead.
  4. A leader is humble – Great leaders make it their goal to help others succeed, not the other way around. They do this by serving the people they are leading.
  5. A leader has integrity – A leader has a clear set of values that are respected by those they are leading. For the leader to have integrity they must consistently live out those values.

While there are other important leadership qualities, I believe if you are doing well in these, you are likely to be doing well in the others too. Read on as I describe how each of these qualities can be applied to our role as fathers.



1. Leadership quality of a good father  – Visionary

Children are discovering what they like and what they are good at. As they try new things their success or failure canLeadership quality of a good father - Visionary shape how they see themselves and who they ultimately become.

Parents need to see the potential in their child and be their child’s greatest supporter.

While people can be successful in things they are not naturally good at or don’t particularly enjoy, typically it is best to align your goals to your strengths and interests. We should encourage our children to do the same by taking the following steps:

  • Get your children involved in as many different things as possible to help them discover what they enjoy and what they are good at.
  • Recognise the natural strengths, gifts and talents your child has. Remind your child of these regularly.
  • Encourage your child to focus on the things they enjoy and ideally what they have a natural talent for. Give them opportunities to develop their abilities.
  • Regularly encourage your child in your belief that they can achieve their goals. Your faith in them will help them have faith in themselves.

2. Leadership quality of a good father – Courage

Leadership quality of a good father - Courageous

As a leader, your behaviour and decisions are visible to the people you lead. For a father the decisions you make will be an example or pattern that your children will follow.

As we know there are times when we are faced with decisions that involve risk. When faced with these decisions, it is important as a father to demonstrate courage.

Let’s look at a practical example. Imagine your daughter is having a birthday and she wants it to be a dress up party. She also has a particular idea for what she wants her dad to dress up as – her favourite story character “The Cat in the Hat!”  You imagine the looks on the other parent’s faces as they arrive at the party to see you dressed up as a Dr Seuss character and the embarrassment you know you are going to feel.

In this situation, it is okay to let your daughter know that you may feel  embarrassed in front of the other parents dressing up as the Cat in the Hat… but then tell her you’re happy to do it because it’s important to her and you love her.  Pick up that red and white striped hat and wear it with pride!

Watching her Dad overcome his fears is a powerful way of teaching your daughter not to worry about what people think.  Feel the fear and do it anyway!

3. Leadership quality of a good father – Respect

RespectWhen it comes to respect, the phrase “you get what you give” holds very true. You cannot expect to have the respect of your children if you don’t treat them with respect. You cannot expect them to be respectful to others if they see you acting disrespectfully.

As a father, how you treat your child’s mother is so critical for their understanding of respectful relationships.

If your son sees you treating his mother disrespectfully, it sets an example he is likely to follow later in life.

If your daughter sees you disrespecting her mother, it sets an example of how she may expect to be treated later in life. She will be more likely to tolerate disrespectful or even abusive behaviour from a future partner.  This is not something a father would ever want for their little girl.

I realise there are situations in life where it is very difficult to be respectful.  You may be separated or divorced and feeling deeply hurt by your ex partner.  They may have said or done things that have made you lose all respect for them.  You may have people in your world that make decisions you can never respect or condone.  In these situations remember behaving respectfully is very different to having respect, e.g you may not respect your daughter’s boyfriend but you can still behave respectfully towards him.

Always take the high road in the way you treat other people, even if they don’t deserve it. Do it for your kids.  It will lay a solid foundation in your children’s character.  In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson “Men are respectable only as they respect”.

4. Leadership quality of a good father – Humility

When we talk about humility in parenting, we are talking about putting the needs of your children ahead of your own.

In practice, this means a number of things for fathers.

Firstly, considering the needs of your family above your own. I have personally found this challenging and did not realise how selfish I was until I had children. Simple things, like not being able to exercise when I wanted to.  Having to squeeze a run into times that worked for my wife and kids.  Not being able to buy the latest gadget when I wanted to.  Having to consider the families budget and financial goals.  It can be challenging to put our families needs ahead of our own.  I consider myself a work in progress on this one and I’m sure my wife would agree!

Secondly, humility in parenting can be loving and setting boundaries with your children even when they won’t thank you for it.  Screen time has been a big challenge in our household.  My wife and I knew our kids were getting too much screen time a year ago but we dreaded the backlash we knew we would get by enforcing tougher limits. We made the decision to put our kids needs first rather than our need for peace in our family and enforced the limits we felt were necessary. This involved screen free days and parental controls on devices.  There was a lot of complaining (and door slamming) initially, but with time the kids have come to accept the changes.

Sometimes humility in parenting is acknowledging when we have done the wrong thing and apologising.  It can be very powerful for a young child or a teenager to hear their father apologise and know that he is truly sorry for something he has done.  It might be something as simple as yelling at the kids when you are tired or running late from work and missing the ball game.  Get down on your knees, make eye contact with your child and say “I’m sorry”.   It’s a powerful way to lead by example.

