5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Lead Better at Home

5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Lead Better at Home

Remember your first date?

You were so focused on making a great impression:

You thought through where to take her about 1000 times.

You were deeply interested in her and listened more than you spoke.

You held the door open.

You had only kind things to say.

You even bought a new shirt.

You were you were focused on getting everything right.

Almost every relationship starts there, but something happens to many of us when we become a family.

Our guard comes down.

We become as interested in ourselves as we do in other people.

We might expect people to hold the door open for themselves.

Kindness gives way to ‘truth’.

New shirts are mostly for making an impression at work.

Some of this is natural and even good (don’t we all need a place where we can just be ‘ourselves’?) – but not all of it.

What happened?

Many of us simply cease putting our best efforts into leading well at home. 

As I outlined in this post, that’s a mistake. Way more than you think is riding on how you lead at home.

Leading well at home (whatever your family looks like) is a prerequisite to leading well in life and at work.

And yet many leaders will let things slide at home. They come home drained from a demanding day and give the family left overs.

It’s critical that leaders think this through:

Lead poorly at home, and the consequences catch up with you. In fact, they can cause you to lose the position you’ve worked your whole life to attain.

Lead well at home, and you will become a better leader in every aspect of your life. 

Here are a few surprisingly easy things you can do to lead better at home.

None of these are that hard to do in the end. If you remember to do them.

And I find when I do them, my ability to lead my wife, my kids and even myself goes up significantly.  I just become a better leader (and a better follower) in every aspect of my life when I do these 5 things:

1. Save some of your best energy for family. Many leaders simply show up at home exhausted. They’ve given their best, and there’s nothing left over for the people who matter most to them. Start managing your energy, not just your time. Prepare for home the same way you prepare for work and your home life will improve. Guaranteed.

2. Eliminate “Family Voice”. Most people in families will, semi-regularly, use a tone of voice that is a mixture of frustration, aggravation and exasperation that I call ‘family voice’. And almost every family has one. If you used that tone of voice at the office, they would fire you. But somehow we think it’s okay to use it at home with the people who matter most. It communicates that we don’t value them. So what if you started communicating with your family the way you would with a colleague or even a stranger – with kindess and respect? Changing the tone at home could change so much.

3. Look to apply what you’re learning at work in a home setting. You read leadership books. You go to conferences. You mine blogs. All to get better at your job. But what if you added an extra application place for your learning? Your home. What makes you a better leader at work can make you a better spouse and a better parent. Try it.

4. Date your family. Date your spouse for sure, but also date your family. Intentional time together is more important than just time together. Sure, you need downtime. But you also need ‘up-time’ where you are focused on the others around you, engaged at a deep level and present for them. It can be fun (and it usually is). Make meaningful time together.

5. Build margin into your life. Margin is the white space left over in your life. If I clutter up my life with too many things and lose white space, I get too stressed to bring my best. Tell me if this isn’t true in your life: you are at your most kind when you have the most margin. If you calendar margin into your life at work and at home, you will find it much easier to lead at home and at work. In this post, I outline some of the things I do to ensure I have white space and margin in my life.

I share these things with you because they are also a reminder to me.

When I lead well at home, everything goes better.

What do you do that helps you lead well at home?


  1. James Chin on February 18, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    Thank you for the helpful article. The other day I “suddenly” realised how much the kids have grown up and I haven’t really spent enough quality time with them. Trying to find a right balance between family and ministry.

  2. Bobbi Miller on November 27, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for the reminders Carey!! Time goes so fast….its so easy to get caught up in ministry and be “too tired” once we get home!! Thanks for helping us keep first things first!!

  3. Pastorjf on November 27, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Helpful and encouraging thoughts!

  4. […] 5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Lead Better at Home by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  5. Chuck on September 24, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    #1 is my Achilles’ Heel. I tend to focus way too much on work (even at home!) as any tenure-seeking chap might. Problem is, #2, #4, and #5 are the fines I pay for doing so. Gotta get on #1 right away.

  6. Brent Dumler on July 21, 2013 at 7:45 am

    For me, #3 and #5 go together. I’ve read and learned a lot in the past year about building margin and intentionally planning my work week. A recent mentorship experience I participated in helped me to see that I could be the same leader at home as I am in the Church. While I still have much work to do here, it was at least very empowering.
    Great post, Carey!

    • cnieuwhof on July 22, 2013 at 7:02 am

      Somedays Brent I think margin is almost everything. So good to hear about the progress you’ve made in this area Brent. Encouraging!

  7. Cole Hedgecock on July 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Never thought of dating my family, but the idea is great. This is a really good list, as are the other ones throughout your website. I stumbled upon your website recently, and am grateful I did. Have a good one!

  8. Links I Like | JoshuaReich.org on July 3, 2013 at 3:34 pm

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  9. Carissa Figgins on July 3, 2013 at 7:22 am

    This has been my focus this summer. A lot things at “work” have been slowed down or put back for awhile so I can focus on reflecting Christ to my kids and husband rather than rushing to the next event. I’ve noticed the slower pace and margin have actually given me space to let God take care of the things I was stressed about in my ministry. I’ve established “rocks” in my river of life that are immoveable and non-negotiable and its allowed for a better flow, if you will, in all areas of my life. My “don’t mess with the mama” voice remains, but I’m working on being very intentional on every interaction with my children in particular that is patient, kind, and loving. Soft voice, soft eyes, soft heart.

    • cnieuwhof on July 3, 2013 at 9:04 am

      That’s such a solid focus Carissa. The analogy of rocks in a river’s a strong one too. We promise not to mess with mama. 🙂

  10. Eric on July 1, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Need to get to work on number two!

    • cnieuwhof on July 2, 2013 at 6:40 am

      You are certainly not alone in that Eric. 🙂

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