I’m doing an intensive professional development leadership class right now. It deals with everything from government affairs to running a business to marketing to staff management. This past week we did our own Meyers Briggs personality assessment, among other training exercises. I’ve done other training exercises in the past such as DISC, a similar assessment on personality archetypes. What I take out of these exercises is not so much what my type is (ESTJ and “I” for those who are curious), but recognizing that we live and work and relate with a lot of different people and how they see or feel the world can be very different than us. Like the The 5 Love Languages book, these traits are inherent to individuals and this often leads to conflicts and misunderstandings.
As I am wont to do, I take leadership and relate it back to our home life, since I’m all work lifed out right now. I’ll give you an example of a common situation. Say you’re an introvert (that is you recharge by thinking and reflecting on ideas, memories, and images in your own head) and your wife is an extrovert (who gets energy from active involvement and being involved with other people). You may get home from work and need to have some quiet time, and your wife, who may have been home with your kids, wants to go out with you and other friends to recharge. A fight ensues, all due to the disconnect in personality types.
The difference between being a leader at work or being a leader at home is not a large chasm. If you are a shitty leader at work, you’re probably a shitty leader at home. However, there are some personality types that I’ve seen (especially more introverted type who are in a management role forced to interact with others in a more extroverted manner at work) who are large and in charge at work, but are like a wet noodle who cocoons at home. They come in having been in charge all day, and doesn’t want to make a decision the rest of their day. Meanwhile, the working wife may have felt the same way, but in the vacuum and absence of leadership, the wives are left guiding the family activities at nights and weekends. How many times do you hear your work buddies refer to their wives as their “social coordinator,” like they have no say in how they spend their time or what they want to do? The problem is, your wife doesn’t see how awesome or important you are at work, only your lack of leadership at home. That can often be problematic and subconsciously (or consciously) be an anchor on your marriage and even sex life.
People are complex and don’t fit into a nice box, even if Meyers Briggs or Gary Chapman tries to put us in one. We may not be touchy feely most days, but some days maybe we just really need that after being shit on by someone. And as any man knows, your wife is a rubix cube of complex emotions and thoughts that you may never figure out. As you begin to intertwine two lives though, you start to settle into routines. Often they aren’t the same as the role you play at work, and because many men are truly and seriously “nice guys,” they go along to get along. I am a huge Stacking Benjamins podcast fan, but if I hear host Joe Saul-Sehy say for the 100th time “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” I’m going to drive down to Texarcana, Texas, take his nuts out of his wife’s purse, and then punch them. It’s pathetic. If you ever say that I will personally revoke your man card.
So often the wife tames the wild beast that is husband, like saddling a wild horse. And neither husband nor wife realize it was the wildness of the horse that attracted her in the first place. So neutered wild man starts deferring more and more to his woman, and like a frog being boiled in the pot of water, neither side realizes the dynamic shift until it is too late. And wrestling back the leadership role takes time and effort, but if successful, sets back to “right” the structure of what a husband and father’s role should be in a family. You’re still a team, but now you actually have an opinion, and act like you care, and delegate, and direct the ship like a motherfucking CAPTAIN, instead of being an extra child to take care of and account for.
Bringing it back to my class, a leader at work and at home have similar traits. From the book we had to read – The Truth about Leadership: The No-fads, Heart-of-the-Matter Facts You Need to Know, a leader has the following key traits to inspire confidence that others will want to follow willingly:
- Honest – Tell the truth and live by clear ethics. Be honest with yourself about what’s important. And don’t be afraid to have those difficult conversations instead of gunnysacking or ignoring or rationalizing poor behavior from anyone in the family, including you.
- Forward looking – You provide your followers with a future-focused vision. These visions help create success for everyone.
- Models the way – A leader doesn’t ask others to do something he isn’t willing to do. Want your wife to work out and lose weight? Then you better start kicking ass at the gym, juicing, shopping for healthier groceries, cut out alcohol, and being awesome. Amazingly your wife will find motivation to find a way. Want your kids to put down the videogames and iPad? Then get them outside and play catch or soccer, or have game night, or shoot some hoops. Modeling is more powerful than lecturing.
- Inspirational – You are enthusiastic and excited and have energy about the vision you’re selling. You aren’t a slob sitting on the couch every night with a beer. You’re the guy who lost 25 pounds and are now looking good, helping coach your kids team, volunteering at the soup kitchen with your family, and slapping your wife on the ass in front of her friends at the barbque. She laughs as she protests since she loves the attention, and you inspire her and invoke envy in her friends and yours.
- Capable – A leader gets things done – he does what he says he’ll do and he does it well. He may not have all the skills, but knows what he knows and what he doesn’t, so can get help when needed and accomplish the goal at hand. Your wife won’t care if you did the work in the remodel she’s been hounding you on or if you hire it out. But she’ll remember that you took care of it.
There you have it. Be a leader for your colleagues, your subordinates, your wife, and your kids. Get into these habits and wear them like you own ’em (and soon you will). Be like Bat Dad (he deserves his own post – we love BatDad).