Leadership starts at home.

That may sound like a bold statement, but it’s so true.

If you are not able to have influence on those closest to you, how do you expect to lead others?

That was not always my mindset.

I remember a time between 2007 and 2008 when things were different.

My wife and I were attending a dance that was being held at the campground we spent our weekends at during the summer.

A young twenty-something made a comment to my wife about how she envied the kind of relationship that we had.

We were newly married and obviously head over heels in love with one another.

We were rarely apart, and we were often seen holding hands or snuggled closely to one another when we were not having some fun on the dance floor.

This young woman had started dating a young man, but he was not really comfortable with showing any public displays of affection.

At the time, we empathized with her but didn’t have much advice to offer regarding her new relationship.

Fortunately, after years of reading, listening to audio recordings, attending workshops and seminars, and picking up nuggets of wisdom from those further along in their journey, we have some wisdom we can share.

Here are four things every leader should know about their most important relationship.

1. Unspoken Expectations

In the past, there were times when my wife and I would get home from work, and I would make myself comfy on the couch.

Most of the time, my loving wife would make her way to the kitchen and start preparing dinner.

This was never verbalized as something she was chiefly responsible for.

If she felt tired and I was hungry, some resentment could come to the surface.

For this reason, we try our best to not take each other for granted and not have any unspoken expectations.

As for that young woman, was this an unspoken expectation or something they had discussed?

I don’t have a good answer for that.

But that is okay.

2. They are a Person. Not an Object

I am as guilty as the next person.

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by The Arbinger Institute refers to the practice of looking at people as objects as being “in the box”.

When I see my wife as a person with hopes, needs, cares, and fears, I am “out of the box”.

When I don’t, I am “in the box” and treating her like an object.

If I wake up with the feeling that it would be a nice gesture to pick up breakfast for my wife since she hadn’t been feeling well, I am “out of the box”.

I lie in bed for another 5 minutes.

I think “she can make us breakfast when she gets up.”

I then roll over and go back to sleep. I have betrayed myself and have treated her as an object.

I am now “in the box”.

I see my own intentions in a positive light despite the fact that I didn’t follow through with getting her something to eat.

In fact, if she doesn’t feel like making breakfast, I may feel resentment towards her.

In that moment, I certainly wouldn’t be considering her hopes, needs, cares, and fears.

I was treating her as an object, not as a person.

I certainly don’t want to treat my wife as an object.

Self-awareness helps in moving oneself from “in the box” to “out of the box” when we can catch ourselves.

Was this young woman who desired a better relationship “in the box”?

Was she seeing her boyfriend as an object or a person?

On the surface, she appeared to be respecting his wishes, so she was appearing to be “in the box”.

Was there resentment on her behalf towards him?

Honestly, I don’t know.

Could knowing this at the time have helped them?


3. Personality Styles and Love Languages

A great deal of this was covered in “The Compounding Power of Reading.”

When you have a moment, I would recommend you read it over.

The two books that I referenced were The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and Personality Plus by Florence Littauer.

When reading Personality Plus, I learned that I was a Phlegmatic-Sanguine (or High S in the DISC model).

I am usually calm, patient, and approach situations in a rational manner.

I can also be stubborn and lazy.

This insight into my own personality type has proven invaluable in enhancing my ability to effectively communicate with my wife.

After reading The 5 Love Languages, I discovered that my spouse’s love language was Acts of Service.

This is hard.

I don’t naturally love my wife the way she needs to be loved.

I have to step outside of my comfort zone and make a conscious effort to do things for her.

But the payoff is huge.

By understanding and meeting her needs, we have a stronger, more fulfilling relationship.

As for the young woman, we can hypothesize.

If her love language was “physical touch,” her love tank could be running on empty pretty quickly.

If her boyfriend knew this, it could make him more willing to hold her hand, knowing how much it meant to her.

Understanding each other’s personality and love languages allows us to better understand one another.

4. Love is a Verb, Not a Feeling.

One of the greatest pieces of relationship advice I ever found came from a book aimed at business leaders.

In his best-selling book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey mentions a conversation he had with someone attending one of his seminars.

The attendee confides in Stephen about problems he is facing with his marriage.

Every time this man spoke about his feelings, Covey responded back with “Love her.”

When it seemed like the man was not getting it, Covey shared four of the most profound words ever shared.

“Love is a verb.”

Action impacts emotion.

If we want to feel love, we must first plant the seeds of love.

Or as Covey puts it: “Love — the feeling — is a fruit of love the verb.”

Looking back at the 5 love languages – acts of service, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts, and words of affirmation – these are not feelings but action items.

This is by no means an extensive list but should give you some idea on ways to show love to those you love.

I can show love to my wife by:

  • Washing the dishes
  • Spending time with her while we go thrift shopping
  • Holding her hand
  • Buying her some of her favorite chocolate
  • Sincereky telling her how wonderful a wife, a mother, a grand mother, and business partner she is

As for the young woman, we can only speculate.

Regardless of whether or not her primary love language was “physical touch,” holding hands was still a way to fill her love tank.

She made this clear.

Acting on this could help fill her tank.


Neglecting to put forward action would only result in a potentially empty tank, and possibly a broken relationship.:

Everything we discussed can be applied to all relationships.

But if we don’t apply it to our own household first, how can we expect to apply it to others?

A leader must learn to not have unspoken expectations, treat others as people (not objects), understand the different personality styles and love languages, and apply the principle that “love is a verb”.

After all, leadership starts at home.

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