My husband and I are fighters. We’ve always been this way—since before we were even married. We’re both the highly competitive, super-passionate, stubborn-as-mules type of people. We’re not the “let’s sit down and talk about this calmly” people, or the “oh-you’re -so-smart-you-must-be-right” type of people.
So put the two of us in the same room together and you get fireworks, one way or another (if you know what I mean).
Anyway, the point is, when we were first married, our fights would be perpetually explosive. We would raise our voices, say things we’d later regret, and usually one of us (who shall remain unnamed) would end up stomping out of the room in a fury.
We’ve worked for a few years to make our arguments more productive—
recognizing arguing is not a bad thing, but that if we set some ground rules for fighting, we’ll end up making more progress in the end. This was a frustrating process for me, and I have to admit, I’ve wondered, at times, if we made some sort of mistake getting married. Not that I don’t love my husband, but I allowed the following thought to creep in and take hold:
Passionate, competitive people shouldn’t marry each other. They’ll just fight forever.
It wasn’t until the past few months that I started realizing how this thought process could be acting as a limitation for us, preventing me from believing peace was possible.
So I started opening my eyes for evidence to the contrary.
I started watching for other married couples who had similar temperaments to my husband and myself. Michael Hyatt and his wife Gail released a series of podcasts about what it was like to be married to an entrepreneur, and I listened to those. I saw myself—my marriage—in those conversations.
Darrell and I also developed a close relationship with a couple I really admire, and who reminded me of us, and I started paying close attention to the way they communicated with each other.
The more time we spent around them, the more I began to see how the quality of their communication was really more about the skills they were implementing than it was about their personalities or passion. In other words, despite their passionate temperaments, and competitive personalities, they were still able to fight fair, with practice.
Slowly, I began to see it: peace was possible.
But of course, my realization couldn’t stop there. If it did (“wow, other people can have great communication within their passionate marriage”) it wouldn’t have done me much good. In fact, it likely would have made me feel even more hopeless about my own set of circumstances, since we still seemed to be flailing.
The next step was that someone was going to have to be a leader.
In other words, the next time we got into an argument, one or the other of us was going to have to lead the other one out of it. One of us was going to have to prove it was possible to come out healthier and happier on the other side.
I’ll be honest: I wish I could say I was the first to do this, but I wasn’t. My husband was the first to put down his weapons and come to resolution. For months, in fact, he would be the one to lead us out of our arguments. Then, one day, a discussion we were having started to get heated and I just told myself: It is possible. You have to believe that…
And I led us out of it.
I really believe, in that moment, I became a leader.
It wasn’t glamorous. In fact, it was sort of messy. I was crying at the end, and I would tell you he was crying, too, but he’d probably deny it, so let’s just say we were both demonstrating strong emotions. There was mascara all over my face and we were both sitting on the edge of our unmade bed.
I would have been embarrassed to have you see me in that moment—and yet it was so empowering.
And I guess this has just been a huge epiphany for me about leadership.
It’s helped me to see how I am a leader, whether I want to be or not. It’s allowed me to see how being a leader isn’t really about who has the fanciest blog or the most elegant prose or the coolest wardrobe. It isn’t about lights and glamour and fame. I mean, I suppose some of those things, some of the time, allow us to lead even more people, in more effective ways, and for that, I’m grateful.
But for the most part, leadership is pretty messy. Leadership is hurting feelings and apologizing and never giving up. Leadership is sticking it out and turning over tables and cleaning them up again. Leadership is making a decision—even if it’s the wrong one. Leadership is wrinkled sheets, an unmade bed and smeared mascara.
Leadership is simply being the one to say—and to show—“You guys, this is possible. We can do this.”
In that sense, leadership is really about hope.
So the next time you find yourself wanting to say you’re not really a leader, stop yourself for a minute, and ask if that’s really true. I doubt it is. Because to say you’re not a leader is to say you aren’t about hope. And I get it. Hoping is hard. Hoping takes work. Hoping is not a fluffy or a pretty word—it’s self-sacrificing, get-your-hands-dirty, back-breaking kind of word.
But, at the same time, what are we without hope?
What are we without leaders?
As for me? Here’s what I hope: I hope I can lead you into believing you are a leader. I hope I can help you see how it’s possible, even if you’re not sure it is. I hope you’ll start hoping with me and that, together, we can lead others into hoping, too.