We possibly can agree upon the characteristics of good leadership:
- Logical Planner
- Ability to motivate
- Clear statements of intentions
- Consideration of needs and interests
- Listening skills
- Trustworthy (evokes trust)
- Delegates (i.e., uses the strengths of others to help complete tasks/accomplish goals)
I’m sure there may be other characteristics, but I believe these to be some of the key traits. I tried to think about how a commander of a platoon leads, how a CEO in a major company leads, how a coordinator of a volunteer activity guides others, how a teacher in a classroom leads and motivates, how a mother manages her children, how a wife manages the home front, especially if your title is SAHM.
And, of course, the leader-husband.
Does this animal exist any more?
Chances are, there is some area in your life in which you lead. You are good at something, and others look to you for inspiration, guidance. and direction.
For some of us ladies who put on many leadership hats, we can struggle to allow others to lead, even husbands. I didn’t used to be good at it, but I’m improving. It has a lot to do with patience and not always having my way.
There is no question that I feel a sense of security and well-being when my husband is leading strongly and confidently, and when he’s making decisions for our family. I often have had to remind him in the past 4-5 years of our renewal that I crave his “commands” versus his “queries.” His decisive actions versus his hesitation. His confidence versus his insecurity. I have taken my control freak down a few notches to try to nourish his control mode. But sometimes it’s just a reflex, something in my muscle memory.
We started off in this marriage as two very capable leaders who had many years under our belts in the workforce and in other life endeavors. We both knew how to take care of business, and how to take care of ourselves. We both had traveled the globe independently, and always found our way home in one piece. Before meeting SJ, there certainly were things I didn’t care to do, the things I chauvinistically term as “guy things.” Not to say women shouldn’t do such things as car repairs, oil changes, yard work, carpentry, plumbing and electrical (and bug killing). I had a very skilled and handy father. It seemed there was nothing he couldn’t fix or build. I knew the names and uses of most tools, nails, screws and fasteners in a tool box, owned my own power drill, and actually enjoy assembling most basic things, such as IKEA furniture. Dad was a perfectionist. Things lined up. Nails were driven straight. Edges were flush. Engine oil didn’t gush over. You did it RIGHT.
SJ knew his way around a tool box, and could take care of the basics. He was doing just fine when I met him at 37. He diligently made sure car and home maintenance were hired out and taken care of. He never shirked from hard work, or rolling up his sleeves to get a job done, like the lawn, but handyman stuff wasn’t fun for him. Unlike my Dad, he preferred to spend his spare time with his kids rather than a home repair project.
After building one of our first bookshelves together, I saw his style was more chill than mine. If he struggled to turn a screw all the way in to be flush, he was OK leaving it part way out. Things weren’t always lined up. From my perfectionist background, it frustrated me. Either you back out and figure out why it’s not lining up; or you just get the right tools or muscle power needed and drive that sucker in all the way. I knew the strength and integrity of the finished piece depended on this, not just aesthetics.
So yes, we both came to marriage with lots of preconceived notions on how to do things, “the right way” (aka, “our way”). And many of them were vastly different. Once when I purchased office furniture for my new work space, he helpfully started to assemble a piece when I was out of town. I controlled my angst, took a deep breath, and diplomatically told him that if he didn’t mind, I’d prefer and enjoy doing it ALL myself, and thank you very much for wanting to help.
The problem with being able to do many things well is that there may be few ways in which you can be led. A leader could just say, “what’s the point?” or, “My way will never measure up to her standards, why even try?” Or, just make the assumption, “she doesn’t want my leadership.” It’s no big secret that I am a strong-willed woman. Seeking a man confident enough to lead me.
We have always tried to be a team, but even a team needs a captain. I entrust the financial stuff to him because he’s really good at it, his little CPA brain actually enjoys adding up columns and balancing checkbooks, and tracking investments. I love that I can trust him to do all this. He leaves most household stuff and cooking to me. Chances are if a light bulb or battery needs replacing, I’ll be doing it. We try to plan travel and outings together, or take turns. I tend to have the better sense of direction and ability to use navigation tools.
It was the outing just the other day that got me thinking about leadership. Since it was a beautiful spring-like day, he suggested visiting an arboretum in our area. I was game, I loved the idea. He’s the one who’d done all the reading up on it. Given it was his suggestion, and his “expertise,” I was ready to sit back and happily follow his leadership and have a lovely outing together in nature with my man.
As we make our way out the door, I said, “So, you’re driving and I’ll navigate?”
“Uhm no, you can drive.”
“Oh. Do you have the directions (as much as I LOVE to drive, I also struggle to follow his way of giving directions)?
“No,” he blithely responds.
At this point the ire begins to rise within me. It’s not new, it’s achingly familiar. I know that I need to take control, I need to lead, because he hasn’t planned this or thought it through beyond the initial suggestion. And this always irks me. I take a deep breath, and pull out my phone to plug in the coordinates, semi-memorize them (Siri’s not talking these days over my car’s bluetooth, another navigational frustration), muttering something probably sarcastic, like, “Sheesh, you’d think if you suggested a plan you’d know how to get there… Oh, I’ll just do it all…”
And from there on out, I knew I was in charge, I was the leader. And I was disappointed. He has taught me over the years that I always need to know where I’m going, I have to have a map, and I’m responsible. I can’t rely on him. He won’t take charge and lead even after announcing the plan–even though I really would have loved him to be in charge, to lead.
When he belatedly whipped out his own phone and tried to give me directions, I just told him I already knew the way I planned to take.
At least at the arboretum I let him decide where we’d hike, and I tried to enjoy the good.
Yet through all of this, I mused (fumed) about leadership, or lack of it. I find myself often disappointed in his abdication of his leader role. That I pretty much have to tell him in no uncertain terms, repeatedly, “I want you to be in charge of this, to make the decisions, to lead me.” He’ll rarely take the lead in day-to-day stuff concerning US unless I beg him.
I often play a little secret game. If we’re out and about walking or running errands, I linger back and hesitate, waiting for him to choose the route, or make the moves or suggestions (I know it’ll never be a decisive, “we are doing xyz,” but rather “Do you want to do x, y, or z?”). I bury my thoughts and opinions, hoping he’ll just lead by default. So what if he’s chosen the least direct route? So what if I that restaurant isn’t my favorite? I’ll silently follow!
And I still feel his indecisiveness.
He’ll sometimes say it’s because he’s afraid he won’t do things to my satisfaction. I might not like his plan. Ouch. I may have once seemed hard to please, but this is not the new me. I go out of my way to compliment every lead he takes, to express my appreciation and confidence and trust. And, I feel like this is a handy excuse, a cop out, and frankly it comes off a little wimpy.
I remind myself again of all those things he leads in so well, the money management, the bills. We have food, shelter, clothing, fun, travel, and want for nothing due to his superior leadership in these areas. I try hard not to take these things for granted. And when he does lead, I also trust that he keeps me advised and in the loop, and that he welcomes my input. He knows I am not shy about offering my opinion; but he also knows that I can surrender when he confidently tells me this is what is needed. He doesn’t have a despotic bone in his body and I never fear he’d be unfair. I suppose I need to keep reminding him of this; I just hate asking him to lead.
But it also reminded me that one thing a good leader-husband can do is to be intuitive about how your wife needs to be led. She’s probably telling you, are you listening? Are you being lazy? Are you making excuses? Are you wimping out? Can you occasionally take charge and plan something from A to Zed, confident that you are doing your best job and that no one is perfect, no plan is perfect (nor should anyone expect perfect)? Can you just try? I promise to follow!
Please be the leader I need.