You hate when you have to tell him to be a leader … to be more dominant … not to take your crap anymore …
It’s frustrating that he can’t ‘just get it’, but there are things you can do to help him step up and lead.
Just like time and money, energy is not limitless. Learning to lead, like any new skill, takes energy … and lots of it. If you want your husband to develop leadership skills, you need to not only help him increase his energy, you need to stop doing the things that actively siphon energy from him.
Let’s say it takes 10 units of energy for your husband to run his normal day … and let’s say that learning to lead takes another 2 or 3 units. Where do those additional units come from? You can’t just pull them out of thin air.
Well, like all other resources, you can:
- Cut back on energy spending in other areas
- Create new energy
- Do some combination of a and b
So, what does that look like in real terms?
Eliminate Energy Drains
- Stop Fighting
Fights are a huge energy drain. You can subtract roughly 4 units of energy for each minor skirmish, 8 units for each major fight. He is never going to be the strong leader you want him to be as long as repeated fights are draining his energy.
- Stop Having Relationship Talks
They’re complete energy sinks for the most part. Every time you start a conversation with him about ‘what’s wrong with him the marriage’, you’re actively working against yourself.
- Address Medical & Lifestyle Issues
If your guy is struggling with low testosterone, low thyroid, heavy porn use, excessive alcohol or drug use, or similar issues, these are draining the life out of him. He barely has the energy to function, much less learn the very demanding skill of leadership. He has to address these issues first before he can make progress on leadership.
- Cut Back on Non-Essentials
If you are the typical American family, you are over-scheduled and over-stimulated. Cut back on some of the crap on your calendar. The kid doesn’t need to go to six birthday parties this month and he can get by with one sport this season instead of two. Start saying no to the things you don’t want to do. Give your family the gift of time.
Create New Energy
- Give Him the Time He Needs
It takes time to do the things that create new energy, and yes, I know it’s time away from you and the family. Look at it as an investment.
I work with women who, on the one hand, say they want their husbands to be strong leaders, and yet on the other hand, begrudge their husbands the time to do the things that make men stronger. If you want him to develop leadership skills, he has to be able to put on his own oxygen mask first.
He needs time to:
- Work out
- Engage in a competitive sport
- Sleep 8 hours a night
- Develop his career
- Socialize with other men
Adding these activities to his life will help him build leadership.
- Increase Your Own Energy
As Athol Kay talks about in his book, The Mindful Attraction Plan, energy is contagious. If you are constantly angry and resentful, it drains your whole household, and especially your husband.
Arrange your life so that you can do the things that bring you flow. Get off your devices and get out into the world. Work out, start a new hobby, buy a new dress. Anything that increases your energy.
- Encourage Him
Show appreciation for his willingness to work at leadership. He won’t get it right at first, and his efforts will be maddeningly inconsistent, but so many men aren’t even willing to try to lead. The fact that he is trying says a lot about his commitment to the marriage.
- Learn His Love Language
And then fill his bucket. I know this is a tough one when he’s not being the strong leader you want, but you’re going to need to pour in energy in order to help him make the changes he needs to make.
- Dress Pretty
Okay, this one may sound a little silly, but I promise you it will increase his energy. Yours, as well. Give him something to work for. Otherwise, why should he expend the effort? Remember that in the beginning, he’s doing all this for you. That will change, but for now, it is what it is.
Give Him Room to Practice
Expect Him to Get It Wrong
Your husband is changing the patterns of a lifetime and creating new neural pathways. This takes practice. He can’t use trial and error if you’re not prepared to allow for error.
He’s going to fail, and he’s going to fail big. You’re going to lob what you think is an easy decision his way and he’s going to fumble it. And your heart is going to sink and you’re going to lose attraction. You both might as well understand and accept that up front. Learning to be a leader isn’t a pretty process and it’s not for the faint of heart.
This leadership thing is going to happen in slow baby steps. You don’t want big bursts of showy leadership; you want his leadership to develop slowly and organically. This also gives you time to adjust yourself to the changing dynamics. Marathon, not sprint.
Encourage His Confidence
Throw Away the Microscope
Stop analyzing every single action he takes for its leadership qualities. He can’t do the work he needs to do under a microscope. You’re not an Olympic judge holding up a scorecard. Back off and let him get this on his own.
Go do your own thing. In fact, take on a challenge where you’re almost certain to fail. It will keep you too busy to worry about his progress, and your own humble progress will keep you from criticizing his.
Only Transfer Leadership on Decisions You Can Live With
If you’re currently responsible for some area crucial to your family’s health and well-being, and you have very strict standards about how it should be done, then for heaven’s sake, don’t ask your husband to take it on. You would be setting him up for failure.
You want to start small. He feels like he can never be good enough for you and he’s worried about failing, so ask him to lead on things you don’t care about, and then affirm his decision and thank him for his leadership. These small successes will build his confidence to tackle bigger issues, and will build trust between you.
Use the Magic Words
“I trust your decision. Whatever you decide will be fine with me.” Nothing helps a man more than to hear this from his wife. It decreases risk and builds confidence.
Accept That He’ll Do Things Differently Than You
He isn’t going to load the dishwasher the way you do, he isn’t going to brush the kids’ teeth to your satisfaction, and sometimes he’s going to put them to bed without a shower.
There will be things he doesn’t do as well as you do, there will be things he does better. Accept that his efforts won’t always be perfect. The perfect is the enemy of the good.
Realize that Progress Will be Uneven
Understand that he has to go at his own pace. The more you push him, the less progress he will make. At first, he’s going to do it ‘for you’, which is maddening because it somewhat negates the whole leadership idea, but again … baby steps. Eventually, he’ll internalize leadership and want to do it for himself.
You’ll notice a two-steps-forward, one-step-back pattern, where he really steps up his leadership only to fall back for a while to recoup energy. This is common to learning all new skills; it’s a feature, not a bug.
There will be times when he drops the ball, and times where he’s too tired to lead. This is especially true during times when he has energy drains like work stress, ill health, conflict with you, financial worries, etc. If you melt down every time he fumbles, you’re going to slow down the process.
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
So as his wife, you have a decision to make. You want a strong leader. Are you going to be the woman who tears your husband down about his lack of leadership, or are you the wife who will uplift him and support his efforts? It will take effort from both of you to make this leadership thing happen.
I know you want him to ‘just get it’, but that’s not how it works in real life. I work with guys who are trying to build their leadership skills, and I can tell you it’s a slow, messy process.
Most guys are not natural-born leaders. With time and effort, however, leadership can become second nature.
The Leadership Series:
- Leadership Takes a Crap Ton of Energy … or Why He Can’t Just ‘Get It’
- How Leadership is Like a Striptease
- Mr. Disappearing Man – What to Do When Your Husband Struggles to Lead
- The Loop – What’s Blocking Your Husband from Leading His Family?
- Handing Him the Keys – How to Give Your Husband the Tools He Needs to Lead Your Family