Why Almost Everything Ride on How You Lead at Home

How’s it going at home?


While this blog is about leadership in its many facets,  one things that many of you asked for in my summer blog survey is for more about how to lead at home. (Thank you so much for some incredible feedback. I have months of topics to pursue based on your suggestions. I’m so grateful.)

And I’m so glad you asked about leading at home.

Here’s what I’ve come to believe.

Ultimately, everything rides on how you lead at home. 

The stakes are high.

Lead well at home, and you will inevitably become a better leader in your ministry or organization.

The difficult issues you work through in your marriage and parenting will make you a wiser, stronger leader organizationally. My wife Toni and I tell how we worked through some very hard seasons here.

The discipline of loving someone for a life-time will help you love the people you serve and work with through their ups and downs. Working through the issues at home actually makes the issues at work easier.

Leadership at home is more difficult than leadership organizationally for most people.  Because respect is earned at home, and no one is interested in your title or corner office, you have to lead with love. It’s the only thing that works long term.

Lead poorly at home, and the consequences will play out in several ways in your leadership:

You may win in ministry but lose the heart and affection of your family. Most of us have met leaders whose family is still together but deeply resents the leader’s organization.

Your leadership in ministry might be permanently stunted as unresolved character issues leak from home into your organizational leadership. Your flaws tend to eventually impact everything you lead and touch.

You might lose it all – the collapse of your family might lead to the collapse of your ministry and leadership.  How many times have we seen an affair, an addiction, or other moral failures take out a leader whose gifting outweighed his character?

See what’s at stake?

Even though so much ultimately rides on how you lead at home, you will be tempted (as I am) to resist leading well at home.

In fact, many people pour all their skill development into leading at work and will let the home front slide.

I know in seasons I’ve done that.


Here are three reasons I think many leaders naturally resist leading well at home:

1. Respect is often easier to get at work than it is at home. Men, in particular, crave respect. So it’s easy to skip home, work harder and become even more ‘celebrated’ in your field. Respect at work often comes from your accomplishments and sometimes your position. At home, it comes from your character. No one at home is impressed by your resume, your sales, your growth or your war stories.

2. At home, there is no escape from who you really are. People at home see you as you really are — in your weaknesses, in your most vulnerable moments. They see you uncut. Many leaders prefer the edited version of themselves, but our families never get that. Because at home there is no escape from who you really are, some leaders are attempted to escape from home (back to the office, to friends or to some time-consuming hobby).

3. The wins are long term. You can get quick fixes to problems at work. At home, you are primarily working on things that take a life time to achieve. Great marriages are measured in decades and ultimately in fractions of a century. The relationship with our kids last throughout our lives. God is working on our character over a life time, not just in Q3.  You can change your job. You can get a promotion. But our family relationships are forever. That makes them much harder, but so much more worthwhile.

I realize this post doesn’t resolve the tension. It raises it. 

But maybe for some of us that’s where we need to leave it for now. 

Sometimes when I think about what’s at stake and why I resist, it ups my motivation to change. My next post will outline several ways leaders can lead better at home.

But in the meantime, let’s leave it there.

And let’s think  and pray about what’s at stake.

What’s been hardest for you at home?


  1. […] 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 (Tweet This!). […]

  2. Brent Dumler on July 4, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    This is a subject I’m personally passionate about, mostly because I’ve not got it all figured out. I have really grown in the ‘create margin’ part, but it’s what to actually do in that space (and make it matter)…that’s the struggle. I appreciate the post, Carey. It really does cause me to re-evaluate things, and hopefully take some action steps.

  3. Matt Pearson on July 2, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    Carey, I really appreciate your blog. I really, really, really appreciate this particular post. Wow. This quote was/is one of the best truths I have read in a long while:

    “Respect at work often comes from your accomplishments and sometimes your position. At home, it comes from your character. No one at home is impressed by your resume, your sales, your growth or your war stories.”

    This is spot on. If I miss this reality – regarding my character at home – I have missed it totally. Thanks for posting this. I needed it.

    • cnieuwhof on July 2, 2013 at 11:15 pm

      So glad Matt. Thanks for sharing that. And keep going man. The investment you make in changes today will pay off so incredibly down the road. Keep going!

  4. philbell on June 28, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    Great Post! Challenging and thought provoking for all leaders! There’s lots at stake!

    • cnieuwhof on July 2, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Thanks Phil.

  5. Brett Barker on June 28, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Great post Carey. Definitely the most important topic for a leader. You definitely need that “moral authority” to lead. It is much harder to follow a leader at work when you know his personal life is falling apart. This is true especially for those on church staff but even for those of us in business. Thank you for bringing this up and raising the tension. It is easier to focus on bettering our leadership at work with organization skills etc and push aside the opportunities to increase our leadership at home.

    • cnieuwhof on July 2, 2013 at 11:16 pm

      Brett…so thankful you are applying this in business. We’re hearing more and more from business leaders who read the blog every week. Encouraging!

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