I’m excited that you are visiting my newly redesigned website, HaroldArnold.com. It has just received a major overhaul. You might call it a “fresh start”.
This was done to better serve your needs at home, at work, and even in ministry. The reality is that while my old website was good for getting me to this point, it was not suited to take me to the next level or help me reach my goals. It needed a fresh start.
During the past few years in working with couples, singles, and families I’ve come to what for me has been a stunning conclusion. Families lack leadership.
Sounds a bit odd doesn’t it? Well, this is because we don’t typically think of leadership as it pertains to our homes.
Many of us spend significant resources honing our leadership skills in our workplaces and maybe even our ministries. We read and listen to John Maxwell, Peter Drucker, and other leadership gurus looking for that edge in better inspiring and developing our employees, our co-workers, and our congregations.
When we are promoted into leadership positions, our organizations often send us to specialized leadership training for the purpose of developing the perspective and skills that will lead the organization toward fulfillment of its vision.
But, who trains us to lead our homes?—which is both a moral and biblical mandate.
What exactly does it mean to lead your home?
My wife and I recently sat with a young, newly married wife who was frustrated with what she sees as a lack of spiritual leadership from her husband. We’ve witnessed dozens of similar incidents from spouses in all seasons of marriage. Spouses need leadership.
Have you ever sat with a group of whiz kids that are highly skilled in working with technological gadgets but lack even basic relational skills with adults or even their own peers. Children and teens need leadership.
How often have you been out shopping and watched a young child bully his or her parents into submission? Parents need to better grasp their leadership role in the home.
In all of these situations it is very easy to become discouraged as the emotional weight of these exchanges takes its toll.
But, I’m here to encourage you that for most of us we really just need a “fresh start”. Some of our relationships need a major overhaul—kinda like my website. While your ingrained thinking and behaving has gotten you and your family to this point, it isn’t going to get you to your goals as a spouse or a parent.
While the nuances are going to vary by your situation and family configuration, I would like to offer you three basic steps to leading you home for the fresh start that you deserve.
Step 1: Know when to Manage and when to Lead
Many people struggle to get the outcomes they desire in their homes because they don’t grasp the difference between leadership and management. Yet, this is is paramount to getting that fresh start. Management is transactional. Simply put, management focuses on an exchange or a functional goal.
For example, a dad continually monitors his high school daughter’s grades via the online system into which teachers post grades. When he sees a disappointing grade he sends an email to her teacher to inquire. This well-intended father is managing his daughter’s academic performance. And, it may result in an improved grade for his daughter.
But, is he demonstrating leadership?
While a management approach often helps us achieve functional goals like improving a grade from a “C” to a “B”, it takes leadership to transform the way his daughter sees her role in monitoring her grades. The key here is transformation—that is always the goal of leadership.
In this same scenario, the dad may embrace a leadership approach by helping his daughter understand her own responsibility for monitoring her grades and holding her accountable for doing it. In this way, the dad is teaching his daughter a skill that she can apply in a variety of settings thus transforming the way she interacts with her environment.
Parenting, and other important relationships require both management and leadership approaches as dictated by circumstances. The key is to know when each is warranted. Too often, we are managing our homes when what is really needed is your leadership.
Click here for an insightful discussion in the Wall St. Journal comparing leadership and management.
Step 2: Communicate Aspirational Expectations
The primary goal of any leadership effort is to set the direction of the organization. This is equally (if not more) true in your home. In families, as in other organizations, strategic and tactical direction is established by making the expectations crystal clear, realistic, and measurable.
However, most families do not have clearly established expectations—much less ones that are measurable. Don’t get me wrong. There are often assumptions about what we want to happen. But, too often people do not know that they haven’t met these expectations until they are reprimanded or criticized for not doing so. In some leadership circles, this is called “Management by Exception”. And, this is not the culture that you want to establish in your home.
Rather, you want to set expectations that encourage those that you care about to be all that they can be. Here is a cute example of how a coach inspired desired behavior by refusing to succumb to a Management by Exception approach.
We know that children tend to rise to the expectations that we have of them. Here are three questions to ask yourself about your own expectations setting.
- Are my expectations for this person too low?
- Are my expectations in line with this person’s gifts and interests (or are they clouded by my own desires for them)?
- How can I convey these expectations in a way that this person can receive them?
Returning to our example of the dad who is concerned about his daughter’s grade, how might he better demonstrate leadership through expectation setting?
Though it can be handled many ways, there is no question that several expectations need to be vocalized.
First, he has to communicate his expectation that she perform her best academically (personally, in my household my kids clearly know that I expect them to achieve “A’s”).
Second, he has to communicate his expectation that she regularly monitors her grades and contacts teachers when questionable grades are evident (with his assistance when necessary).
Finally, he wants his daughter to know that she can expect him to love her unconditionally even if the grade isn’t what they had hoped.
Step 3: Encourage Your Success
The final step in demonstrating leadership is to create a home environment in which encouragement is liberally dispensed. Encouragement is the currency of successful leadership. Encouragement can take many forms. Sometimes it is tangible like money. Other times it is intangible like a simple affirming statement.
I am convinced that families are suffering from an encouragement deficit. Whether through our busyness, our self-centeredness, or our lack of knowledge, we do not encourage those whom we care about. And, its absence is wreaking havoc in our homes (as well as places of work and ministry).
When you encourage your family members you build their self-esteem, give them confidence, and your strengthen the bonds of trust between you and them. Your spouse, kids, and parents face a multitude of stressors that erode their confidence. And, there is no better way for you to lift their spirits and their success than by encouraging them with a timely word.
The key is to remember to encourage them in a language that they can receive. People have different love languages. And, because of this they also have different languages of encouragement. In order for you to really reach them, you must encourage them in a way that is meaningful to them. This starts by genuinely listening (non-judgmentally) to what is going on with them.
Through the Leading You Home resources I pray that you will be equipped with the skills and attitude to get that fresh start in your home. Regardless of how things look right now, you have the power to transform your home to a sanctuary that prepares you and those that you care about to rise to your full potential and change everything that matters.
Please take a few moments to share with us how you demonstrate leadership in your home and what you do to encourage your spouse, children, and/or parents. Can’t wait to read your thoughts.