# 361: Fathers and Women Leaders

Muna, Farid A., and Grace Khoury (2012). The Palestinian Executive: Leadership under Challenging Conditions, 127.

Story behind the Passage

Recently, I have come across several life stories which all shared that the protagonist lost his/her father quite at an early age. All of these stories became published, of course, because the respective people had achieved certain things which made them the subject of literary or journalistic writing. And this also holds true for many women leaders. Grace Khoury certainly is such a leader. Not only is she a successful professor of business studies, she has also been co-leading her family business in Palestine — the Taybeh Brewing Company. This is not her sole topic in the book but informs her research on the special conditions under which Palestinian executives — men and women — perform their jobs.

My Learnings

“My father, like his mother, was wise, loving, devoted and caring.” When reading a book like this one on the special conditions of leadership in Palestine, you do read about many findings which are not special to Palestine at first sight. Different leadership types and their habits are more or less universal. And so are the challenges which women executives are facing. Still, you cannot just conclude that leadership in Palestine is like leadership in Germany or Britain. The same applies to family relations. Family relations play a different role for business relations in the Arab World. Still, what connects all of us is the human bond that connecs families across the globe. And fathers seem to play a particularly crucial role in the development of future leaders.

Khoury adds this personal information about her father in a special section entitled “A Personal Note from Grace Khoury.” And I guess, the fact that she has been living in the U.S. for a long time is reflected in the formulation she uses to describe her father as a “self-made man.” What is even more striking and powerful, however, is her description of him as the loving and kind person he obviously was. And he became this man after having lost his father at an early age.

I am not going to get into psychologizing on family relations and gender role models. I am neither trained nor interested in doing this in depth. Still, from my personal perspective, I do think that fathers play a crucial role for women on their path to becoming leaders. Yes, mothers are undoubtedly important too. And, yes, of course, there have always been strong women in leadership positions who could already serve as role models for their daughters. Still, in most cases, our dads were the people who had a career. If we are looking for role models in the professional sphere, we are more likely to find them among the male relatives.

This is a blunt gender division, I know. But I do think it makes a difference. And it makes even more of a difference if this male role model is not a typical alpha male but a personality like the one Khoury describes. In this case, her father was very much influenced by his mother. Still, the fact that he did not have a father anymore must have shaped him as well. So, with all these thoughts about family role models and gender, the only thing I want to get out there to ponder is how much, actually, we are shaped not only by the family members we still have around us but by the ones we have lost.

Reflection Questions

1) Which women do you know who were extremely influenced by their fathers?

2) Do you think that leadership skills are universal, no matter in which country or under which political circumstances you apply them?

3) Which family member had the most significant impact on your life? Why?

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Founder & CEO of Companypoets

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