College of Business > News & Events > A Q&A with Management Professor and New Author Alyssa Westring
By By Nadia Alfadel Coloma | Photos by Erielle Bakkum Photography. /
February 24, 2020 /
Posted in: Faculty /
Alyssa Westring, associate professor of management in the Driehaus College of Business and long-time researcher of work-life integration, recently wrote a book that offers working parents practical tools for applying leadership principles to their busy lives. Co-authored with Stew Friedman of Total Leadership, “Parents Who Lead: The Leadership Approach You Need to Parent with Purpose, Fuel Your Career, and Create a Richer Life” is being published by Harvard Business Review Press on March 10.
In this Q&A,
Westring talks about her new book, her motivations for writing it and what parents can gain from the guide.
Tell us about your book.
“Parents Who Lead” is essentially a guide book for working parents. Using evidence-based research, it helps parents harness the science of leadership so they can thrive in all aspects of their lives. The book includes engaging exercises and shares real stories of working parents in different life situations. “Parents Who Lead” can help any working parent who wants to forge a better future, boost their career and design sustainable solutions for a life they truly want to lead. I’m very excited to share the research I’ve been working on for years and show parents how they can utilize it to gain a greater sense of purpose and harmony in their lives.
What motivated you to write this book?
There was definitely a motivation to help parents. I’ve been doing work-life research and working with Stew Friedman on his Total Leadership research for years, and I wanted my research to reach and help people. I believe research is important for working parents, but they don’t have time to seek it out. I wanted to translate it and bring it to the forefront as someone who is also a parent and who has access to very insightful and helpful research. A lot of the advice that parents receive about work-life balance is rooted in the personal experiences of others. I wanted to offer advice based on research to help parents make the best values-based decisions for themselves, their careers and their families. Writing this book with Stew helped me accomplish that.
What did you learn about yourself while writing the book?
It allowed me to take a step back and look at my own parenting and the way I was living my values through my career and family life. Because I’d been working with Stew as a research director for Total Leadership for 15 years, I already had a lot of the general principles of what makes an effective leader in my head. Writing about it, however, really helped me reflect on how I’m applying many of those principles to my life. I was having a lot more conversations with my husband and kids about our family’s core values because I was writing this book. It helped us all become more aware of the kind of life we want to lead as a family. So it definitely made the research I was doing feel more personal and affirmed the fact that these principles I’ve been researching are actually very helpful—they work.
Books about parenting are often assumed to be for mothers. How did you try to make your book inclusive for all parents?
It’s true that some of the messages we hear about parenting and work-life balance are so tailored to the experience of women that it sort of makes women inadvertently feel that it’s their job to do it all. So we were very intentional about being gender inclusive in the book while still acknowledging the biases that exist in society. The fundamentals of Total Leadership, and the way we apply them to parenthood in this book, don’t just read to moms or women—they apply to any parent. Stew has been one of the strongest advocates for men to be a part of the conversation, so it was invaluable to have his perspective and input while writing this book so that it is meaningful and helpful to both mothers and fathers. For real gender equity, men need to engage fully in their roles as parents and partners too.
What advice do you have for students who are also working parents?
First, remind yourself that you’re undertaking an incredible challenge that will help you grow as a leader in all parts of your life. So be compassionate with yourself and remember why you decided to pursue work, school and parenthood in the first place. Next, remember that you are not alone. Talk to the people who are important to you in all parts of your life—family, bosses, professors and friends—so that they can understand what matters most to you and how they can be part of your incredible journey. Most of the parents we work with end up seeing that they have a lot more love and support than they realize—you probably do too!
Westring will be at the DePaul Barnes & Noble book store, 1 E. Jackson Blvd., on the Loop Campus on April 9 at 5 p.m. promoting her book. Stop by to meet the author and get a signed copy.