Dr. Randy Carlson, Uncategorized

Family Leadership – Develop the skills to influence your family toward success

by Dr. Randy Carlson

Every family needs leadership!

Dr. Randy Carlson
Dr. Randy Carlson

Every family needs a purpose, a vision and a plan.

If you don’t have a vision for your marriage someone else might.

If you don’t have a vision for your kids someone else will.

If you are not leading your family, then who or what is?

Families don’t lead themselves.

You know you’re a leader when you look over your shoulder and others are following you. Leadership is not about how loud you speak but how effectively you live your life.  

Leaders champion causes bigger than themselves and, in the process, attract others to that cause. Leaders help others get things done for their own good and for the good of the group.  

When leaders speak others listen and learn.  

Are you a leader?  

Let me bring it home; are you a leader in your family – capable of getting your family to move in the direction it needs to go without giving up or getting out? If your head is nodding in agreement congratulations – you undoubtedly have leadership strengths and abilities.  

From experience, however, I suspect that most of my readers are more likely to fall into the mass of people who struggle with getting anyone to listen to them, let alone follow them. The problem of leaderless families is epidemic across our Christian culture.  

Please don’t throw in the towel quite yet, if leadership doesn’t come easily or naturally to you. You can become exactly the kind of leader God needs for you to be in your family. He promised never to give us more than we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). While the burden of leadership may weigh heavily on your shoulders you can make it happen.   

If leadership were on the optional list for living, I’d likely suggest that non-leaders save themselves a lot of pain and simply hide out in the shadow of someone who is a natural leader. Isn’t that what most of us did through our high-school years and well into adulthood? There were only a few shining stars of leadership during those years – members of the “leadership club” – serving on the student council – captain of the team or the teacher’s assistant.  

For every natural born leader there are 100 natural born followers. The world can get along with one in 100 people being leaders; your family can’t. Each family needs at least one godly leader in order to make it in this tough world.  

I once heard someone say, “The world is tough, so you better be tough on yourself.” You may be tough on yourself when it comes to developing the kind of leadership skills your family needs from you.

You cannot excuse yourself from leadership duty simply because leadership isn’t your spiritual gift. By laying back and letting your spouse, children, school or church make all the decisions and set the tone for your life and family you are abdicating your spiritual responsibilities.


Leadership is a necessity

for strong families and healthy marriages.

George Barna in his book, Leaders on Leadership, provided a comprehensive list of competencies of a Christian leader. Below I’ve adapted his list a bit in order to make it apply to leadership in the family setting. How would you rate yourself against this list?

15 things family leaders DO –

  1. Effectively communicate with each member of the family.
  2. Identify, articulate and cast a vision for their families.
  3. Motivate their family toward good.
  4. Coach and help to develop the gifts of those in their family.
  5. Initiate strategic actions in their family.
  6. Resolve conflicts quickly.
  7. Manage resources (time, money, skills, etc.) well.
  8. Hold themselves and others accountable.
  9. Reinforce commitment to each other and to the family.
  10. Are team builders.
  11. Monitor how things are going in the family with lots of encouragement and instruction.
  12. Create the kind of culture God wants for their family.
  13. Maintain focus and priorities in their own lives and for the family.
  14. Relate everything back to God’s plan and principles.
  15. Model spiritual disciplines.

It’s a Mandate – Not a Call

If you are married, have children or are responsible for the wellbeing of others, you are already on the list of leaders. You may not enjoy it or even want it, but leadership is now your responsibility. We do God and families an injustice by discounting the importance of leadership in the family. Writing yourself off as a non-leader won’t cut it when your family is facing a crisis, demanding direction and action.

Some believe that leadership is a calling or gift, but in your family it’s neither optional nor can you ignore the need.

Leadership isn’t someone else’s responsibility; it’s yours.

But I’m Not Good at It:
Don’t compare your leadership qualities with anyone else’s.

A word to wives –  

When you compare your husband’s leadership skills, interest or abilities against any other man you are undermining your husband. He may have dropped the leadership ball and may even be unwilling to discuss your needs but comparing him with other men will only widen the gap between where he is as a leader and where you’d like for him to be. 

Leadership is something

you can learn to do for your family.  

The principles are clear, and results will be encouraging. You become a leader through commitment to the process of becoming a leader. It is a process after all, not an event. Your attitudes, beliefs and actions are key to successful leadership for your family. Even if you have been guilty of abdicating your responsibility as a leader, you can start over today by doing two very straightforward things in the next seven days. 

