It Does Not Take a Village

2014-02-12

“It takes a village to raise a child.” Or does it? Hillary Clinton made this saying popular in her 1996 book of the same name. Often claimed to be an African proverb, that origin is debated. However, there are several sayings in different African cultures with a similar meaning. The saying has a nice ring to it, but is it real wisdom?

The idea promoted by the supposed proverb is that the upbringing of a child is the community’s responsibility.

  • The community is responsible for teaching the morals, values, and ethics of that culture.
  • The community is responsible for that child’s education.
  • The community is responsible for the health and well-being of that child.

I don’t think so. Why?

“It takes a village…” implies that the family is not important.

Here’s a better proverb:
It takes a family, with village support, to raise a child.

It’s too bad that doesn’t roll of the tongue as nice as Mrs. Clinton’s version. Oh well. Sometimes the truth hurts and sometimes it doesn’t sound as good either.

According to this proverb, the upbringing of a child is the family’s responsibility.

  • It is the family’s responsibility to teach a child the morals, values, and ethics of that family’s faith and how to live responsibly in their culture.
  • It is the family’s responsibility to oversee a child’s education in preparation for independent, effective adult living.
  • The family is responsible for the health and well-being of the child.

What about the “village”? The community’s role is to encourage, assist, guide, and often provide hands-on help to that family. But the primary responsibility is the family’s.

This is a leadership blog. What has this got to do with leadership? Well, quite a lot actually. First, effective, Biblical leadership is required to implement the “It take a family…” philosophy. Whether you’ve given your life to Jesus or not, the leadership principles of the Bible are the best model for living and leadership. However, that’s not my point today.

My point is:
It takes a family, with village support, to develop a leader.

What is a leader’s family? It is a small group of deeply trusted fellow-leaders, advisors, and mentors. It is a few people whom you implicitly trust with all areas of your life. In the picture above, you see two of my leadership family members—my fellow blog authors. I can go to Robert and Greg with any area of my life and leadership and I trust their confidentiality and their wisdom.

What is a leader’s village? It is a support system of training, professional associations, colleagues, and the general community of leaders. The leadership village is where we get resources, ideas, and models (good and bad). The leadership village is where we get opportunities to lead.

Most leaders do a pretty good job of contributing to the leadership community and even better at utilizing its resources.

Unfortunately, most leaders have done poorly in cultivating a leadership family. What can you do today about that?

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.

Credits
Photo by author.

2 thoughts on “It Does Not Take a Village

  1. Thank you for saying what many already know: our children belong to us, not the “community.” This principle is in direct opposition to what some would have us believe, but of course, God’s truth is the opposite of virtually every “value” promoted by the culture. I took this post as a further call to action, Scott. A call to action to be even more intentional in developing leadership in my children. After all, I am part of the first line of defense – the family. Two of my four children are 5-year-old identical twin girls. One of them is an assertive, social, strong character type. The other is more of a quiet, easy-going, logical person. Both are leaders in their own way. Both need to be developed differently to come into their full potential. I so strongly believe that what my husband and I do now to set them on the path to successful leadership in all aspects of life will bear directly on the degree that the village will need to come alongside them (in their workplace, their relationships, community involvement, etc.). Unfortunately, so many families do not do this necessary work – largely because of the brokenness of families today and the fact that the village has forced itself into a parental role out of motivation to control outcomes, to help children succeed according to their definition of success – tied to some kind of class-group, demographic, or ethnic status. This leaves us with bigger, deeper problems as these children grow up. But our response, as you noted, should not be to simply take care of them. In this way, the village actually harms the child, taking him out from under the God-given authority of the parents and putting him under the thumb of the State. We are seeing the results of this harm every day now. Instead, it should be our calling to work on strengthening our own families, teaching others to do the same, and having the courage to speak the truth about God’s design in the midst of very noisy deceit. Imagine a village full of healthier, spiritually stronger individuals who now are open to receiving mentoring, developing themselves, and helping to develop others. Now THAT’s the job of the village.

    • Sarah, Thank you for sharing these challenging and encouraging thoughts. My twin sons will be 18 soon and while some might think their job as parents of the family are done in this situation, I don’t see it that way. The role will be changing soon, but we are still a family and one day, I hope to be a grandfather that helps carry on a legacy.

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