Today’s RFL is a “best of” edition. I feel as strongly as the day I wrote it.
I was just talking to a good friend and his 9th grade son, and while “pops” was distracted by another conversation, I asked the younger: “Who’s the leader in your house — your mom or your dad?” His stay-at-home mom is re-entering the work force. His dad is the breadwinner, the bigger of the two, and the more outspoken figure. I am certain that the pair have an egalitarian and collaborative marriage and parenting style.
Whaddya think the kid said?
He hardly hesitated, and with what seemed to me a knowing (between-us-guys) smile, simply pointed at his dad and said, “He is.”
If you’ve been reading this blog for long, you know I tricked the young man. I don’t believe in the premise of my question to him that there is “a” leader. Indeed I hand out water bottles to my students with the punny slogan “kill the liter” to remind them to figure out how they lead – with or without status and position. My friend and his wife BOTH lead. I find it unnecessary and grossly misleading to say one is “the” leader.
I also think it’s vital to say (on the day after Mother’s Day) that the forced construct of “the” leader seems to be shot through with male privilege, male ego, and male bias. I don’t mean this to judge any individual man. The youngster in my story is not a “sexist pig.” He’s just a kid, steeped in conventional “wisdom” about “the” leader, soaked in ancient evolutionary and social “coding” that size, strength, voice, etc., are markers of something singular, something vital. Yet these markers – and implied advantages to “da man” — have been made obsolete by our knowledge economy.
So, thanks to moms! In an increasingly (but incompletely) gender-role-free world, individual women lead in their own unique ways. And yet so many women continue to offer us the best models of servant leadership – from physically bearing us, birthing us and feeding us, to often delaying their careers as my friend’s wife did, to encouraging our hearts, bearing with us when we fall short, and enduring.
I’m so grateful to my mom who was and remains in her 80s a listening leader, a model of dependability, and a to this day a servant leader, pointing the way for her 7 children, 16 grand kids, and now a great grand(!) to
Lead with their best self.