  1. Spend 30 minutes praying, thinking and writing about what you would like God to do for you and your family. And at the end of those seven days – review your notes and create a list of the top 10 things you believe will make the most positive impact on your family for the next year. As you create your list be careful to consider each of the important areas of your life – spiritual, financial, relational, physical, intellectual, etc.  
  2. After you have your list in hand set-up a time with your spouse to discuss what God has been doing your life over the previous seven days. This is not a grip session about how you want your spouse to change, but a time for you share what God has been telling your about yourself, your marriage and your family. Don’t get discouraged if your spouse responds with less than enthusiastic support. They may even attempt to resist, criticize, or even ignore you. One of the basics of family leadership is to stay focused on the goal – in this case your goal is to open communications with your spouse concerning your desires for the family. 

But My Husband Won’t Lead  

Leadership isn’t just men’s work. Husbands and fathers have been given clear commands by God to lead (verses). However, scripture clearly has a high view of women who took leadership seriously (Proverbs 31, Esther, Ruth, etc.). God has a perfect design for how men and women are to relate and live in marriage. Men are to lead like Christ lead the Church and Women are to submit out of reverence to Christ. When men lead like Christ it’s not hard for most Christian women to submit as Christ designed.   

Submission doesn’t mean mindless obedience or subservient loyalty. As men and women submit to Christ (verse) and to each other (Eph 5:21) the leadership blend between men and women in marriage becomes clear, to me at least.  


I’ve talked with enough Christian women married to non-leaders over my years of ministry to know how vulnerable to discouragement they really are. If this is your situation, I caution you against making the mistake many Christian women make – they beat at air from frustration thinking that somehow this will get their spouse to take leadership.  

A better use of energy would be to: 

  1. Pray for your husband. 
  2. Discuss your needs with your husband using the process outlined earlier. 
  3. Start quietly and systematically to pick up those areas of leadership in the family, which demand attention. 

What is Leadership? 

Leadership expert John Maxwell in his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership says, “The true measure of leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” If you can influence others, they are allowing you to lead. In one of my most requested speaking topics on parenting I discuss the difference between rules and relationships.  

I’ve often quoted Josh McDowell’s statement:  

“Rules without relationship create rebellion.” 

Leadership based upon rules over relationship will create in the follower either obedience without integrity, or rebellion without apology. Followers under the thumbs of rule-based leaders will either fall in line out of fear or they may openly rebel without really knowing why. Either way the leader and the follower lose.  


I agree with Maxwell that true leadership is nothing more or less than influence.  

What Does a Family Leader Do? 

How does a leader influence others? Just think for a moment of those you respect and would be willing to follow. What is it about them that most impresses you? Typically, when I ask this question I hear things about integrity, listening skills, caring about others, and having a clear vision for the future. Influence comes down to people skills.  


Great leaders know how to communicate a vision so clearly  

and with such conviction that others are naturally drawn to it.  

Kenneth O. Gangel wrote a chapter in the book, Leaders on Leadership, titled, “What Leaders Do.” In it he shared several important points concerning what successful leaders do right. 

  1. Leaders Relate. More than managing the family, a leader knows how to lead a family. As you get behind the eyes of each member of your family you start the process of relating with those who need you the most. 
  2. Leaders Organize. Organization may not be your gift, but it’s important in leadership. As you organize your own life and the life of your family around priorities and values you will discover good things happening in the family. 
  3. Leaders Achieve. Help each member of your family experience a win. Cheer leading, encouraging, and instructing is a part of leadership. Help others establish goals and then help them succeed. 
  4. Leaders Think. Planning ahead, getting good counsel and being decisive are each important aspects of leadership in the family. 
  5. Leaders Envision. This is the vision part of leadership. Looking toward the future and making plans together with the family can be exciting and motivating to each member of the family. 
  6. Leaders Endure. It’s not how a leader starts, but how they finish that will make all the difference to your family. 

Through the process of leadership, you can influence the lives of each member of your family for good.   

I once heard someone say, “Life is tough, so be tough on yourself.” If you’ve struggled in the area of leadership for your family, it may start with being tough with yourself. Until you can lead yourself it will be impossible for you to lead others, including your family.  

Leadership is an exciting adventure for those who are willing to take the steps necessary to make it happen. You can become the leader your family needs.