Leadership and Marriage


Ask yourself three questions to determine if your marriage benefits from key leadership qualities.

Effective leaders and effective marriages have three things in common:

1. Leaders and partners learn from their experiences.

2. They learn how to adapt to changing conditions.

3. They pay attention and anticipate probable future problems.

During the winter of 1911, Robert Scott was racing to be the first man to get to the South Pole. He set off on a journey of adventure with the potential for enormous satisfaction but also filled with hardships and difficulties–just like the adventure of marriage.

However, Scott violated all three principles. He totally disregarded what the Eskimos had learned from centuries of experience and harnessed 19 dogs in single file pulling 5 sleds in a row. The dogs simply could not survive for long pulling the sled system Scott devised. He failed to learn from the experience (Principle #1) or adapt as necessary (Principle #2).

He also dressed his men in tight canvas clothing and separate hats, which let the cold in, ignoring Eskimo clothing traditions and failing to anticipate the harsh climate (Principle #3). His men suffered horribly from temperatures of 50 and 60 degrees below zero while hauling 200 pounds of weight per sled.

Scott paid the highest price possible. His frozen body was found buried under the polar snow. Meanwhile, Roald Amundson, who traveled at the same time of year, made it safely to the South Pole and back because he applied the lessons of Eskimo experience. If so, consider these questions:

1. Do you learn anything from experience?

Are you trying new ways of thinking about your problem?

Do you reach out to other couples for fresh insights or different ways of doing things?

Are you waiting for your partner to go first, or are you willing to take the initiative?

If you think trouble is brewing, do you bring it up or wait until your partner explodes or comes to you with enormous frustration?

2. Do you adapt to changing conditions?

Do you rise to the occasion of changing conditions, or do you just get angry or feel like a victim because things have changed?

Are you in a power struggle where you won’t experiment with novel solutions?

Are you taking emotional or behavioral risks to break the logjam?

Do you view the changing conditions as the fault of your partner or do you understand that life circumstances challenge both of you with unexpected conditions?

3. Do you pay attention and anticipate probable future problems?

Do you pay attention to your finances?

Do you think ahead about how children’s schedules will affect you and your partner?

Do you try to protect your partner from unnecessary stress?

If you are ready for some soul searching, pick any of these questions and push yourself to take a new risk this month.In the months ahead, we will share some tips for negotiating effectively with your partner and also share three types of decisions that work best with different kinds of problems. In the meantime ask yourself, what are you doing to make yourself a better leader and a better partner?


Visit our Couples blog for more insights and strategies to make your relationship the best it can be.

The Couples Institute

This article was originally published at The Couples Institute . Reprinted with permission from the author.