Hands down, Leon Walker’s favorite title is dad.
As a divorced father of two young children, it’s the role he embraces most fully — and not just because his day job involves championing fatherhood.
Before he became executive director of the Michigan-based Partnership for Dads in 2016, Walker worked in the information technology field.
He found this career satisfying, but when an opportunity arose to transform his longtime volunteer role with the nonprofit Partnership into a paid position, he leaped at the chance to do work that could help fathers value their roles and receive support to parent well.
“There’s nothing more important to me than being a good parent,” Walker said recently by phone from Detroit, where he is co-parenting his daughter, 9, and son, 3.
“What I enjoy most is helping each other grow,” he said of himself and his children. “There’s no replacement for having children who provide you with a unique personal education. So, as they are learning from me and growing; I am learning from them.”
Walker also recognizes the need to learn from parenting professionals and from other adults who have navigated the developmental stages, societal pressures and other unique issues that parents must handle while raising children.
He wants fathers to consider how what they do for their children and how the messages they pour into them every day shape who their children become in adulthood.
He regularly shares that perspective as the leader of Partnership for Dads, which was established in 1999. The organization hosts a conference every winter to encourage dads to be intentional in their parenting and to pursue work-life balance, for the benefit of their children.
Walker’s father left their family when Walker was 9, and he remembers both the comfort and confidence of having his father’s presence before that, as well as the void his father’s absence created afterward.
“I recognized (early on) how important a dad is to a child,” he said.
With that in mind, he has been thoughtful about choosing work that allows him to spend quality time with his children and experience life’s up and downs with them.
In his work with other dads, he encourages them to enjoy each stage of the parenting experience, and to take advantage of support that’s available in their local communities and through organizations like the one he leads.
He hopes the time he invests caring for, playing with and bonding with his children is laying a foundation that will prepare them for a lifetime of appreciating family and achieving all kinds of success.
“I try to impress my values upon my daughter and my son, and I hope they will adopt my views and (someday) apply them with their own children,” Walker said. “I don’t know the key to happiness in life, but it’s important to begin by being a dedicated person and by making an effort to be the best parent you can be, to give your children a chance at life.”