Raising the next generation has always been a group project that involves not just parents but also grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and the larger community.  But today’s working parents find themselves increasingly isolated from the support systems they need. And although working fathers and mothers too often feel overwhelmed, isolated, and somehow to blame for the difficulties they encounter in trying to manage it all, this is a large-scale problem for all of us, whether or not we have children of our own. Society depends, of course, on the next generation and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure that all American children have what they need so that they can grow up to be strong and healthy stewards of our planet and our institutions. Raising children is not merely a vanity project – it is our project.

But what are we, as a society, doing to help young parents to rear the next generation? Far, far too little.  While we struggle to produce necessary structural changes in social policy to provide real support for working families, those in the trenches need help now.  Parents in today’s fast-paced, disorienting world can easily lose track of who they are and what really matters most. But it doesn’t have to be this way.   Working parents can learn how to harness the powerful science of leadership in order to thrive in all aspects of life.

In our new book released today, Parents Who Lead, we draw on the principles of Total Leadership – a bestseller and popular leadership development program used in organizations worldwide – and on our experience as researchers, educators, consultants, coaches, and parents, to bring the science of leadership to the art of parenting. We offer a robust, proven method that helps working parents gain a greater sense of purpose and control. The book includes tools illustrated with compelling examples from the lives of real working parents that show you, as a working parent, how to:

  • Design a future based on your core values
  • Engage with your children in fresh, meaningful ways to build trust and understanding
  • Cultivate a community of caregiving and support, in all parts of your life
  • Experiment in the laboratory of life to find new ways to live and work that align better with core values, improve performance and health, and teach children how to lead.

What many participants find particularly powerful is identifying their values, first, individually, and then, together as partners in parenting, and their vision of the future.  We ask them to imagine it’s 15 years from now and to describe an ideal day – morning, noon, and night – including what they’re doing, with whom, and most importantly, why they’re doing what they’re doing.   There are always differences, of course, and dialogue about them leads to new discoveries and forms the basis for a clearer grasp of the common ground they’re walking.   Decisions about how to invest attention – in their careers, in their family, in their community, and in themselves – about issues large and small, become easier to make because they are assessed in light of whether or not any given choice is aligned with their collective vision.

Parents Who Lead is a practical, evidence-based guide to forge a better future, foster meaningful and mutually rewarding relationships, and design sustainable solutions for creating a richer life for yourself, your children, and our world.

Stewart D. Friedman is an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School, where he has been since 1984. He founded Wharton’s Leadership Program and its Work/Life Integration Project. Bestselling author, award-winning teacher, former head of Ford’s leadership development center, consultant, policy advocate, radio show host, and in-demand speaker, Friedman is widely recognized for his impact in the fields of leadership, work/life integration, and talent.

Alyssa F. Westring is Associate Professor of Management at Driehaus College of Management at the Driehaus College of Business, DePaul University.  In addition, she is Director of Research at Total Leadership.  An award-winning educator, Westring shares her expertise on work/life integration and women’s careers in leading academic and popular outlets, and is a frequent speaker at Fortune 500 companies.