30 Leadership Concepts I’ve Learned from 30 Years of Marriage

July 1, 2018 marked my 30th wedding anniversary to my husband Tim Malzahn! And because I know being married for this long is an amazing blessing we decided to celebrate the entire year. We started by spending two weeks in Barcelona and Madrid, Spain. The photos for each day are some of my favorite memories of the trip. After 30 years you learn a lot, not only about the other person but also about yourself and about life in general. Therefore, for the next five days, I’ll share with you 6 leadership concepts each day that I’ve learned through this journey called marriage. But whether you are married or not and whether you have children or not, these leadership concepts will help you succeed in the workplace.

1.      Core values. To start on the right foot, marry someone with whom you share your core values. This one step will help you avoid many arguments throughout your marriage. I was blessed to have chosen the right man. In your working life, choose an employer that has the same core values as you. Otherwise, you will always feel like you don’t belong.

2.      Responsibility. You will never really be ready to have children, yet they are probably the biggest responsibility you’ll ever have. Therefore, allow them to come when God wills but still prepare as much as you can. Supervising employees is very similar to parenting. In the workplace, when you become a first-time supervisor, you will also feel inadequate, but you can prepare and develop those skills before you take on a leadership position in your company.

3.      Parenting. Children want the parents’ attention, want us to give them toys, and fight over our time. Doesn’t this sound like your employees at work? They all want your time, your attention, and the latest toys in the office! The answer? Mold your leadership style to each employee just as parents need to mold their parenting style for each child.

4.      Discipline. You and your spouse must agree when disciplining your children. Otherwise, there will be confusion and chaos. The same in the workplace, the leadership team must agree on accountabilities and clarifying roles throughout the organization to avoid confusion.

5.      Communication. Lack of communication is the root for most misunderstandings. You need to communicate with each other about every aspect of the marriage. In the workplace, you need to communicate with your peers, employees, and leaders to build and maintain successful relationships.

6.      Trust. Without trust there is no marriage. Spouses need to trust each other in every aspect of the relationship. In the workplace, without trust your organization will suffer at the least and will parish at the worst. Once trust is lost it is very difficult to recover from it.

7.      Finances. Ideally, finances should be shared in a marriage. Even when one person pays the bills or if only one person is the income earner, the other must always know the financial situation of the household. In the workplace, the top leadership needs to be aware of the financial situation of the organization and also communicate what is appropriate to the rest of the staff.

8.      Education. In addition to providing regular education for your children, you need to educate them on your core values and beliefs. In the workplace, leaders need to continually remind their team members of the company’s vision, mission, and core values too.

9.      Time with children. Spend time with your children one-on-one (from a young age) to build a personal relationship with each child. The same, if you manage a team of people, spend time with each employee to get to know them at the personal level and build the relationship.

10.      Time as a family. Spend time as a family and create positive and fun memories together. The same at work, spend time together as a team not only celebrating successes but just because you want to get know one another.

11.      Time with your spouse. Spend time with your spouse. During the long season of raising children is when the marriage suffers the most because there is simply not enough time for each other. Making the effort to spending time together will ensure you don’t grow apart. In the workplace, spend time with those you work closely with, so you stay on track.

12.      Health. Strive to stay healthy so you can enjoy a long marriage. We have no control as to when our time to depart this planet will be, but we can do our best to live a healthy life, so our spouse doesn’t become a widow or widower sooner than they have to. Staying healthy transfers to the workplace as well. Healthy employees are happy employees.

13.      Walk. Go on long walks with your spouse. Walking is the one exercise that we can do until our very last days. When you go on long walks it gives you an opportunity to share and connect while you exercise. In the workplace, you can establish wellness programs to encourage your employees to go on walks together.

14.      Compliments. Tell each other compliments and do it sincerely. Complimenting your spouse will build his/her self-esteem. The same way in the workplace. Saying a compliment to a coworker goes a long way.

15.      Words. Tell your spouse the three powerful words, “I Love You.” Don’t assume they know it. We all need to be reminded that we are loved. In the workplace, there are ways to demonstrate love and appreciation for your peers, leaders, and employees such as “I appreciate you.” Doing this small act builds loyalty and increases retention.

