30 Leadership Lessons from my Wife

This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

Lessons Are All Around Us

Leadership lessons are all around us if we look for them. In my case, my wife is one who has shown me a lot—by simply managing her own life!

Over the years, I have observed my wife balance many competing priorities. She has managed a career with her own business, raised our children, developed friendships and run a household all while being a great wife and partner. As we progress through life together, I have noticed leadership traits that she naturally employs as an effective, successful businesswoman, mother, friend and wife.

Sometimes we get very theoretical or philosophical in describing leadership talent. We go to seminars, read books or take courses, but I have found some of the most effective lessons are very practical and are demonstrated through the actions of those around us. My wife doesn’t talk about or preach leadership—she just naturally has the qualities. It just took me a while to catch on…

Here is a brief list of the effective leadership lessons that I have observed from her in action:

  1. Give careful attention to the individual.
  2. Empathy creates loyal followers.
  3. Genuine listening gets to the heart of the matter and builds relationships.
  4. You do not always need to have the answer. Listening to others will help everyone get better answers.
  5. Forgiving mistakes builds trust and loyalty.
  6. First impressions are not always right.
  7. Look beyond someone’s behavior for real issues.
  8. Holding grudges is detrimental and unproductive.
  9. Writing down negative thoughts and feelings is a healthy way to release them.
  10. Acts of kindness create trust and an appreciative atmosphere.
  11. It is fine to feel emotion, but do not let it lead to bad decisions and regretful actions.
  12. Nurturing creates an atmosphere for others to comfortably grow and learn.
  13. Being a pleaser, trying to satisfy everyone, does not work and drains your energy.
  14. Setting boundaries holds people accountable.
  15. Holding people accountable creates positive culture and helps people grow.
  16. Know when to let someone else take control.
  17. Getting others involved builds buy-in and reduces stress.
  18. Sometimes it is best to let others go first—it makes them feel important, appreciated and taps into their energy.
  19. Understand the other person’s perspective to create a better outcome.
  20. Give people an “out” to help them take measured risks.
  21. Take action on small things to reduce stress and create a decisive culture.
  22. Organization and advanced planning enables everyone to accomplish a lot while reducing stress.
  23. To-Do lists are essential for leaders to accomplish broad and varied agendas.
  24. Helping others to feel and show passion creates energy.
  25. Perfection is good for some things, but not everything.
  26. Decisiveness reduces stress and churn for everyone, even if changes are needed later.
  27. Better decisions result when you allow people to talk about options, alternatives and choices without forcing quick conclusions.
  28. Advanced “negotiation” develops choices, gets buy-in from others and prevents tantrums.
  29. Talking about feelings is good for culture—it is not always about decisions, actions and performance.
  30. Teaching people to be self-aware and to control impulses strengthens character.


What Matters is Not Only the Bottom Line

You can see from the list that many of these qualities deal with the “softer” side of leading. It is easy to get overly fixated on the bottom line, but attention to the softer side of leading will develop a strong and loyal culture that enables everyone to contribute. I have watched these leadership qualities achieve valuable results with children, clients, and friends and in many business situations. Sometimes the best lessons are right in front of us. Pay attention to those you respect.


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