5. Leadership quality of a good father – Integrity

Strong leaders live out their values to inspire the people they lead. Organisational psychologists tell us if you want to set a certain culture in your organisation you need to lead by example. What you do as a leader has far more impact than what you say.

As a father, if you want your children to live out the family values, you need to have integrity and live them out yourself. If you want your kids to say please and thank you, say it yourself.  If you want your kids to have less screen time, have less yourself.

Our children are watching our behaviour far more than we realise. When I slip up and do something that does not align to our family values, it surprises me how quickly the kids notice and chastise me for it!  That is when I need the humility quality to kick in and get down on my knees to apologise…

The standard is high but be kind to yourself

Now that you have read how leadership qualities relate to your role as a father, you may be thinking “man… that standard is too high to live up to!”. The truth is, it is too high a standard for all fathers to live up to all the time. We all make mistakes and these are qualities that develop over time.

As I mentioned, when I fall short I apologise to my family. I don’t let the slip up discourage me. Instead I forgive myself and keep trying to do the best I can.

This brings me to the bonus quality – Persistence!

No matter how difficult the circumstances, a good father never gives up, especially on his kids.

I realise sometimes parenting is extremely difficult. The challenges may feel overwhelming.  But if you hang in there and keep doing your best, you are being a good father to your kids… in the way that only you can.

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22 Comments

  1. I love this and it is very real to me.  I am a dad of 2 young girls 8 and 11.  I am also sharing my job with someone else so I can be home a lot with them.

    I must say I would love to dress up as the cat in the hat with them.  Great fun.

    A few years ago my 11 year old displayed behaviours that showed us she was ready to take on responsibility and learn respect.  I felt nervous and at the same time wanted to put the breaks on this but no, we have given her responsibility and she has learned their are great rewards for being responsible.

    We are always very careful of our behaviour around them as they are sponges and take everything in.  They are their parents after all.

    When you mentioned getting them involved in as many things as possible you are so right.  We had our girls in a lot of extra things that they on their own whittled down to what they enjoy every time they do them..

    Being a dad has a lot of responsibility and I thank you for writing this. 

    Cheers 

    1. Thanks for your comments Stew.

      It is great to hear from a dad who is not afraid to do fun, crazy things for the sake of creating special moments with their kids, I really admire that quality.

      I think you have raised a good point with your daughter. It was good you picked up on the signals your daughter was giving you that she was ready to take on more responsibility. At that age, our kids are growing so fast you really need to be sensitive to the way they are changing and be prepared to adapt accordingly.

      Even though it sounds like it was difficult for you, it is great to hear that you responded and gave her opportunities to learn to be more responsible, great job!

      Thanks again,

      John

  2. What a great article.  I am a father of 3 grown boys but also I am raising our seven year old grandson.  Of course all over the place we hear about how important the mothers role is.  And not to take anything away from the mother because yes they are so important.  It is nice to see someone focusing on just how important a dad can be.

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a great article.

    Dale

    1. Thank you Dale, I really appreciate your encouragement and support. I have a real heart for families, and as a father myself I created this site to provide helpful resources and information, as well as encouragement to all the dads out there. We play a really critical role in our children’s lives and there development which I think society now is really coming to understand and appreciate.

      All the best,

      John.

  3. HI John, 

    I love your site and that you are supporting Dads.  In my personal training business, I train and support Moms along their journeys and often feel that there is a gap in support for Dads.  Fortunately, it is more socially acceptable for Dads to take a more hands on role with their children. Society is recognising how valuable that everyday nurturing and guidance is for children’s development.  A dad’s leadership in the family is invaluable for everyone’s development and happiness. 

    Thanks again!

    1. Thanks for your encouraging feedback Tammy.

      What a great business to train and support Mom’s! Parenting is such a vital role we need all the help and support we can get.

      You are right that there is a lot of support for Mom’s but for a variety of reasons the support for Dad’s is lacking. My goal for this site is to help families and in particular provide support for Dad’s.

      I wish you well with and every success in your business.

      John.

  4. Hi John – thanks for sharing this interesting article. It’s nice to hear a male point of view on leadership, a vital part of parenting that is often overlooked. I definitely agree with the visionary section – children need to be encouraged in the talents and abilities that they have to ensure they reach their full potential. I love your example of courage, dressing up as the Cat in the Hat, very amusing! All the best, Diane 

    1. Hi Diane, thanks for you comment on this article, I really appreciate you taking the time and for your encouraging feedback.

      I am glad you found the example on courage amusing. I know for some dads they would love to dress up as that famous Dr Seuss character and have a lot of fun with it. For me though I imagine my self consciousness might get the better of me. Having said that, I can think of plenty of times I have made a fool of myself and had a lot of fun doing it.

