Why do some of the sharpest leaders step up in the workplace but flake out when they walk into their home? Is it fatigue? Work overload? Or are they just out of their element?
With Father’s Day approaching, this blog is written from one dad to another. Mom’s, I encourage you to keep reading too because you’re our partner, and often our greatest supporter. Hopefully the single parents who read this will also be encouraged and challenged.
Most of us tend to view leading as something that’s work-related—it’s something we do with and for our constituents, co-workers, or congregants. And if we’re lucky, we hope that our leadership will trickle down to our family lives at home. But we’ve got it backwards.
A little girl asked her mom, “Why does Daddy always bring work home?”
Her upbeat mom answered, “Oh, Daddy has so much work to do that he can’t get it all done at the office.”
And the child said, “Why don’t they just put him in a slower group?”
If only it were that easy. Work flows to the competent, which makes time of the essence.
Living for the Ladder
The more you achieve in leadership circles, the more tempted you will be to put family on the back-burner. Don’t become consumed with climbing the ladder of success. Someday you may find yourself at the top of the ladder—all alone. The joy of success comes when your loved ones are by your side supporting you.
Since leaders are pretty time conscious, let me suggest three crucial times when you can lead your family.
- Mealtime: Guard it. Protect it. You may have to eat early or late—just make certain you do it together as often as possible. Harvard professor Dr. Catherine Snow followed 65 families over an eight-year period. She made this profound discovery: Dinnertime is of more value to child development than playtime, school time, and story time.
If eating around the kitchen table trumps the benefits of school, then you’ve got my attention. At the table you can affirm, teach, listen, reinforce, and laugh! Life lessons can be learned here. So put away your phone and look into your family’s eyes.
- Travel Time: Like it or not the inside of your SUV or car has become the modern day living room. As you shuttle your kids to and from, you have quality training time. Jesus taught his disciples while he travelled. He always seized teachable moments.
Leading your family isn’t measured by how many different directions you go. Non-stop activity rarely breeds character. Use your travel time to point your children in the right direction.
You won’t always have them riding with you. Someday they’ll be driving separately, and it will be sooner than you think. Take advantage of your captive audience (see Deuteronomy 6:4–9). Remember you are raising them to release them. So use your travel time to prepare them for when you’re not there.
- Bedtime: Sometimes we miss out on this pivotal time to lead our little ones, especially Dads. I’ve been guilty of leaving the tucking in and bedtime prayers to my wife—that’s a leadership cop out on my part. You may spend your workday delegating duties, but please don’t do it here. This is an opportunity for each parent to affirm, console, encourage, and bless your kids just before they fall asleep.
My parents took turns. Often one of them would pray by my bedside. “Oh Lord, I can’t wait to see how you are going to use Dave.” So, instead of falling asleep wondering if God could use me, I dreamed of how He was going to use me. They were vision-casting for me as an elementary student. That’s leadership in the home.
Restructure Your Day—and Your Priorities
Centuries ago, the Hebrews actually viewed 6 p.m. when the workday ended as the technical beginning of the day. What if you were to change the way you view the home front—and you allowed your family to get the first fruits of your energy instead of the leftovers? Your children need to see, hear, and sense that they are more important to you than your job.
Remember, in order to lead in the home you must actually be in the home.