Home Family vs. Work Family

There have been so many memes popping up this past week about working from home with your spouse, but one really made me laugh. The meme featured a wife listening to her husband during his team conference call. Apparently, she heard him ask one of his teammates, “What can I do to help you?” I won’t write the wife’s reaction, but it was clear that she had never received this question from him. While this was a hilarious meme, it did speak to a powerful truth about leadership and how individuals interpret it and act on it. This particular meme exhibited a very old-school view of leadership: attributes of leadership is something to be carried out at work, not at home.

I always tell audiences that when it comes to leadership, the way you are in one space is the way you should be in other spaces. If your teammates see you as kind and open-minded, but your family sees you as stubborn and hot-headed, then there’s a problem. Just like the meme, your work family should not receive the kind of treatment that your blood family yearns for. Now let me be clear, I’m not talking about leadership style. I’m talking about the way that you act out your style. Allow me to give you an example:

At work, my leadership style is a mix of servant and action-based leadership. I like to model what I see, challenge my team to try new things, and I like to get to work, not just have 50 meetings about the same subject. My team might say that I’m encouraging, consistent, firm, yet supportive.  However, when I get home, I’m more of a results-based person. I have small children who are in school and after-school activities, a spouse with his own career, and a house that can look squeaky clean one minute and like a tornado ran through it the next minute. In order to get things done and keep the family on track, I completely become results oriented at home; however, I work hard to do it in a way that mirrors who I am at work: encouraging, consistent, firm, yet supportive.

Regardless of where you exhibit your leadership traits, make sure that you’re remaining authentic and consistent in every venue: work, home, community, and with yourself. Often, we act better in our professional environment than we do in any other arena, especially home. It’s understandable when we think about it.

  • At work, we need our team to get projects completed. A divisive team is not a productive one.
  • At work, we have a boss that we report to (even when we’re a boss to our team). Knowing that any negative information about you can get back to your boss makes you put your “best face forward.”
  • At work, we have to bring out the best in our teams. In order to bring out the best in them, we have to be at our best.

So how does that work at home?  For most people, it doesn’t. Often, we don’t see our home family in the same light as our work family, and that can be a problem, at times. Think about your leadership style at work vs. home. Is there a vision for your family that you’re working towards? How do you bring out the best in your family members? In what ways would you change how you interact with them if you had a boss to report to? The same way that we learn to work with our professional team, care for them, check up on them, push them to excellence, and advocate for them should be the same way we work with our home family and vice versa. It’s not always easy in the short-term, but it is rewarding in the long-run.

Happy leading,


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