Good Parents Make Good Presidents

barack obama daughters

Back in my corporate days at a global financial services company I had a boss who worshipped Stephen Covey. He committed the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to memory and practically chanted them like a mantra behind his closed office doors each morning. I found it ironic that he was behind closed doors most of the time, a highly ineffective way to lead his team. He was tethered to a prescription for success and never inspired us. Imagine if he were the leader of the free world instead of leader of a team of eight financial training consultants. Oh, was he dull. I wondered if he showed a different face for his family and friends.


It turns out this boss of mine even transferred the Covey gospel to his family life. In his day planner he had penciled in “play blocks with Danny and Joesph” or “play outside” and other such things. We all knew this because he referred to his highly scheduled life more than once. Every second of his day was accounted for and recorded in his day planner that he clutched with a white knuckled grip as he lumbered from meeting to meeting.

He was a not a believer in whimsy or spontaneity. He showed no signs of life. Yet, this desire to live life with the precision of a German commuter train left him vapid and stoic. This paralyzing marriage to time made him incredibly incompetent as a leader. I often wondered what kind of dad he was to those young sons. What happened when it was a snow day or the boys wanted to play just one more round of capture the flag? Was he too guarded to be playful and lose himself in joy?

Imagine President Obama stiff jawed and uptight all the time, even around his children. Or imagine George Bush unable to share a laugh with his twin daughters. History books have painted images of John Kennedy frolicking with his young tots, and I remember pictures of Jimmy Carter more focused on the role of Daddy than President. We have seen Obama sharing many a laugh with his daughters, and the images add warmth and a sense of humanity and comfort to a man with the most serious job in America, if not the world.

It’s important for voters to see this side of our leaders. Part of trusting them is seeing all sides of them, not just the polished bits their handlers spit shine for our consumption. Personally, I find it endearing to see a candidate clasp his child’s hand and share a hearty giggle. This lights up a candidate in ways the spotlight never can. A warm heart and kind spirit translate to compassion, a trait too many leaders lack for fear of seeming soft. Parenting requires endless compassion, as well as patience, flexibility, and selflessness. I’d say a good leader has all those attributes too, since the qualities for both are inextricably linked. I think a good leader shines as a parent, and a good parent makes for a good leader.


This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. Read the original question and find links to all their responses here: Do a Candidate's Parenting Skills Have Anything to Do With Their Effectiveness as a Leader?


Image via White House (Pete Souza)

Read More >