Regardless of what you think, you really are the same person at home that you are at work. One persona may be more “masked” than the other, but you are the same person.
Why? You are one person, not two. You are ultimately the same man, both on the job with your colleagues and at home with your wife and children. You cannot live two disparate lives; you will ultimately be known as the same person in both spheres of influence. That may scare you a bit. And I hope it is at the very least a sobering thought.
The downside of that reality is that if you are a despicable person at home, you will ultimately show yourself to be the same at work. And the greater shame is that many men would be more embarrassed to be considered despicable at work than at home.
Men who are weak and ineffective fathers tend to try to split their lives between work and family. They try to live their lives in two separate worlds. That is, they live as producers at work but consumers at home. On the job they dedicate their powers to serious, responsible activity; but at home they rest passively in pleasurable recreation. In the workplace, their character strengths operate at full throttle and everyone sees and respects their sound judgment, sense of responsibility, tough-minded perseverance, and self-control. But at home, their inner strengths that are so active at work, rest on idle, set aside for use during the day, and thereby hidden from their children’s eyes.
Successful fathers do not live like this. They are smart, effective leaders at home as well as on the job. Their strengths of character impress their children as much as their colleagues at work. Their devotion to their family, in fact, gives meaning and purpose to their strenuous life of professional work. The main purpose of their work is the welfare of their family, and their children know this.
In other words, a successful father exercises leadership at home as much as on the job — and he does so in very similar ways.
What does this mean? Let’s first look at how a man typically exercises effective leadership in the workplace, and then let’s turn to see how the same attitudes and behaviors apply to leadership at home.
Leadership on the job
What are the leadership traits found most commonly among successful business and professional leaders? Think about the best bosses you have ever worked with or met in your line of business, whatever it may be. What attitudes and actions characterize an outstanding leader? What traits do they exhibit that you aspire to emulate?
Consider this short list:
- An outstanding leader has a clear long-term vision about the organization’s future success, and he communicates this goal, at least occasionally, to everyone who works with him. He thinks 5 to 20 years ahead, and this goal-setting drives him and his team forward — for he knows that people’s efforts are only effective when they’re focused on some future achievement.
- Though he thinks of the future, he pays attention to present day details. He is aware of the nitty-gritty lying before him.
- He constantly sets priorities, and sticks to them. When faced with a problem, he asks, “How important will this be a year from now, five years from now, or later?”
- If resources are scarce, including time, he works smart. He makes the most of what he has available, including slivers of time here and there. He doesn’t procrastinate; papers don’t just sit cluttered on his desk. He thinks before he acts, then he acts intelligently and decisively.
- He takes personal responsibility — no excuses, no alibis, no whining, no “victim complex,” no shifting of blame. He accepts the consequences of his free-will decisions and his actions, including mistakes.
- When he’s unsure what to do, he secures the best advice he can and weighs it seriously. Then he acts. In any event, he never lets indecision lead to inaction. His job is to act – that’s what he’s paid for.
- He’s conscious of his authority, and comfortable with it. He has rights because he has duties. His knows his rights come with the job.
- He has self-respect and self-confidence, and these traits inspire respect and confidence from others.
- He rewards good effort. He affirms and encourages his people, pressing them to put out their very best forward regardless of shortcomings.
- When he must correct others, he corrects the fault, not the person. He comes down on the foul-up, not the one who did it. He corrects people privately, never in public. If he goes too far, he apologizes. He puts fairness ahead of his ego.
- He’s a good listener. When people come to him with problems, he gives them his undivided attention. While listening, he tries to understand them: their motives, their experience (or lack thereof), their needs and uncertainties. He reflects: “Is there a bigger problem underlying this little problem? If so, what is it? How can I help?”
If you’ve been lucky enough to work with a boss like this, you know how enjoyable the experience can be. Bosses of this caliber teach their people an enormous amount, and very often win their warm devotion. Many workers, in fact, come to see this type of boss as a type of “father figure”. The man’s combination of the characteristics above also characterize a great and a dedicated father.
Here’s the point: If you are now this kind of professional man (no matter what kind of work you do), or if you aspire to this ideal for your future leadership at your job, then you can develop what it takes to be a great father. The attitudes, values, and behaviors described above apply as well to life in the family. A great father is a great man, a man of integrity, and such men do not live divided lives.
