What if I mess up? Am I making the right decision? Will my wife like the way I lead, better yet will she let me lead? What if something doesn’t work out the way I planned it? Whether you’re a new husband or a husband that’s been at it for some time, these are all questions that have probably crossed your mind at some point in your marriage.
Wives and submission get a lot of air time but what about the counterpart that talks about us husbands and leading our families? I’m not afraid to say that leading can be a little intimidating sometimes. It’s not exactly the same as running a Fortune 500 company but it comes close. Like it or not when we said “I do” at the altar this is what we signed up for—being a leader.
“But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ,
and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
1 Corinthians 11:3
For many of us leading may not come naturally. Maybe some of us didn’t have a father at home to model how to lead our family or perhaps our father was there but our moms made most of the decisions and our dads were kind of just there but not taking on the leadership responsibilities. How do we learn to lead without a blueprint? Or in some cases, how do we learn to lead when we have a strong independent wife that isn’t totally sold on the whole husbands lead, wives submit concept?
With Ashley, I knew that she was a strong, driven, opinionated (I say that with the highest level of respect), intelligent woman and I was up to the CHALLENGE of being her husband. I knew I was going to have to play the Cliff to her Clair Huxtable, so I went ahead and bought myself a few new Bill Cosby sweaters for my collection. She would be my equal, my match but I would also have to lead her somehow. As contradictory as that sounds, it’s not really surprising that it has taken us some time and some bumps along the way to figure out what that really looks like for us.
While it may be defined differently in every relationship, in its simplest form leadership for a husband means that the ultimate responsibility for your family’s spiritual, emotional, financial, and every other needs lies with you. We don’t have to do all the praying or pay all of the bills, but it is our responsibility to see to it that our family is taken care of. The rise and fall of our families is ultimately in our hands. Scary, huh?
This topic of leadership always has lots of various opinions and interpretations floating around, but not a lot of concrete answers in the mix. My growth as a leader is still very much a work in progress, but there are a few things that I aspire to achieve in order to be a better leader that I want to share here. But before we get to that, I want to share two things that I had to do to prepare myself to be fully ready to lead my family.
- Walking with Integrity – Our wives must feel that we have their best interests in mind, that we can be trusted, and we’ve shown ourselves worthy as a leader in order for them to willingly follow us. There was a long time in my marriage where I didn’t feel comfortable stepping up to the plate to lead because of past mistakes that were weighing on me and even thoughts and actions that I was dealing with at the moment that made me feel unworthy to be in that role. My rationale was, how could I lead my family if I couldn’t even lead myself in the right direction? So what did I do? I shied away from the responsibility and let us float along.
I don’t know what things you may have to start doing or stop doing in order to lead with a pure heart, but I can say from experience that those things will hinder you from being the leader you’re called to be. One of the things that helped me regain my clarity and integrity, was drawing closer to God.
- Walking with Christ – We have to be in tune with God’s word and desires for us in order to share that word with our family as we live it out. So that means reading the bible, having regular prayer time, spending time with like-minded husbands, and generally seeking God’s heart. What this also will do by default is push out our own agendas. The more space we allow in our hearts and minds for God’s desires, the more of our own selfishness will be pushed out. Just like with integrity, I really do believe this is one of the virtues that our wives can see from a mile away. She may not even recognize it but subconsciously wives will likely sense if you are not in tune with God’s word which will make her less likely to follow your lead and submit in areas where she may not fully be in agreement. But if she knows that you are truly seeking God’s wisdom on all matters concerning your family, with none of your own filters applied to it, there will be less chance of her pushing back.
After I began to make a conscious effort to look at myself in those two foundational areas, I was finally able to clearly focus on the role I was called to be in. But just what exactly does leadership look like in the real world? These are four things that I’m learning to do along the way:
- Drive the Vision and Set the Tone – One of the biggest things husbands can do for our families is to drive the vision. We don’t have to have all of the details worked out or know exactly how to get there, but we must have an idea of what we want our families to look like and stand for. One of the things that we committed to as a family for this year was writing down a family vision. Although I had a vague vision of what I wanted our family to look like, not articulating and sharing it with Ashley made her feel uncomfortable with where we were going. So sitting down together with her and writing our vision statement helped us to gain a shared understanding. It is also important that we as husbands walk out this vision on a daily basis. When we lead by example in this way it sets a tone that our wives and children are able to see and follow.
- Be Proactive and take Initiative – There’s no getting around the word “lead” when you look at what a leader is tasked with doing. By definition lead means ‘to be out in front’. Now don’t hear what I’m not saying. This doesn’t mean make all of the big decisions and then tell your wife about it later. That will only lead you to a nice overnight stay on the sofa alone. The way I like to think of it is that you don’t have to have all the ideas at the table, but you do have to see to it that you and your wife come to the table to discuss the issues that could impact the family. Remember that your wife is your partner and should not be shut out but instead should be an active participant. For example, prior to our last vision planning and goal setting session I sent Ashley a calendar invite and created a list of items that I felt needed to be on our list to get the conversation started. This let her know that I was fully invested in the success of our family and had put thought into the conversation ahead of time.
- Be a Servant Leader – Leading is not just done for the glory. Sometimes (a lot of the time) it’s about doing the dirty work. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet as an example of service. I’d have to imagine that was a tough day for Jesus. Some of us might think twice if we even had to wash our wife’s feet after a hot summer day! But the point is Jesus was a servant leader. One of the traits that this helps develop in us as men is humility. We are to serve our wives by listening to her, sacrificing for her, and using her love language to model the way Christ loved and served the Church.
- Be ok with Making Mistakes – We’re not going to get everything right every time. We all know that Jesus was the only perfect person to ever walk the Earth, so the rest of us are allowed a few mistakes here and there. In the big moments when we are called to lead, our job is to seek His wisdom, make the best decision available, and let God handle the rest. In the past, we weren’t consistent in paying tithes. In my mind, I thought I was making a pretty good attempt at paying our tithes, but the year end tax summary from our church told a very different story. There were other factors that I let get in the way of my responsibility to ensure that we were being faithful stewards over our money. This was a failure on my part that had an impact on our finances. However, if we fall short in some areas like this or if some decisions don’t pan out, we admit our mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and a supportive wife will generally not point fingers but instead help find ways that you can work together to achieve your shared goals.
Leading a family is not quite the same as being a CEO at a Fortune 500 company. As a husband, the hours are longer, for less pay, and there are no days off. But in my opinion it carries even more weight and a much better benefits package. We have the responsibility for the overall well being of our wives and children. But if we stick with it we’ll see the benefits of having a loving, supportive wife, well-adjusted children, and a peaceful home.
So now, what does being a leader look like in your home?