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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who is the boss or who should lead the family...

Leading a family is a job. If we approach the question from that standpoint, then the answer will become clear: family leadership should not be determined by tradition, or by faith, or by values. It should be determined by a family member's ability to lead. A family leader should be the person best suited for the job.

A family leader may not necessarily be the one with the larger income or the one able to pick up the heaviest box. Rather, the leader is the one capable of organizing resources, resolving family conflicts and keeping his or her head in a crisis.

Historically, my family has been known for its female leaders - the matriarchs. Yes, the men were usually better educated and held higher ranking better paying jobs. However, it fell to the women to make sure the money went the distance and that everyone involved was happy in the process. Yes, the men usually volunteered to do household repairs. But the women were right there next to them learning how to do things, so that next time they wouldn't have to ask for help. Men made the initial contact with a variety of people to expand their professional networks. Women helped maintain those networks by helping the professional contacts merge seamlessly with the circle of friends, by charming, by entertaining, by making people want to come back. When a tragedy struck, men were allowed to fall apart, but women were not - not at the same time and not obviously. Later, we could cry and grieve in solitude - but not right when it happened, not when someone had to keep it together at the most critical moment.

Growing up with the great female leaders before my eyes - my mother, my aunt, my grandmothers - I realized that being a family leader is tough. The realization was confirmed over and over again, when I inherited the job myself at the age of sixteen, after the death of my mother and my aunt. My grandmothers were too old to bear the torch, so to say, and there were no more women left in the "middle generation". So, it had to be me.

How does one lead a family? Unlike a workplace leader, a family leader does not have the option of firing a bad associate and hiring a better one. You may not love them all equally, but the level of preference must never show. Unlike a workplace leader, a family leader cannot be the bringer of bad news. The others can have problems and come to you for council or just for a shoulder to cry on, but you are a leader - you have to figure it out on your own. During the happy times, the family leader is the one responsible for ensuring that those times last as long as possible, that the best of memories are formed, collecting and storing those great family stories in his or her memory, to be called upon when the times are not quite so happy anymore. And when the going gets rough, the family leader is the one to be the core, the one that keeps it all together, the one to soothe and console, the one to be there with open arms for everyone regardless of age, gender and experience.

Do you know someone in your family, whose mere presence seems to get things running and spinning, when they seemed to have ground to a screeching halt before? Someone, who walks into a room and everyone perks up, lights up, turns to look, wants to reach out? Someone, who quietly and unobtrusively makes certain that everything is ticking as it should? Someone with the power to bring pure unadulterated joy and with the power to stand there like a rock when everyone else seems to be falling to pieces? Find that family member, and you have found your family leader.


Andrew. said...
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Andrew. said...

Easy: My wife is the boss. Without her Elizabeth and I would be wearing newpaper and eating out of bins.