16.      Friendship. Have a strong foundation of friendship. We like to say we married “our best friend.” But through the years, we can forget that, and we need to keep it in front of us by doing activities we both enjoy. In my opinion, it is okay to form friendships in the workplace. Sometimes, those friendships can last a lifetime.

17.      Romance. Have lots of romance at home. When the romance is kept alive—even during the exhausting years of raising children, then neither spouse will have a need to look for romance elsewhere such as in the workplace. One romantic act, one gesture of love during the week may be what keeps your marriage alive.

18.      Meals. Eat meals together. It’s amazing what eating a meal with someone does to the relationship. It’s almost magical. During the meal is when so many topics are discussed and when you get to know the other person better. In the workplace, take time to go out for a meal or coffee with a peer and you will build stronger relationships.

19.      Write. Write little love notes to each other. When your loved one reads words of love you wrote for him or her, it will transform his or her heart. In the workplace, you can write “thank you” notes as a gesture of appreciation for each other. One or two minutes writing a note to an employee may make the difference between keeping or losing a talented employee.

20.      Pray. Pray for each other. Pray for your spouse daily and through the day and pray for God to protect your marriage. In the workplace, pray for your employees, for your leaders, and for your friends.

21.      Respect. Treat each other with respect. Respect, along with love and trust are pillars in a marriage. This applies the same in the workplace. Where relationships are built on mutual respect they flourish.

22.      Commitment. Commit to each other and to the marriage. Commitment is the fourth pillar that goes along with respect, trust, and love to hold a marriage together. The same way in the workplace, when there is commitment from the employer to the employees to provide a safe environment, the employees respond with their loyalty and commitment back.

23.      Patience. In a marriage we need to be patient with each other on a daily basis. Impatience turns into disagreements, arguments, and even fights and then frustration sets in. So many business deals are lost because someone became impatient and so many business relationships fall apart because of lack of patience.

24.      Belief. Believe in yourself and in each other. It takes courage to believe in yourself and it takes even more courage to believe in someone else. But not doing so can be the beginning of the end in your marriage. In a company, if the employer doesn’t believe in their employees the employees will never achieve their best and the company’s vision will never be fulfilled.

25.      Support. Support each other’s dreams. Do you know your spouse’s dreams? Take time to discover and share each other’s dreams and work together to accomplish at least some of them. This will not only rekindle your marriage but will keep it together. In the workplace, I encourage leaders to ask their employees to share their career dreams and aspirations. Provide them with a safe place to share their dreams and then help them get there.

26.      Attitude. Life happens to everyone—good things and bad things. Your attitude and how you react to each life event determines if you will overcome or not. In the workplace, often we have no control over the events that occur. Choose to have a positive attitude and you will enjoy your working life more.

27.      Fun. Have fun at home with your family—even on the busy days. Be creative on how you have fun while you take care of your family. In the workplace, attend the activities that are planned precisely for employees to have fun and enjoy each other away from the office.

28.      Celebrate. When you celebrate everything in your life—from the little accomplishments to the big milestones—you become a grateful person. At work, take time to celebrate overcoming challenges together as well as bringing in a big client. Everything adds up.

29.      Forgiveness. In a marriage, we need to forgive each other almost daily. There are always plenty of opportunities to hurt each other. In the workplace, there will be many opportunities for you to be hurt. Choose to forgive so you can move on. Forgive—even when the other person doesn’t ask for forgiveness or you think they don’t deserve it. Forgive others and you will feel free. Also, be humble and ask for forgiveness when you hurt others.

30.      Faith. And most of all… have faith in God. Don’t forget God loves you above all! He is a God of forgiveness, mercy, hope, and love. Love your family. Love your friends and everyone God has put in your path of life.

I hope you enjoyed reading this short series on the 30 leadership concepts I’ve learned during the 30 years of my marriage journey. I hope God will give me the blessing to enjoy another 30 or 40 years of marriage. No marriage is perfect nor easy but with God's help and mutual cooperation, we can make it. I will never stop writing so I stay tuned for when I share what I learned in the next decades to come.