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Just as water finds its level, each husband will eventually gravitate to his unique leadership style. This concept is what happened to Biff. He came to his level. He settled into the person that he has always been, which was a surprise to Mable after they were married because he was not like that in the beginning. During their dating relationship, they had lots of fun, hung out with friends, and went everywhere. After they married, their lives slowed down and their days took on another style like working, living, and settling.
While dating, there were so many distractions, and Mable was so caught up in having a compliant boyfriend that she did not perceive how Biff’s passivity would come back to bite her. He was quiet, and she loved to talk. What could be wrong with that? Mable was a talking idolater who liked to be in control, and Biff was a fearful idolater who did not mind his wife doing all the talking. The things we initially love about people at the beginning of a relationship can become the source of our greatest annoyances after we settle into the relationship. This reality was the case with Biff and Mable.
Today, Mable is bitter while Biff’s passivity has taken on another tone: He’s passively bitter and angry at his over-talking, over-controlling wife. They have settled, though nobody is sure if their marriage can endure who they are. Nothing will draw out the best and worst in two people than putting them in tight confines for an extended period.
When Biff and Mable came to see me, one of the things that I wanted to learn more about was his leadership style. Was he a good leader or was he a weak leader? Was Biff an active leader or passive leader? Was he a kind leader or a harsh leader? There are times when I have met with a guy, and he would tell me that he did not know how to lead his wife or family, which is what Biff told me. According to his perspective, he believed he was accurate in his assessment. I don’t think Biff was willfully lying. He did not understand the nature of the problem, which is why I appealed to him to re-frame his thoughts this way:
“I am leading Mable and my family, but I’m doing a poor job at it. I need help. I want to change how I lead my family. My leadership methods are defective. Can you help me?”
Biff is like a lot of guys who give the leadership of the home over to the wife. It’s the path of least resistance. It’s also a huge mistake that can reap decades of accumulative heartache if not corrected. Even though Mable was functionally leading the home, Biff was still the God-ordained and God-accountable leader. Unfortunately for Biff, his leadership style was passive and abdicating because of ignorance, fear, and weakness, which compelled him never to change.
A husband who abdicates his leadership position by deferring to his wife will sow terrible fruit in his wife and children. Leadership failure was never meant to be God’s design, but when it does happen, it never turns out well for a family. Biff needed to learn the difference between good and bad leadership styles. He needed to understand the impact that his weak leadership style was having on his family. We began talking through a few poor methods. I’ve listed ten of them here.
Though all of them did not belong to Biff, I did want him to have a better understanding of what he was doing to his family and how the long-term consequences were ruining his family.
Ten Poor Leadership Styles
Biblical leadership looks remarkably different from the poor styles listed. Here are a few characteristics of a husband who leads well.
Ten Biblical Leadership Styles
The one thing that these 20 leadership styles have in common is that all of them represent a husband and father who is leading his family. Back to the question: It’s not about if you are a leader but how are you leading?
Though all of the excellent leadership styles that I mentioned are essential practices for every husband, there is one out of the ten that you tie to the rest, which is the communicating husband.
Poor communication is one of the most significant areas of neglect for men. Period. The non-communicating (or poor communicating) male is one of the most inferior forms of leadership and the one that will have the most devastating impact on his family. God is a speaking God, and He made us in His image, and one of the most effective ways we can image Him is by our willingness to communicate well with other people.
The fourth sentence of the Bible tells us about God speaking. There was no form to the earth, and God was talking (Genesis 1:3). He was speaking, leading, and directing. God is a shaker and a mover who leaves no one wondering what He is thinking. God has always led His people well because He is a talking God. In 2 Timothy 3:16 we see God speaking, talking to you. He has given you His plenary, authoritative, and all-sufficient Word, so you are not left in the dark about what to do next.
Imagine if God was a silent God. Imagine if He deliberately decided not to talk. Whenever we read about the silence of God in the Word of God, chaos ensues. It’s like the years between the Testaments. A silent God is a horrible thought. Where would you go? What would you do? How would you know?
The characteristics of silence and passivity are mysteriousness, awkwardness, and speculation. Mable said it this way, “When Biff is not talking, I tend to speculate on what he’s thinking. I don’t know what he’s thinking. Biff never talks! I have to figure out what he’s thinking, or let it go, which is so hard. That’s why I’m bitter.”
If your leadership style leans toward silence or passivity, let me recommend another technique, which may be a challenge for you, but you can learn how to talk well. This issue is why I regularly encourage our children to speak often. It is far easier to “reel them in” from talking too much than it is to motivate them to speak at all. The primary way you teach any child to talk is to model it. You become a talking person in the way Paul told us to speak.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29).
Talking to fill up airspace is not the goal. Your talking must be to shape and build up your family members in Christ.
You cannot overstate communication problems. If there were ever a people group on the planet who had something to talk about, it’s Christians. A Christian should never stay silent, especially in his family. Perhaps you’re a lazy communicator. If so, you need to repent of your laziness. You cannot be a lazy man and expect to lead your family well.
Perhaps you have succumbed to the device addiction. One of the biggest deterrents of biblical communication in today’s culture is our devices. Everyone sitting around the room on a device destroys redemptive familial communication opportunities. Faith comes by “talking and hearing” rather than by silence. Your wife’s biblical trust will be built up by your words, not your laziness, passivity, reluctance, or silence. Maybe other things hinder you from leading your family with your words.
One of the interesting things I noticed after a few meetings with Biff and Mable is that Biff was an excellent talking leader in other spheres of his life. There were some things he liked to do, and he did not show an inhibition about speaking well with others. He was not universally passive or quiet. Just around his wife. Isn’t that the way it generally goes? Biff’s problem was not that he could not lead or speak well. It was not a capacity or ability issue, but a character issue: He could direct his family well if he wanted to guide them.
Biff’s problem was in his heart more than his behaviors. That was the good news. If his problem were an organic, capacity issue, there would be God-imposed limitations that would keep him from leading his family in biblical communication. Fortunately for Biff, he was not hindered by such things. He could change. The real issue for Biff was that he had not been sufficiently affected by the gospel. His sanctification was lagging behind what it should be. There was not a proper formation of Christ inside of Biff. Though he was growing in Bible knowledge and was busy in church ministries, his marriage was not being affected by the gospel.
Biff had to decide if he was going to emulate Christ where it mattered–in his home. The gospel is an other-centered adventure that begins in a person’s heart and works out in his closest and most important relationships. If you jump over those relationships to live out the gospel before people who are not the closest to you, it’s not a broken gospel, but it’s your heart. It is a character flaw. It’s a repent-able offense. The gospel practically lived out effects everyone in its path. Like a storm, if you’re near it, you’ll be affected by it.
Biff was quenching the gospel’s power in his family. Though he came to me because of his broken relationship with his wife, he began to see that his more significant problem was a fractured relationship with his Savior. His relationship with his wife and children would only change in direct proportion to his functional relationship with Christ. You cannot lead like Christ if you don’t authentically act like Christ. Biff had to choose if he was going to be a Christian church attendee or a man affected by Jesus.