Dictator or Servant-Leader? – Part 2

We are continuing this month with the topic of Dad the Dictator versus Dad the Servant Leader. If you haven’t read Part One, I would encourage you to read it before proceeding.

Here is the e-mail that began this discussion:

”You mention in a previous Corner that you think ‘many dads are dictators and are only thinking about themselves.’ You also rightly point out in other Corners that fathers are heads of their families and should make family policies for the good of the family.

“What are the differences between a dad who is a ‘dictator’ and one who is fulfilling his duties as spiritual leader and protector? This is an area in which I sometimes struggle as I try to lead and protect my wife and young daughter. I do not want to be legalistic or frustrate my wife, but I do want to keep ungodly influences out of our lives and our home as much as possible. My wife and I do not always agree about what or who may be a bad influence, although we are both fairly conservative Christians.

“How does a dad find the proper balance between honoring his wife, seeking her input on decisions, and being the leader without becoming a dictator?” A Dad’s Corner Reader

Now what sort of a portrait does Scripture paint of Dad, the Servant Leader? First, Dad is a servant of the family. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). Will Dad work alongside his family as they wash the dinner dishes, clean house, or work in the yard? How does he do at changing dirty diapers, giving a child a bath, or putting the children to bed? If Mom is tired in the evening, would he tell her to rest while he takes over the household responsibilities? We all have certain strengths, and some jobs are better performed by Dad or Mom, but the Servant Leader doesn’t consider any job to be “beneath” him. Are you willing to do any job that needs to be performed?

I know of a company that had a policy that before a person could be hired into an executive position, he had to spend a year out in the factory, working from the bottom up. They were surprised to find that many whom they thought had management potential ended up quitting because they could not handle menial labor. Those who persevered were great leaders because they knew how to serve and understood what others did on a daily basis.

Dad is the leader and God-appointed head of the family. “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). The Servant Leader’s attitude is, “It isn’t my way or her way but rather the Lord’s way.” However, someone has to make the final decision. The Servant Leader is keenly aware of the weight of the necessity that his decision be the Lord’s direction. In a way, it is as if he were speaking for the Lord, because he is representing to the family that this is the Lord’s will in a matter.

There is a reason that commercial airliners have only one captain. One person always must have the final decision-making power because he bears the responsibility for those decisions. Can you imagine what might happen on final approach during an emergency, if the captain and co-pilot got into an argument as to whether to land or go around? That is why God gave the job of the final decision to only one of the family members. This doesn’t mean that any one is greater or lesser than another. They simply have different roles.

Just like a seasoned ox team, there is always one who takes the lead. He is the one who must be especially attentive to the teamster. Dad is the one who gently the leads the way, and he desires to follow the Lord’s will, not his own selfish will.

In a practical sense, let me give you an example from our family. When the decision was made to take Nathan and Christopher out of team sports, Teri wasn’t in favor of it. I felt strongly the Lord’s leading that sports were interfering with our ability to have nightly Bible time and to guard our children’s hearts. Teri and I had several discussions on this subject, and she shared her concerns with me. Then I made the decision. Since my decision was not the decision Teri would have made, I was very careful to be gentle in my communication with her. I told her that I strongly believed the Lord was directing us to remove the boys from baseball. I discussed it with her at length, and then took each boy out individually for a milkshake so I could tell him about my decision privately. The boys agreed to quit sports, and soon after the decision was made, Teri gave her wholehearted endorsement as well.

This example also illustrates another trait of the Servant Father. He communicates with his family—frequently, openly, gently, and lovingly. It will help if Dad will share with the family why decisions are made. We communicate with those we value, and how much we are willing to communicate with our family is an indication of how much worth they have to us.

Companies that truly value their employees communicate new policies carefully. They want the employees to understand why the policy is in the best interest of the company and those working there. When they don’t communicate, it is fertile ground for suspicion and distrust to develop. As Servant Dads, may we sit down with our families and have frequent heart-to-heart conversations with them about the direction the family is headed and why.

The Servant Leader’s time is the Lord’s time. Therefore his priorities will reflect the Lord’s priorities for the family. First and foremost that means that the Servant Leader will lead his family in Bible time every day. He knows that to raise his children in the nurture and admonition (Ephesians 6:4) of the Lord they need to be fed the Word of God multiple times a day. He will be encouraging his family to have their personal Bible time every morning and be an example by having his.

The Servant Leader makes decisions for the good of the family in accordance with his best understanding of how the Lord Jesus is leading. He is willing to always do what is best for the family, regardless of what is popular, within or without the family.

Ephesians 5:23 says that Dad is the savior of the body. The word “saviour” in the Greek means: savior, deliverer, protector. The Servant Leader is always protecting his family. In fact, he will risk himself for the sake of his family. That is the opposite of the dictator, who wants everyone to protect him and make his life easier. So if a decision causes extended family members to be unhappy, Dad is the one who takes the “arrows.” He gently informs others that he is doing his best to follow the direction the Lord Jesus has indicated He wants the family to go.

The Servant Leader asks and considers his wife’s counsel. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). If you cherish your wife and value her opinion through normal day-to-day life, when you find yourself in a situation where you must make a decision contrary to her preference, I believe it will be easier for her to accept. Strive to be a team and blend her strengths with your strengths. A wife will have great insight into the needs of the family and a host of other areas. God has gifted women incredibly, and we tie one hand behind our backs when we don’t seek and value their counsel.

It is critically important for the Servant Dad to learn to take a wife’s counsel to the Lord. However, I have often observed dads who are the opposite of the dictator by letting their wife make all the decisions regarding home and family. God rebuked Adam for obeying Eve. “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life” (Genesis 3:17). The Servant Dad is neither a dictator nor does he abdicate his God-given leadership responsibilities.

Every dad has a choice to make. Will he represent the Lord Jesus to his family by the example of being a Servant Leader? Regardless of mistakes made in the past, each of us has a decision to make going forward. “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).