I’ve been asked on several occasions what it looks like for me to lead my family. And while I don’t think there is one specific answer to this question, I wanted to take time to unpack the topic of from my perspective.
Google’s definition for leadership is “the action of leading a group of people or an organization.”
In my opinion, good leadership is not simply accomplishing a goal, but rather accomplishing a goal in the healthiest and best way possible as it pertains to a particular group. While in many team environments, there are times when the make up of a group changes — people join, people leave — in order to better suit the goal, this is not the case for my family. We are committed to one another before we are committed to achieving a goal or working out a value. And so, it is important that everyone in my family agrees on the goals or values we are going after together.
Specifically as it pertains to leadership in my family, I feel that my primary role is to create an environment where each member— Becky, Demma (5), Cedar (2) — can thrive as an individual and that our family is able to thrive as a whole. In certain spheres, I have heard spiritual authority communicated more as a paternal dictatorship — whatever dad says goes — but I do not find this a helpful way forward for our family. It’s not that one wouldn’t accomplish anything with the dictatorial mantra, but for us there is a better way. “Whatever dad says goes” naturally removes the individual influence, strength, and perspective that resides in each member of my family. There is no empowerment here, there is no growing together, there is no honoring one another. In my opinion, in an autocratic family environment, we resign our ability to bring positive empowerment and impact to one another and to those who come in contact with our family.
Leader as gatekeeper
I like to think of my role as spiritual leader of my house more as a gatekeeper than as a dictator. Consider the cultural environment of a home as the makeup of what is and is not allowed into the environment. If honor is something that is fostered in a home, then the culture will reflect a spirit of honor. If fear is perpetuated in a home, then the culture of a home will reflect a spirit of fear, permeating it’s members. If individual empowerment is fostered, then there will be a sense of ownership over the vision and direction of the family.
Leader as champion and encourager
To lead my family well also necessitates that I champion each member of my family, continually communicating the value of the individual as greater than any particular structure or method. If we build a system around the idea that we all best function at 6am, then, while Ceder and I would thrive, Becky and Demma would never feel like they were able to hit a stride in this particular family rhythm. But, if we built a regular family rhythm at 2am, Becky and Demma would be fully awake and alert while the boys would have fallen asleep 4 hours prior and wouldn’t have even made it to the gathering.
Leading an environment suited for thriving
Several years ago, Becky came to me and communicated her need for personal creative space in her regular life rhythm. While she loves our family and loves her role, the demands on her time taking care of the kids and meeting the demands of the home was giving her little room for personal creativity — a value that makes her come alive and helps everything else work well. It was out of this wrestle that came her photography company – KET Photography. Thriving looks different for every family member and in every phase of life. Leadership in this sense is being aware of the needs of each family member and being willing to rethink structure — creative problem solving — in order to help promote individual and family wholeness.
Leading by real time example
Lastly, when I think through leading my family, I think of values I would like to see worked out in our family and how we —me and Becky— will bring them into our family. We go first.
Since Becky and I want our kids to be good at conflict and to be quick to forgive, then we should be resolving conflict in front of them and asking one another for forgiveness while Demma and Cedar are watching! Sure there are times when we need to resolve conflict alone, but to work through the small ones with the whole family present sets a context for what mom and dad consider a healthy way to work through conflict and forgiveness.
We also want Demma and Cedar to know that God speaks and desires relationship with them. So, to foster this in our family, Becky and I ask Demma what she hears God saying to her on various topics. One way we foster this is during our Sabbath Dinner — more on our Sabbath Dinners. Becky begins our dinners with a motherly blessing, which can include what she feels God communicating to each person present, including Demma and Cedar. When Becky doesn’t include this bit of the prayer, Demma notices and asks when she will do that part again! She already has a sense for the Lord’s presence with us. The last time Becky didn’t add this portion into the blessing, she asked Demma to ask God what he thought about each person at the table… it was so powerful.
The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion — Paulo Coelho
Being lead by the Holy Spirit
The most important dimension of leadership is to be ruthless about who I am following. If I am allowing my choices to be dictated or influenced by the “worries of this world and the deceitfulness of wealth” (Matthew 13), then I am leading my family away from the fullness of life for which we are purposed. But, if I regularly quiet my spirit and allow God to speak truth to my heart through scripture and by his Holy Spirit and if I am actively responding and wrestling through the truth he presents, then I am leading my family in the direction we were created to go. Our heavenly father is an incredible leader. He is kind. He is gracious. He is wise. He has simply called us to listen for his voice and to follow. And he will lead us as we lead those with whom we have been charged.