4 Leadership Lessons from my Marriage

It’s guest post Monday! This post is written by Ngina Otiende, she is a writer who loves helping others take charge of their lives. She’s passionate about intentional growth and marriage and wants to ignite the same passion in others. You can pick up her free eBook when you subscribe to her blog, follow her on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

In his post titled Strong marriage equals strong leader, Dan Black shared “…the true measure of success is determined by your home life.”

Contemporary  culture wants us to believe that leaders can separate their home life from their public life.

Truth is, how a leader conducts himself behind closed doors (his marriage) says a great deal about his character and person.

Marriage can be one of our greatest teachers. The things we learn at home can impact and enhance our leadership.

My marriage has taught me these four leadership lessons.

1. A leader needs to be led too

One of the things that drew me to my husband (like a magnet!) was his complete submission to authority – both heavenly (Christ) and earthly (pastors, mentors). As a wife, I trust him deeply because I know that he is modeling and fashioning his life and marriage after Christ.

I have seen leaders, for one reason or another, take the road less traveled, literally. They have no authority over their lives; no counsel, no mentors.

I believe that a leader needs to receive in order to give.

To impart order, they must receive order. To influence others, they must first allow themselves to be influenced. To model relationship, they need to be in relationship. You can’t give (at least not for long anyway) that which you don’t have. To stay strong, fresh and filled with life, you must have an inlet and an outlet.

2. Leaders and followers need each other

As a relationship coach, I tell single ladies to “marry a man who  dreams their dream”.  Marrying someone who is headed to Timbuktu when you are trying to get to Australia is a recipe for trouble.

This is because once married, individual dreams will either bring two people closer or tear them apart.

Leaders and followers connect for a reason. There has to be a common vision, a goal that they want to accomplish together. As a leader, you must connect to the right people. And the right people need to connect to you.

Leadership is not one-sided- my husband doesn’t force me to follow him and neither do I force my husband to lead me. Our vision and love keeps us moving in an unforced rhythm of grace. Leadership cannot be forced. As leaders we need to aim for influence, not management.

3. Conflict doesn’t mean the end of the world

When I was single, I had no idea what good conflict resolution was. I am last born child and for the longest time, grown-up things like “good conflict resolution” eluded me. When I got married, I was hit right between the eyes, by the magnitude of my deficiencies. Over the years I have learned (and continue to learn) to let go of misconceptions and to develop healthy marital habits.

In leadership, conflicts are given. Not everyone will agree with what you think or say or do (and if they do, I don’t know how transparent you/they are!)

Conflict between the leader and led doesn’t mean the end of the journey. It doesn’t mean that one has failed, but it can be an opportunity to learn and grow. The trick lies in knowing how to communicate and learn so that the conflict spurs growth.

John Maxwell says “With the right attitude, rejection (or any other type of challenge for that matter) can bring positive projection” (brackets mine)

The same way conflict can build a couple is the same way that conflict can bring a team together.

4. Life is in the journey, not the destination

My husband and I are highly task oriented individuals. We have learned to be very intentional about our energies and priorities when we are knee-deep in tasks or projects. Money, recognition, accolades and other successes can never replace the blessing and warmth of a strong marriage.

As leaders, we have to keep reminding ourselves that people are more important than process and destination. Sure there are goals to be accomplished, places to go and decisions to be made.  But guess  who gets the job done, what oils the journey? Relationship. People.

In the book The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas Stanley says “Countless millionaires have told me that the journey to wealth is much more satisfying than the destination”

Many years from now, a person may not remember exactly what you said or what they did as a team. But they will remember how the experience made me feel and how it changed their lives. As leaders, we must remember to keep people first.

Question: What leadership lessons have you gleaned from your marriage?


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74 thoughts on “4 Leadership Lessons from my Marriage

  1. Wow, how about a few short words that I have learned from my marriage thus far;

    1. Humility
    2. Servant
    3. Provider
    4. Listener
    5. Spiritual Head
    6. Responsibility

    I have learned so much from my marriage that it makes me think of when we first got married. We didn’t know what we were in for. We just went with the flow and the road to marital mastery has to be Trust and Communication. I don’t dominate my wife, we walk with each other hand in hand and we value each others opinion. Have I made tremendous mistakes in our marriage? Yes, but we pick up the pieces and keep adapting to change.

