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Firm parenting produces children who are born leaders

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Children whose parents use a firm parenting style that combines support with clear rules are more likely to assume leadership roles as adults, according to a new study.

Children whose parents use a firm parenting style that combines support with clear rules are more likely to assume leadership roles as adults, according to a new study.

Using data from a long-term Minnesota study of twins, Canadian researchers found that children raised with an "authoritative" parenting style -- where parents set clear expectations and limits but are also supportive -- assumed more leadership roles at work and in their communities later in life.

The children were also less likely to engage in serious rule-breaking. That stands in stark contrast to children who do engage in such behavior, who are less likely to assume leadership roles.

The thinking behind the study results, which are published in a recent edition of The Leadership Quarterly, is that children may challenge the clear boundaries set out by their parents, giving them an opportunity to learn why the rules are in place and learn from their parents how to get what they want without breaking the rules.

"Some of these early examples of rule-breaking behavior, more the modest type, don't necessarily produce negative outcomes later in life -- that was fairly intriguing," said Maria Rotundo, a professor at the Rotman School of Management, in a statement. "It doesn't mean all children of authoritative parents are going to become leaders, but they are more likely to."

The study bolsters thinking that leaders are raised more than born. According to current behavioral genetics research, innate factors account for just 30 percent of who grows up to be a leader and how they lead.

UPDATE: SmartPlanet's Dana Blankenhorn discusses why "firm parenting" doesn't mean corporal punishment.

Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure