How Leadership at Home Affects the Rest of Life

I am mostly offline, attending a business conference. I have asked several bloggers to post in my absence. This is a guest post by John G. Miller, author of QBQ! The Question Behind the Question. You can visit his website and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Have you ever heard—or asked—questions like these at work? “Who dropped the ball?” “Why can’t that department do its job right?” “When will we find good people?”

These questions lead us into the dangerous traps of blame, victim thinking, and procrastination—ones that leaders work hard to avoid while on the job.

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But what if the person asking these questions was also a parent and later returned to their family, asking: “Who made the mess in here?” “Why won’t he ever listen to me?” “When will my spouse help out more?”

Once again, they’ve slipped into a same dangerous trap—but now at home. And in doing so, this mom or dad has taught their child to ask lousy questions such as: “Why aren’t my friends nicer to me?” “When will my teacher give me a break?” “Who’s going to pay for my college?”

Then, the child becomes an adult and finds employment. Soon this person can be found at the water cooler huddle, whispering: “Who’s going to solve the problem?” “Why do we have to go through all this change?” “When is someone going to train me?”

And the problems of blame, victim thinking, and procrastination remain deeply embedded in our society, while a lack of personal accountability persists in our world.

Is it possible that when people at work blame and whine, it’s because they were taught to do so at home? And that these dangerous ways of acting and thinking were modeled for them—by mom and dad?!

Leadership begins at home. Until Mom and Dad choose to practice personal accountability in their lives, not much will change—anywhere.

The working parent who laments the degeneration of society while complaining that younger employees “lack work ethic” fails to understand this: Societal problems, which include all the problems found within our organizations, are rooted in the family.

The unaccountable parent who goes to work and criticizes others for acting entitled, fails to ask, “Am I creating entitled children at home?”

The mom or dad who fails to lead exclaims, “The finger-pointing in our world is a terrible thing!” but does not look inward with the question, “Am I raising children who blame their teachers when they get a poor grade?”

And then there is the parent who asks, “When will my daughter start getting her homework done on time?” but models procrastination at home with the words, “I’ll do it later.”

Parents who are leaders know this: Modeling is the most powerful of all teachers. Dads and moms who accept the mantle of home leadership accept that they—not sports stars, pop culture icons, or Hollywood celebrities—are the role models for their kids.

These are “no excuses” parents. They don’t blame the famous for the “poor example that they set” and would never employ the grand parental excuse: “My child didn’t turn out as I’d hoped, because he got in with the wrong crowd.”

Leadership at home is captured in this statement: My child is a product of my parenting. Any other view of parenting is irresponsible folly. Excuse-making is never part of a leader’s world.

Moms and dads who really grasp that victim thinking is a disease spread from parents to kids—that blame is taught and caught, and that procrastination is learned—know what will happen should they fail to fulfill their job at home.

It is no surprise that we’ll reap a weak workplace where salespeople whine, “I missed my sales goal because our pricing is too high!”, employees lament, “Why doesn’t management do more for us?”, and colleagues point fingers, saying, “Nobody cared about the project as much as I did.”

My wife, Karen, and I have seven children ages thirteen to twenty-nine—six girls and one boy. The youngest three (all girls) are adopted.

Here’s what we believe: Parenting is a learned skill. It’s a developed capability that responsible parents purposely strive to acquire.

Understanding the critical nature of parenting, moms and dads who are leaders ask what we call “The Question Behind the Question,” or “QBQ.” Here are some QBQs that parents who lead ask:

  • “How can I be a more effective at home?”
  • “What can I do today to set a better example for my child?”
  • “How can I learn new parenting skills?”

This is leadership. This is personal accountability. And it all begins at home.

Question: What’s an example from your own life of how leadership at home translates to leadership at work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Uma Maheswaran S

    John! It all started with my dad. He was my motivational force and inspiration. I can never think of reaching this height in my life without him.

    • John G. Miller

       Amen, Uma – dads are critical!

  • Diane Yuhas

    While I agree with this post in general and believe that good parenting is extremely important, I must point out that children exercise their own God-given will.  Parents must model and guide their children, but ultimately a person chooses their own way in life. We must exercise caution in polarizing blame at either end.

  • Brian Dodd

    Great post!  I don’t think you can separate leadership in any area of your life.  However, the most important leadership role I have is as husband and father because I am sending people forth into a time I cannot.  Everyday I set precedent.

  • He4gavu

    When my son and daughter were very young I soon learned that tying to get in the middle of their little squabbles with each other was fruitless. All it did was end up with a lot of finger pointing on their side and a lot of frustration on mine. So I came up with the idea of making them sit on the “Love Seat” (which we very handily happened to have), until they could work out their argument between themselves. At they end of it all they had to be able to tell each other that they were sorry – and I didn’t accept any of that stuff where they just said it. It had to be genuine, and they had to look each other in the eye and mean it. Then hug each other. and be able to say what they were sorry for. Transition today….my son works a lot with youth, and is wonderful with counseling, especially the troubled ones. My daughter is such a good proleg solver and works so well with people that she has had several promotions, and is usually the person asked to train new personnel in her job….as well as having many people seek out her advice on a personal level.

  • jason

    God is so good!  Earlier today I was speaking to my cousin, who is the proud daddy of a beautiful 3 year old, and to the man who will be marrying into our family in a few months, and I was encouraging them about their manhood, and specifically, how we as men are watched by our children and spouses on how we ‘walk in our decisions.’  And now I read this great article on ‘home training’, and the responsibility we have as leaders in our home.  Thank you so much for the article, and thanks be to God for the affirmation and confirmation as well.

    • John G. Miller

       Jason, thanks for the wisdom. “Walk in our decisions” – I like it!

  • Kapilbhatia

    I am no different from most of you. I too have been a victim of stress, blame, procrastination since early childhood. I am 31 right now & have a 4 year old son. I am still not able to understand why  life’s simple matters are not simple for me. But I have modeled leadership in my family for the next generation & trying to battle it out for the old generation too. I try to keep things as simple as possible. I am greatly inspired in my life as i have incorporated personal accountability.

    • John G. Miller

       Excellent job!

  • William J Spencer IV

    I realize that excuse started with my actions. 

  • Garrett Miller

    John a great post. It is what my wife and I call a ‘nose bleeder’ b/c it hits us both right in the kisser and stings a bit. We love your books and philosophies b/c they cause us to look in the mirror and effect our surroundings and take responsibility. We are attempting to model and teach our children the same. Just this morning one of our children was complaining that the reason a note was sent home about his behavior is b/c the teacher was having a bad day. If we don’t address this now with some QBQ intervention he will be the same sales guy complaining that clients are not buying because marketing, management or fill in the blank…..stinks. 
    Thank you for giving us the tools to be better parents.

    Garrett Miller (no relation) author Hire on a WHIM 

    • John G. Miller

       Garrett, too kind. Thanks! You’re right: Parents need tools and QBQ is a good one. Thanks!

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  • Brandon Coppernoll

    If I could say anything from my childhood that sticks out to me would be my father never accepted “it’s too hard” as an excuse. He always challenged me to think differently about my approach and encouraged that I don’t give up just because “it’s too hard.” Now I seem to find and relish the projects that are difficult and thrive in those situations.

    • John G. Miller

       Sounds like you had an outstanding dad, Brandon!

  • Myke

    Ingesting article, but I would disagree with the opening questions. In the workplace “Who dropped the ball” and “Why can’t the department do its job right” are both valid–and needed–questions to ask.

    It’s not assigning blame or being a victim; it is geared towards figuring out the disconnect(s) and fixing them. I ask both of these questions all the time as a way to process something that went wrong. The I use this information to correct the mistakes.

    • John G. Miller

       Myke, analyzing a problem and doing “root cause analysis” are one thing and the intent to complain, whine, and find culprits is another. Pickup our QBQ! book, if you would, and you’ll see what were teaching here about the danger of lousy questions. Blessings.

  • abdul krishna

     My name is Sonia and I Live United States. I have worked for Frank for over 10 years without promotion,leave or any good benefits. He treats me like hell and promises to make my life a more living hell in Boston if I ever got out of his Advertising agency,making sure I do not work for any other firm in Boston for the rest of my life. I am a single,widowed mother of two kids and I can’t afford to lose my job. i was so down cast and i felt the world has come to an end for me being stuck in this old,unhappy and unfulfilled job but my friend told me about a spell caster that helped her sister out in getting her relationship back,a good job and favor in any of her endeavor but at first i was scared but i have to give this man a trial because I needed a promotion badly and one was coming up at the moment. I ordered a spell from this great spell caster that made me a happy woman. I became Frank’s favorite just three days after he cast my spell. I have been promoted and enjoying every part of my job for six months now. I want to testify to the good works of the Prophet of Goddess and I will forever be grateful to his good works because he restored my lost happiness in my job and i am happy today because of his good work. Contact him in any problem on his website or or He is always there to assist you.

