Alan Findley – Be a Leader in Your Family
August 13, 2009
I have always believed that leadership is not situational as true leaders inspire and motivate us from the deepest levels of their being. Their message is the same regardless of whether they are at work, at home or at the hardware store. True leadership is driven from a place of care and concern for others and not motivated by personal gain; no compensation required.
Many of us have acted in some type of leadership capacity whether at work or as a volunteer. We take charge of projects and activities. We formulate strategies and grand plans and we revel in the results and accolades. But how do we show up at home? Are we the same focused, motivated, inspirational leaders as we are in our professional and civic lives?
I can tell you from personal experience that I often was not the leader at home that I was at work. By the time the day ended, I was exhausted and had little left to give to my wife and children. Unfortunately, this is true for most of us – we give our all outside our homes and have little or nothing to invest in our families at the end of the day. We get home at night and are still embroiled in the activities and struggles of the day. Our attention is on work and not our families and we allow our less than positive demeanor to spill over onto our families and the effect is long-lasting.
Your state of mind and disposition is consumed by your children. They watch everything you do and hear everything you say. They take in your every bias and prejudice as their own. You are their “truth” in life and whatever you feel, think or believe they assimilate as their own. It is important to understand this point because as the leader of your family, your happiness (or lack thereof) is taken in and digested by your family.
You are either the oxygen that gives life or the toxin that destroys it. As fathers, we have a monumental responsibility to grow and develop those we are put in charge to lead. Many of us never got that instruction as we were growing up, and some of us never figure it out. A few of us do a great job of leading our families – congratulations to you, gentlemen. But for the rest of us, we need to consider this: We have an opportunity to change the world and it begins within our families.
Here’s what I’m talking about. The man you are at home is a direct reflection of who you are inside. If you are happy, then your family tends to be well adjusted and happy. Not trying to over-generalize, but you get the point. If you are material-focused, so are they. If you hate particular music, social groups, genders … so do they. If you drink heavily, smoke, swear, watch pornography on the Internet, chances are good that your children will as well.
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The love you give them, the time you spend with them, the effort you invest into them, the books you read to them, the walks you take with them, the laughter you share with them will determine what type of relationship you have with your children and how they will relate to their offspring. If the relationship is strong and based in love and commitment, then you have earned the opportunity to shape your children’s future.
This is where we have an opportunity to change the world. Now, I know that some of you are thinking, “I can’t change the world through my family.” Don’t kid yourself. Changing the world begins in the place where you have the greatest influence and that place is within your family. You can’t be a leader in the world if you can’t first be a leader in your own home. Leadership begins with a strong foundation – clear values, strong commitment, and an example-based lifestyle. Be the change you want to see in the world, as Gandhi once said. But first, be the change you want to see in the world in your family, with your children and your spouse.
Leadership is presence – physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional presence. It means we are present during our children’s various activities and events. It means we are present to listen when our daughters want to talk about the ups and downs of their relationships and their challenges fitting in. Being a leader means we are there for our wives when they need us to go for a walk and hold hands with them instead of watching game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals (I know, that’s a stretch).
Being a leader means we are home at night for dinner, participate in conversations, are direct with our expectations of appropriate behavior, and following through on our commitments. Being a leader means when we go to watch our sons and daughters play soccer, we are not pacing the sidelines talking on our cell phone. Yes, we must work to fulfill our responsibility to provide for our families, but we are sadly mistaken when we believe that “providing for our families” means only material provisions. Providing for our families means we are active and involved in their lives 24/7. Yes, there will be times when we have to work late, but that should be the exception and not the norm. When we are gone 35 weeks out of the year and relying on a daycare provider to raise our children, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our families are fractured and our children choose a path that is not the right one to travel.
Change the world by being present and involved in the lives of your family.
And don’t be afraid to tell them you love them once in a while.
Be well, be safe, and be a leader in your family. The world is depending on it.