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Helicopter Parenting and Helicopter Leadership

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A man and woman are playing with a toy horse in a child's room, exhibiting helicopter parenting.

A fascinating study was released recently on the phenomenon of “helicopter parenting” (Majdandžić et al, 2017). What it showed was that parents who were overly protective of their children tended to cause them to be more anxious. Parents who engaged in “challenging parenting behaviours” had children who were more resilient and able to cope more comfortably with life’s challenges. Examples of challenging parenting behaviours included:
• Encouraging children to take small risks, like climbing higher on playground equipment
• Letting them lose board games
• Engaging in good-natured teasing
• Encouraging kids to be competitive and assertive
• Rough-and-tumble play, especially with fathers

This caused me to reflect the nature of leadership and whether there was a learning from this research about how to lead more effectively. Challenging leadership behaviours might include:
• Redirecting staff who constantly come asking for solutions to their problems. Instead encourage and coach them to come with suggested solutions for the two of you to discuss.
• Accepting and encouraging healthy competition between staff – not where people compete for resources for instance, but where staff seek to be the best at what they do.
• Empowering people to take sensible risks at work, expressing confidence in their ability to succeed. Back them if things go wrong but without hovering over them and seeking to “rescue” them.
• Encouraging them to make their own decisions and recognise and reward those who do. This will tend to create a culture of natural empowerment.

Research into engagement demonstrates that the most powerful thing that leaders can do is to empower their staff. It results in a more capable and resilient workforce and higher levels of psychological health. I think top-down leadership can be very comparable to helicopter parenting and it leads to similar results. Would you like to learn more about the leadership style of your leadership team? Click here to find out how.

Majdandžić, M., Lazarus, R. S., Oort, F. J., van der Sluis, C., Dodd, H. F., Morris, T. M., … & Bögels, S. M. (2017). The structure of challenging parenting behavior and associations with anxiety in Dutch and Australian children. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, 1-14.

Andrew Marty

Managing Director at SACS Consulting

Andrew is a qualified psychologist who has over 25 years of human resource management consulting experience, including extensive senior executive search and selection experience.

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