  • Bev

    I passed this article onto my three sons. All are wonderful men who love the Lord, are gainfully employed, and have a great work ethic. I sometimes look back to the days when we raised our sons and think, I wished we had done this with our sons, or spent more time teaching them this or that, or just more time talking about the really “important” things in life, etc. You get the picture. But then I look at them and I can’t even express how thankful and how proud of them we are today.  Then I received this message from my youngest (27 yr old) after he read John Miller’s post on Michael Hyatt’s blog. “Thanks Mom for sharing.  Agreed!  And THANKS Mom and Dad for setting great examples and pushing us hard through your love.  Much appreciated! Love, C”  We are blessed. I hope young parents come to know that how they lead in the home forms their children into the kind of adults they will become. 

    • John G. Miller

       Bev, how wonderful of you to pass it on to those you love the most. Honored!

  • DentalAccountant

    Yeah this is really true! I agree that leadership starts at home. And this kind of training helps your whole family right? Thanks for sharing this post. It is really helpful.

    • John G. Miller

       Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading.

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  • Danny L. Smith

    After 7 years of practicing QBQ, I’ve learned that as important as it is to ask others the “right” question, it’s even more important to ask yourself the right question. The first book my wife saw me purchase over 25 years ago was “What To Say When You Talk To Yourself” by Shad Helmstetter.

    John Miller’s QBQ has been an instumental tool in the continuous process of getting what I say to myself and others done well. A work in process, but I’m much better because of QBQ.

    Thanks John.

    • John G. Miller

       Danny, too kind! Be good!

  • A concerned parent

    I read this and I originally passed by it and read the other blogs.  But, all of these blogs are related and the one about 5 ways to listen better actually caused me to come back and ask this question here.  I raised 4 daughters as a single parent and up until about 3 years ago I honestly thought I was the worst parent alive because of issues that happened with my daughters and also because I knew some of the mistakes that I made and one of the mistakes was not listening to them.  At any rate, it took me years to come to terms with the fact that regardless of what happened then, I can’t change it so move on.  And, I have or I am (trying to).  
    One of my now adult daughters came to me regarding a situation and before she was done I interrupted her with questions.  She got frustrated and said that this is the reason why none of them liked to tell me anything because I never heard them out.  And, I know she has a point.  Now, my issue is this:  I don’t hear them out because they speak foolishness (and please believe me there is no better word).  Instead of recognizing their parts in a situation they want to point fingers.  I don’t go for this tactic and I never have.  I have tried to teach them that regardless of what someone else does, you do what’s right and thank God that you are able to–or something along those lines.  They said that I equate everything with God and I don’t understand them, etc.  So, I shut up and let her finish.  When she finished I didn’t say anything.  She asked me what I thought and I stated that I had already told her…and she got mad some more.  Question:  These are my children and I love them dearly, but am I really expected to listen to nonsense in the name of good parenting?  I’m really concerned because I now have 10 grandchildren and I just don’t see me listening to hand me down foolishness.  I have prayed and I believe that God has shown me some things, and then I read posts like yours and I almost go backwards and begin to question myself and God.  
    Any insight that you may be able to provide would be most appreciated.

    • Garrett Miller

      It is great to hear you ask for insights. Being humble and looking for answers is the first step. Your question is a deep one and I’d not do it justice in this space. I’d recommend reading John Miller’s book (the original poster) Parenting the QBQ way? It is a very easy and practical read. You’ll learn how to listen for the real issues and ask the right questions. By sharing the QBQ philosophy with your children you will give them the tools for success in life. We speak QBQ around our house. Though it is humbling when I hear from my 12yr daughter, “Dad that is not QBQ!” 
      I still have much to learn.  Hope this helps.
      Garrett Miller (no relation to John)

      • A concerned parent

        K, thanks Mr. Miller; I will get a copy of that book as soon as I can!
        Stay Blessed!

        • John G. Miller

          Garrett, thanks for your recommendation. Concerned Parent, we have adult children too – and we know what you mean. As we say in our new “Parenting the QBQ Way” eBook, “parenting never ends, but it changes. We move from building our kids to relating to our kids.” Foolishness or not, you we can’t change our adults kids and sometimes have to ask The Ultimate QBQ! – which you’ll learn about in the QBQ! book Garrett suggested. Blessings!

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  • janeey davis

    Thank you for fantastic post. Its really great post . In every family head of the family is the main leader of the family. I really appreciate your perfect example of leader ship.
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  • LeadershipSkillsHQ

    Leadership at home is when I see my dad putting others before self. He was a blue collar worker earning minimum wages to pay for a decent roof over our heads, meals on the table and most importantly good education. He understood the importance of good education. There were times when me and my brother wanted to quit our studies to help him out – he has a prosthetic leg. But he was adamant (and sometimes outright vehement) about us finishing our studies. I’m glad we listened. God Bless his soul. (We miss u dad!)