  2. I’m currently single, but as I get older and praying for my helper, I find this post refreshing. In my current dating relationship, I have realized that despite all the similarities and differences I may have with her, there are a few non-negotiable values that determine the very core of who I am. The more I have invested in my relationship, God has been opening my eyes, a sense of godly discernment, to know what I can and cannot compromise. Life is certainly a journey as Ngina says and it’s about having the right attitude and mindset to work together for His glory. Thanks for sharing your insights!

    • Paul, it’s great to learn these non-negotiables early. So glad you walking the road now cos we all get to place where these foundations become the only thing holding up the relationship.

  3. “Leadership cannot be forced. As leaders we need to aim for influence, not management.”

    That’s such a great quote. It applies equally well to relationships as it does to leadership. It’s not about making others do what you want them to do. Dominance and submission. It’s about influencing them through the strength of your character and convictions. It’s about the shared dreams and the common goal.

    Those are the foundations of strong leadership AND strong relationships.


  4. My marriage ended, partially due to the problem that my partner refused to commit to my judgment and leadership continually, due to mental health issues. Not all are good followers.

  5. I love this post! Due to being married to an awesome woman, I’ve learned to listen better, know how and when to offer advice or support, and be more patient. I definitely upgraded when I married her.

  6. Wise words, sister. I think humility goes a long way. When a leader can’t admit when they’re wrong, we’re following the wrong leader and when it’s in relationship it’s gonna be a long hard road… Well done, Ngina! Got my cogs turning this morning!

  7. Another wise post from Ngina! Thanks so much for sharing.
    I completely agree, a person’s homelife and marriage say a great deal about who they are and what they value.

    My marriage continues to teach me soooo much. It’s humbling to realize I’m not always right :)

  8. I love all of these point, Ngina. I think in many ways, being a good leader hinges on that first point. If we’re not receiving, we’ll be expecting our followers to fill us up. That’s a recipe for a lot of problems. The more I’m filled up with God, the better a leader I am – and the better a follower I am.

  9. Great post Ngina! You never know how selfish you are until you get married. Marriage exposes those deeply-held selfish areas we don’t even recognize as a single person. If we allow it, marriage will teach us that life is not about us; we learn all about servant leadership within a marital relationship if we’re following the God-centered approach found in scripture.

    • Chris, I agree wholeheartedly! I walked into marriage all self-centered, naive and cocky. Didn’t take long to have that halo knocked from my head.

      I like something that Dave Harvey says – that the goal of marriage is holiness, not happiness. I think happiness does come as we allow ourselves to be changed and molded.

  10. I love this post! I’m not married yet, but this article definitely puts things into perspective. One of my mentors have always told me that ministry starts at home and this post really drives that message home. Thanks for saving my marriage before it starts!…:-). God bless you and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

  11. I honestly think that you can’t be a leader unless you’ve been led, for the best way to know about your followers is to have once been one. Actually I don’t like the term ‘follower’ too much, for me it gives a sense of ownership, I prefer student, but hey ho.

    You said that leaders need to aim for influence, not management. I could not agree more full heartedly, that’s brilliant, if that’s not the case with anybody then the test of time sure will sort them out. I’m not religious, but I think Jesus was a great example of how to be, for he was a leader but he didn’t necessarily speak like one. For instance, one of his recruiting lines was “You, follow me”, which may be awful, but his character is what served him well, and that’s a great model for any leader to follow!

    Great thoughts Ngina!

    • I totally agree with you about leaders needing to be a follower at one time, also be willing to follow while leading. I totally agree about Jesus being a good role model to follow, no matter our personal beliefs. I’m glad you enjoyed Ngina’s post. Thank you for sharing.

  12. If you want to be a strong leader and have a strong marriage, you better learn how to listen and communicate! These are two areas many leaders and marriages lack but could make all the difference. Great points Ngina.

  13. After stumbling miserable for years in my marriage, i think I got it somewhat right. I’ve learned to think more highly of my wife then myself. That takes a lot of putting my pride aside.

  14. Hi Ngina,

    I really enjoyed reading your guest post. Although, I’m not married yet, your post gave me a lot of food for thought for when I do. It reminded me of the importance of always putting people and our families first. It has reminded to be remain humble and always be modest and in a position where I can be led by others, which will then improve my own ability to lead.

    Dan, thanks for connecting us with Ngina!

  15. I really appreciate point #2 “Leaders and followers need each other”. That is so true in marriage and in any leadership context. It seems that some people have the problem of thinking that to be a leader means you should be independent. However, the opposite is true, a leader is dependent on his followers just as much as the followers are dependent upon their leader.

