Leadership is all about motivating your family towards a common goal. This may sound pretty arbitrary, but that is only if you have no idea where you are leading your family to. Before you can trail-blaze you must first know where you are going. What are you family values? What are your family life goals? What kind of kids are you wanting to release out into the world? If you value health, respect, and faith for example, then you will need to decide how to Shepard your family in a way that promotes said values. If you want your family to own a home, take vacations, be financially secure, give back to your community, attend religious services regularly, etc. then you will have to cultivate a path that will get your family where you want them to be. If you want to raise kids who are mindful, independent, confident and kind, then you need to model said behaviors in the home and be the teacher they will learn from as how to function in the ways you find important.
Before we go too much further on the subject I want to address marriage in a blended family as it pertains to leadership. You spouse is your partner, not your subject. As you build a vision for your blended family, build it together. No marriage should be a dictatorship. Remember that your marriage is going to be observed by the kids in your home and will inform them how romantic relationships should be. If either spouse is behaving in disrespectful, abusive, childish or in dishonoring ways, the kids will see that as "normal" and eventually will seek out that type of behavior when they are adults. Let you marriage be a collective leader-partnership full of the upmost respect and regard. A collective leadership means knowing when to take the reigns and when to let go. You have got to have the strength and humility to do both at any time. Consider the other person in everything you do. Your marriage should be top priority because it is the CORE relationship in your blended family (without your marriage your blended family doesn't exist). If you are failing here, you will be a failure as a leader in your home.
What are the makings of a leader great? Here are a list of leadership skills I believe are necessary to be successful:
Communication. It all starts and ends here. You have got to be clear in your expectations. You have got to engage with your family in a meaningful and concise way sharing your vision, encouraging, spurring everyone on, and correcting without tearing down. It's an art. If your family members do not know or understand where you are leading them to, they will not be good nor attentive followers.
Awareness. As you lead, you MUST pay attention to morale. You must know who is struggling so you can meet them there and pull them up. You must also be self-aware; knowing when your expectations are unreasonable or unrealistic. There are some things that just aren't going to happen and you need to know when to lay down your cause if it is harming the family.
Integrity. If you are expecting someone in your family to do something you are unwilling to do yourself, then forget it. If you lead with a reward system, but don't come through in the end, you've forfeited respect. If you say one thing but are doing the opposite, you've gone and lost them completely. Your family needs to know that they can count on you to lead by example and do right by them.
Creativity. You have got to have an open mind and an open heart. There are many ways to reach a goal and sometimes you really do have to think outside of the box to get there. If something isn't working that you are trying, don't give up, try something else. You are dealing with a lot of different personalities, so what discipline looks like for one kid, for example, may look very different from another child in your home. That's okay.
Relationship Building. The greatest leaders understand that they need to foster relationships among the ranks. People who feel like they are in it together, are more willing to see something through to the end. We all need support, and good leadership makes sure their people have it. It isn't only important that the kids build relationships with one another so they can feel they are in the trenches together, but you also have to make sure you're constantly building a relationship with each one of them yourself. Kids who feel close to their parent or step parent are more willing to go where you want them to.
Developing Others. You have got to pour into each person and into each relationship. You must actively help in the growth and development of your fellow family members and can only do this by being present. Educate everyone on the why, how and when. Setting goals and bringing your family alongside in the process of reaching them is invaluable to their development and readiness for the real world when they are on their own. People can dream, but when they see dreams become a reality it creates a drive, confidence and eagerness to pursue their own.
Humility. Admit when you mess up. It is as simple as that.
Adaptability. As a leader you should never stop learning and growing yourself. Expand your horizons so that you can rise and shift to meet the challenges and changes that may come along during your time in leadership. Don't let a hurdle stop you from doing what is right and going when you need your family to go. You may have to change the plan as things beyond your control come up, but what leader doesn't?! If you are stuck in one way, you just may sink in your own quicksand.
One of the greatest pitfalls that happens in blended families is when parents allow the tail to wag the dog. The kids in the household should not be dictating your family life. If you find your kids running the show it is time for a transference of power. This requires you as parents to plan with purpose and set goals. Create boundaries and hold yourself and others accountable for their actions. Empower members of your family; inspire them. Foster a culture of gratitude and watch attitudes change. And for heaven's sake understand that what you promote and allow is what will continue!!!!
There have been many leaders in the past worthy of following and emulating, but Jesus is my favorite. He lead through service and sacrifice which made for a standard, knowingly or not, most humans admire and respect. If you ever get stuck in leading your blended family may I suggest you look to our Lord and Savior. And if you are not a believer, like it or not, Jesus was arguably the most influential leader in history so He's worthy of a look-see. Jesus was not above getting his hands dirty; He did the lowliest of tasks not only because that was His heart but because He couldn't expect his followers to behave in ways He wasn't willing to. He was the epitome of the phrase "leading by example". That, my friends, is great and effective leadership. Matthew 20:27-28 says, "and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Having a blended family is no small responsibility to take on. Your blended family needs good and effective leadership to succeed. Make sure you and your spouse are equipped to put your very best and stable foot forward.
Peace and Love,