Leadership in Parenting: Authority
This series is about viewing parenting from the perspective of leadership and developing future leaders. Being a parent is the most basic—and vital—of all leadership roles, though it’s rarely thought of that way. Parenting is the single most challenging thing I’ve ever done. I wish someone would have oriented me to this perspective before I became a father. It would have helped me avoid being in reaction (or sometimes survival) mode and given me more vision on what I was doing and how I was doing it. I hope parents find it helpful.
One of my favorite examples of leadership in the Bible is the Roman Centurion who approaches Jesus requesting healing for his servant. He is, obviously, a respected leader. At one point, he states that he recognizes authority in Jesus by comparing himself: “I, too, am a man under authority.” Curious. You’d expect him to say “in,” or perhaps “with” or “of” authority.
But he said “under” authority.
“I, too, am a man under authority.”
“In,” “with” or “of” would imply that authority was something he personally possessed. But “under” means his authority was granted to him. He not only exercised authority, he stewarded it; he submitted to it.
Said differently, he wasn’t just a leader, he was also a follower.
Why is this noteworthy? Because without something outside yourself to submit to, leadership authority always morphs into self-serving opportunism. Unchecked, it ultimately leads to tyranny.
Without something outside yourself to submit to, leadership authority always morphs into self-serving opportunism.
“And Your Point Is…?”
If you don’t learn how to follow well, you’ll never learn how to lead well.
Power and authority purposed and directed can do amazing things. Power unchecked and self-serving is controlling and greedy; it keeps others below it as it feeds its appetite for more power. It’s so easy to be authoritarian without actually demonstrating the wise and proper use of authority. This often comes when you acquire positional authority before learning how to use it.
That’s why the home is the best environment to learning about authority: Kids learn about it from their parents as they grow up under it. It is a subject that is more effectively caught than taught.
This is, no doubt, easier said than done. Just remember: The parental “Because I said so” could mean “I’m the boss and you’ll do what I say or else,” or it could mean “Though you may not understand, I’m asking you to trust me.” Which way do you want your kids to interpret it?
Authority is a subject that is more effectively caught than taught.
The Big Picture
Having authority doesn’t mean total domination. It does mean that you have the right, the position, responsibility and influence to lead.
Like most things in life, excellence is found in the artfulness of how you practice it.
Your Next Step
If you were an objective fly on the wall of your home, how would you—honestly—interpret your “Because I said so” statements to your kids?