Men are genetically wired to lead—or at least want to lead—to have the strength, the answer, the way over the mountain and to help others get there. Since I was a kid, I wanted to be someone like King Henry V or General Patton and give rallying speeches before epic battles. Ask any man, and he’ll tell you his leadership influences, both common and legendary (let me add Denzel Washington in “Remember the Titans” to my list). There is a mistake with this line of thinking, though; because this is not the leadership our wives fantasize us giving to the family.
What? You mean my wife doesn’t think of me waving her and the kids into the battle fray or a last-second touchdown? Correct. Save that for paintball weekends and little league coaching instead. Those guys will eat it up like so many deep-fried Oreos. Of course, your wife wants to be inspired and given direction to win, but it looks completely different for her. One critical way your wife wants to be guided by you: Servant Leadership.
What is servant leadership? In the late 1970’s, Robert K. Greenleaf wrote Servant Leadership and quietly rocked the business world. Now, his book is a modern day classic. He essentially took principles from Jesus Christ and repackaged them to the marketplace (and more power to him), so the core of servant leadership is self-sacrifice.
Greenleaf says moral authority comes through sacrifice in four basic elements of nature. Let me break them down and add family leadership application:
1) Physical/economic sacrifice: Holding back and giving back. Men must learn to withhold many of the things he wants until their proper time (or not at all)—sex and lust on-demand, indebtedness, indulgences, grown-up toys, etc. Simultaneously, he should become an expert at building life-margin and then giving time, energy and resources away to worthy endeavors.
2) Emotional/social sacrifice: Apologize and forgive. Being right is a big deal to mankind, especially male-kind; but servant leadership means admitting when you’re wrong and seeking forgiveness, and to lead the way in this practice. That said, giving forgiveness is equally important when others seek it. Don’t add strings to your pardon, just give it without equivocation.
3) Mental sacrifice: Seek wisdom and self-discipline exponentially more than pleasure. To be amused and feel pleasure is necessary to healthy living, but it’s not the whole of life. In fact, one spent seeking the next revelry is empty and wasted. Servant leadership seeks wisdom (through education, practical learning, reading, daily reflection, etc.) and grows in self-restraint (to command emotions and appetites).
4) Spiritual sacrifice: Live Humbly and courageously. Humility means to willfully choose a lower position (to not think too highly of oneself), and courage means to willfully face difficulty (to believe victory is possible). Put those two together to equal a leader that is neither arrogant nor passive, a husband who engineers necessary conflict, so everyone can win, not to force his demands. Also, he is a husband who will lay down his life (and preferences) for the good of those that follow him.
When a man adopts a self-sacrificing leadership approach, and his wife trusts that he consistently gives up his pride and comfort to add value to their relationship, she will follow him anywhere with a whole heart. Try a commander, strong-arm, trial lawyer approach and she’ll shut down or go AWOL.
Choose servant leadership.