  16. Hello Ngina,

    I’m not married yet, so don’t know anything about marriage life or how its going to change me or my life, but one thing I know for sure that it’s sure going to turn my life around maybe in positive or negative way. To find out that I’ve to wait for few years. 😉

    If a leader wants to change his followers life then he should always begin with his own life, because the change you want to bring in your followers life, you should always try to be the example of that change.

    And as far as life is concerned. Everything that we see, we feel, we hear, we touch, we create has a beginning and an end. Life is the same. Life is just a simple cycle of starts and stops, and everything falls in between your smile, your pain, your love, even your life. There are beginnings that we don’t want and there are endings we don’t desire, but they all are inevitable. We have to face them. It’s what living a life means. Every change begins with an end. :)

    Anyways, it was nice read for me. Thank you. :)

    • Marriage is a wonderful thing Romy! Your going to enjoy it when the time comes.

      Powerful second paragraph. Leadership start with our ability to lead our self’s well.

      Great perspective about the difference seasons of life. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, I always enjoy hearing from you.

    • great insights Romy. i like your second paragraph about change. i believe that as you work on yourself now and change on the inside, marriage will turn your life around in positive way, when the time comes :) Thanks for sharing

  17. Good post – I know I’ve learned a lot from being married. Being that close to someone has really forced me to step up who I am as a person and not just how I can project myself for brief periods around people. It’s improved my character.

    • I think it’s Mark Gungor who says that marriage is like a mirror, it reflects who we really are, not what we think we are. The challenge is to get to work once we see what’s in the mirror, instead of arguing with the mirror :)

  18. Excellent post. I have learned in nearly 17 years of marriage that you must work together as a team. I believe strongly that teamwork makes the marriage work.

  19. Another great post my sister. It is my husband who carried the leadership title yet I knew without my support he would not be able to do his best for the Lord. I have followed him all over the world because I trust the Lord working in his lives. He is not a perfect leader but he is a forgiven leader. It is true if one cannot follow they will not be a good leader. Blessings…

    • Hello Betty,

      I agree Ngina always writes great content! Your such a great example of a Proverbs 31 wife!!! It’s great to hear your a support of your husbands calling and dreams. Glad you stopped by to read and share. Hope to hear from you again.

    • Betty I love this “He is not a perfect leader but he is a forgiven leader”. I think if wives (and followers) walked in that revelation, they’d be stronger supporters, more trusting, more forgiving. Leaders and husbands aren’t perfect, but are called and forgiven..and won’t be effective without spousal/team support. You are such an example Betty. Thanks so much for coming by

  20. I have learned the value of respect. When my husband and I respect one another, our marriage and other relationships flourish. I have also learned the value of preferring others. When I look to meet his needs rather than have my needs met, my marriage flourishes. When my marriage flourishes, the rest of my life benefits tremendously.

  21. Great post Ngina!

    I’ve learned that leaders need to take responsibility for their choices. As the head of our household, my choices carry weight and when we decide to follow them, I need to accept the responsibility of being the decision maker. Sometimes the rewards are great, sometimes they suck. Regardless, leaders need to own their decisions.

    • Great thoughts Joe! I really like that part of ownership. It’s important to the followers/spouse that a leader owns decisions, good or bad. It fosters trust, commitment, forgiveness. Lots of spouses/followers are not necessarily looking for perfection, but humility and ownership. great thoughts, thanks for adding these deep perspectives

  22. Hello Linda,

    I’m glad Ngina’s post lifted you up:) It sounds like you guys are doing a lot of great things as a couple! Thank you for reading and commenting.

  23. Sweet gig, Ngina! Congrats on being highlighted! And I love all of your points but especially the first one–“A leader needs to be led.” Your words, “You must have an inlet and an outlet” are so true, not to mention, convicting! I want to have that kind of heart and love it when I see it in my hubby! Thanks for linking this up with Wedded Wed, my friend!

  24. What an important post, Ngina! I did premarital counseling for ten years and wish couples would have listened to this good advice. I’ve found the most important aspect for me is that my husband and I are accountable to one another and then to Christ.

  25. Great points. I agree that there’s a lot to learn about leadership through marriage. Your point about conflict resolution really resonated with me. My wife and I don’t argue with each other often, but it does happen. Conflict inevitably happens. But I see there being such a thing as good conflict. If you have good communication skills, you can usually resolve your differences. I’ve found that conflict is often just misunderstanding the other person. Marriage makes me more willing to listen and understand other people. I think that’s a pretty good leadership skill.