Leadership at home
Having looked at leadership on the job, let’s turn to see how these same traits apply to a man’s role of leadership in the home with his family.
Consider this short list:
- He puts his wife first. In his priorities, her happiness and welfare are uppermost in importance, and his children know this.
- He has a constant spirit of team collaboration with his wife. Together they endeavor as much as possible to present a unified front to the children. They check with each other about decisions, large and small, that affect the children’s welfare.
- He works with his wife to set and maintain a long-term vision about the children’s growth in character, no matter what they later do for a living. This distant but clear ideal forms the basis for teaching, practice, and correction now.
- He corrects his children’s faults, not them personally. He “hates the sin, loves the sinner.” He combines correction and punishment with affectionate forgiveness, understanding, and encouragement. He loves his children too much to let them grow up with their faults uncorrected. But he understands that their personality is different from his own and gives them latitude to be who their Heavenly Father created them to be and not who he as their earthly father thinks they should be.
- When he must correct anyone in the family, he does this personally and privately whenever possible. He does not chew people out in public.
- He patiently encourages his children, showing and explaining how to do things right, and how to do the right thing. He directs rather than manages.
- He’s conscious of his authority, which is as weighty as his responsibility. He does not permit electronic entertainment to undermine that authority or undo his lessons of right and wrong. He keeps the media under discriminating control, allowing only what serves to bring the family together.
- He goes out of his way to listen to his children, and he pays close attention to their growth in character. He monitors and guides their performance in sports, chores, homework, good manners, and relations with siblings and friends. He knows what goes on in his home and inside the growing minds of his children.
- He understands his children’s limitations and developmental abilities. He has reasonable and well-informed expectations of what his children can and cannot do at the various stages of their lives.
- He respects his children’s freedom and rights. He teaches them how to use their freedoms responsibly, and he exercises only as much control as they need. He sets limits to his children’s behavior, draws lines between right and wrong. Within those limits, the children may do what they think best; beyond the lines, they begin to infringe on the rights of others — and this he will not permit.
- He wants his children to be active, and he knows that all active people make mistakes. He leads his children to learn from their blunders. He teaches them that life involves intelligent risk-taking, including the risk of error, and that there is nothing wrong with mistakes if we learn from them.
- He sets aside his own personal fatigue, anxiety, and temptations to slack off — putting his fatherly duties ahead of self-interested pursuits and pleasures. He sets aside the newspaper to help with homework. He goes without TV to set a good example. He lets his kids work with him around the house even when they mostly get in the way. Like a good boss, he’s always available to help and advise; consequently, his children sense he would drop anything if they really need him. He’s willing to put off a life of leisure until his children have grown and gone; now, while they’re still at home, their needs come first.
- He shares conversation with his children until he and they know each other inside out. He actively engages in conversation even when he feels awkward.
- He gives his children a sense of family history and continuity. If appropriate, he tells stories about their grandparents and great-grandparents.
- He lets the children know his opinions and convictions about current events and their likely impact on cultural drift, the future world his children will live in. He explains, as best he can, the past causes and future implications of present-day affairs. He uses current events to teach the differences in political philosophy.
- He is open to his children’s suggestion and seeks their “input” about family decisions. When matters are unimportant, he honors their preferences. But larger, more important matters are decided by the parents.
- He takes his wife’s judgment seriously, especially in matters pertaining to the children because he is not there most of the waking hours of the day like she is. He sets aside his ego and acknowledges an evident fact of life — most of the time, she’s right. At the very least, she’s probably using recent experience as her guide. This includes his performance as a father. He does not let pride blind him to truth and cripple his chances at becoming a better and better father over time.
- He draws strength from his Faith and love for his family.
- He knows that time passes quickly and he hasn’t much of it. So he makes it a priority to be intimate with his children now rather than live a life of regret once they are grown.
- His life as husband and father is, to him, one of noble, self-sacrificing adventure. As long as his children are in his care, he will not quit or slacken in his efforts to form their character. He will place family before fortune. He will protect his family no matter what the cost, for they are the meaning of his life, the object of his manly powers, the center of his heart.
Children with a father like this, wholly supported by a great wife, and covered in prayer will have a fighting chance of becoming great men and women themselves one day. They will grow to honor Dad and Mom. They will live by lessons learned since childhood at the dinner table each night. And they will pass these on to their own children and leave a legacy that is worth more than gold.
What kind of father do you want to be?
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