Summary: One of the greatest privileges of being a father and husband is the opportunity you’ll have in leading your family. At the same time, it’s one of those responsibilities that leaves men feeling inadequate.

The Great Leadership Opportunity

One of the greatest privileges of being a father and husband is the opportunity you’ll have in leading your family. At the same time, it’s one of those responsibilities that leaves men feeling inadequate. Many of you feel this way because you lacked a model of leadership in your home of origin, or perhaps the challenges are just more complex than you anticipated. Despite this, there are few things more important than leading your family well. All husbands and fathers are called to lead in both their marriages and family. But what does this mean? And how are you to do it?

The truth is that good leadership doesn’t happen by accident. It requires a deliberate investment of yourself into the people in your home.

Three Critical Investments of Family Leadership

One | Leading yourself is leading your family

Husbands and fathers only lead well when they have paid careful attention to their character. We’re always leading from both our wounds and our wins. Therefore, you cannot lead well when you have not addressed both. Your wounds are especially important because they shape who you are and thus impact others in powerful ways. The goal is to address wounds to become a man of virtue and character grounded in and shaped by Christ.

Your emotional, spiritual, relational, and physical well-being determines the force and impact of your leadership. You must learn to lead yourself before you can influence others, especially your family. After all, they know you better than any other person, so you won’t be able to hide even small character flaws from them. Your life is their model, and they will be following your lead. To lead your family intentionally, you need to have a plan for yourself. Ask yourself the question: “Do I have a plan for my development and growth as a man, husband, and father?” If not, you better get one, because your leadership is only as good as your plan—and subsequently how you work that plan.

Two | A nurturing marriage is leadership

Families are built around relationships, and the relationship most visible to children is the one between their parents. Children pay a great deal of attention to the interactions, emotional connection, and closeness of their mother and father. If you stop to reflect, you know exactly how healthy your parents’ relationship is and how that health, or lack of it, impacted you. Everything you do to nurture your marriage relationship will have an impact on the health of your family as a whole, including how you love, honor, respect, listen to, and forgive your spouse. So nurture her more than even your children—she is, after all, your second-most-important relationship behind only God—and then watch how this slowly impacts the force of your leadership over time.

Three | Investing in your children builds leadership influence

Winston Churchill, the great British leader, had a father who was disconnected from him. In fact, his father’s dairy had a notation to this effect: “Spent the day fishing with Winston. A day wasted.” I suspect that Winston Churchill spent his life trying to prove his worth to his father.

Never underestimate the power of even simple investments in the life of your kids. While we don’t want to worship our children, we do need to invest in them. Your kids want to know that you love them, and investing time in them demonstrates this. You can only lead those with whom you have a relationship, so as an invested father, you are investing in leadership. And over time, the influence of your leadership will grow. This is why Jesus spent so much time with His disciples.

Your impact on your children’s current and future life will be directly impacted by your investment of time, especially when they are between the ages of 4–16. This short window of time in your life is not something you will ever get back, once the time is spent. Therefore, invest it by attending their games, concerts, and events. Be present with them in pursuits that matter to them. Engage casually with them, take them for one-on-one dinners, ask them for prayer requests and pray for them, extend grace to them when needed, show them how to do something new, build something, work on a car with them, or have a significant talk with them on a controversial topic. From time to time, ask them their “high and low of the day” and discover their challenges and disappointments. And then, finally, share your experiences with them, especially your failures. As you do, they will catch your values, beliefs, and faith. It may not manifest instantly, but its impact will be felt in the future. All of this translates into leadership in your home.

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