      As I mentioned in my reply to a previous comment, we have such a short time with our children to influence them and so being visionary as dads and as parents in general is so critical to help our kids to reach their full potential as adults.

      All the best,

      John

  5. John, this is a great discussion about 5 leadership qualities of a good father.   My children’s father had some “challenge” in his role.  As result, my son committed himself to being a great, involved Dad to his son.   And, he is.   Yet he often gets frustrated because he is not as perfect a Dad as he would like to be.   So, I was really happy to see in your conclusion that you have to be willing to forgive yourself when you are not perfect.  After all, no one is perfect.      Great advise for Dads.   

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Sondra. I am so pleased to hear that your son has been able to learn from his fathers mistakes to become a great dad.

      I can really relate to your son as my father was far from perfect and I get frustrated myself sometimes when I sometimes see myself slipping into the behaviors of my father. You are so right that no one is perfect and while it is important to set ourselves goals and standards to reach, we need to kind to ourselves when we fall short, which we all do. That is why in my conclusion I emphasized that while we may set a high standard we need to be kind on ourselves. Every time we fall short we should see it as a learning opportunity and not a failure.

      All the best,

      John

  6. I believe fathers are the number one role model to their children. Playing a strong leadership role in the lives of our kids is equally very important. I am over 30, and I still carry fond memories of times I spent with my dad as a kid. I would say my dad was visionary. As you mentioned, my dad was quick to spot the artistic potential in me and bought me tools that helped me be a good graphic artist. He still keeps some of my drawings that are about 30 years old. I hope to be a good father to my kids when I finally have one. I’ll share this article on my social media page. 

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experience of how your father encouraged you to pursue your artistic potential. This is a great example of why it is so important for fathers to be visionary. There is a lot of focus in the parenting material on the mother and their influence on our children’s development, for good reason as she does have a huge influence. What I have found is that there isn’t a huge amount for dads. So I hope this article encourages many dads out there to realize the importance of their role as leaders to their children.

      With such a great foundation in your upbringing I am sure you will make a great father one day.

      All the best,

      John

  7. Hi John. I’m glad to read this article about 5 leadership qualities of a good father.

    For me, one of the most important Leadership quality of a good father is Visionary; the ability to understand what a child likes it is good at and have a picture what the child would become in the future with those likes and talents and then support the child would go a long way in helping that child achieving greatness and on time too.

    1. This is so true, it is really critical we as parents help our children and encourage them to reach their full potential. I am constantly reminded that we only have our kids for a short time where we can really input into and influence their lives. If during that time we can help them to believe in themselves and reach their full potential, that would be an awesome gift we could leave with our kids in adulthood.

  8. Thanks so much for sharing this article outlining and elaborating on 5 leadership qualities of a good father. One of the leadership qualities of a good father that I have noticed missing in most father is humility. They fill they cannot be talked to by their children; this is very bad as the children are scared to express their selves especially in Africa.

  9. Daddies play very important roles in the lives of their children but they never seem to understand their importance in the life of their kids. Communicating with my dad has been an amazing thing for me and I’m building this stuff with my kids too.

    I don’t underestimate integrity. It’s a key characteristic of a good leader and every good father should have integrity embedded in him. As action speaks louder than voice; these days, everyone is interested in what you do than what you say and children especially live by emulation and would end up with characteristics a father portrays delay. As fathers, we should learn to live good lives, have high moral standards and build up our integrity.

    Thanks for sharing…

  10. Thanks for your comment Barry and for raising this important point about culture. As you say for some cultures the way of parenting is deeply ingrained and can be difficult to change when there are certain expectations on how you should be as a parent, even if that is not in the best interests of the child. It can take a lot of courage to do things differently to the culture and other peoples expectations.

    Thanks for sharing!

    John.

  11. This is a very accurate description of a great father !! It made me think about my Husband (my children’s dad) & how grateful I am and blessed to have him in their lives!! ? I love how you’re encouraging men and especially young dads all over the world. Great Post !! Keep up the good work ♥️

    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words!

      It is my heart to help fellow dads and their families with this blog and so I really appreciate hearing encouraging feedback such as this.

      Many thanks,

      John.

  12. I agree with the role of a father in a children’s all-round development…And yes parents are leaders , they are leading the life of their child ?very nice post..Keep sharing

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words and for taking the time to read this post and comment. I feel it is the most important leadership role we can have, to be a parent. We have such a major influence on our children in the earlier years and throughout their life, it is an incredible responsibility.

      I have slowed down my posting, not because I have slowed down the writing, but because I am wanting to take the time to make sure I am happy with the quality before I publish them. My aim is to release a new post every two weeks. Feel free to follow this blog by subscribing so you will be notified when a new post is released.

      Cheers,

      John.

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