What I’ve Learned About Leadership From My Wife

Posted 06.20.2011

Weddingdancing Today is my 24th wedding anniversary.  You can accuse me of bias (and you might be right), but my wife, Diane, is one of the best leaders I know.  She may not be famous (although she’s increasingly becoming so to the people who follow her food blog and presence on social media) and is not running any organizations larger than our family, our business and the online communities she’s started.

She is, however, one heck of a leader.  I’ve learned a lot about leadership from Diane in 24 years. Here are just some of the reasons why she’s one of the best leaders I know:

Weddingday1 She’s Not Afraid to Fail:  Diane is one of those people who can seemingly do anything. That’s because she tries a lot and is not afraid to fail.  This is a woman who made and designed her own wedding gown.  (It was gorgeous and so was she.) She’s an amazing cook who can pull leftovers out of the fridge and serve a gourmet quality meal twenty minutes later.  She decided to start a blog about gluten free cooking and living three years ago even though she didn’t consider herself a great writer.  Today, that blog has over 30,000 page views a month and readers around the world. For Diane, failure actually is an option.  If something she tries doesn’t work out, she usually laughs about it, learns from it and gets it right the next time.

She’s a Lifelong Learner:  Diane has forgotten more stuff than I’ve learned in the first place. When she identifies something that she’s passionate about or is important to her, she becomes an expert in it.  The most recent example is when our youngest child was diagnosed with Lyme Disease last year.  She has immersed herself in the literature and treatment options.  You couldn’t ask for a better advocate for our son.

She Totally Has Your Back:  Which leads to another of her leadership qualities.  If you are on Diane’s team – inside or outside the family – she totally has your back.  No matter what happens or how much you mess up, she’s there for you.  A team can go a long way with that kind of unquestionable support.

She’s an Encourager:  Diane is amazing at encouraging you to believe in yourself and follow your vision and passion. When I wanted to leave a corporate career track eleven years ago to start an executive coaching business, she probably believed in that vision more than I did myself. She is the not so secret weapon in the success we’ve had with the business.

She’s a Planner:  Diane is incredible at starting with a clear picture of an end goal or future state of success and working her way back from there to create a practical plan that leads to that future state.  It doesn’t matter what the topic is – our kids’ education, our family’s health, a meal, her business, our business or a family trip – she begins with the end in mind and goes from there.  I regularly joke that I’d be living in a refrigerator box if it wasn’t for Diane.  Actually, I’m not joking.

She’s a Problem Solver:  Back in 2007, after several years of health problems, Diane learned through a blood test that she is gluten intolerant and was sensitive to a bunch of other foods that she would have to stop eating. It was a pretty long list and it was one of the few times I’ve seen her have a bit of a meltdown. That lasted about 15 minutes. Then she started making a list of all the foods she could eat.  That was a much longer list. She then proceeded to organize herself for a gluten free lifestyle (see “Lifelong Learner” above). In 2008, she started sharing what she was learning on her blog. Now she’s embarking on a new career as a holistic health coach. That list of food intolerances turned out to be a pretty good thing.

She’s a Community Member and Builder:  One reason it did is because Diane seeks out and builds communities of people with common interests.  She loves to share what she’s learning and loves to learn from and have fun with others.  She has friends all over the world as a result. If you know her at all, you know that she’s one of the biggest Harry Potter fans in the Western Hemisphere. For the past several Sunday nights, she’s been online with a thousand other Potter people as they chat back and forth while watching the Potter movies as part of a countdown to the last one that comes out in a couple of weeks.

She’s Fun:  So, we’ll be going to the premiere of the last Potter movie at 12:01 am on the day it opens because it’s a lot more fun to see with the people who are totally into it.  That’s how Diane rolls.  She’s all about the fun. Fun is an underrated leadership asset. It’s a lot easier to lead people (your kids, your spouse, your friends, your colleagues, your team) when they’re having fun.  Diane gets that because she likes to have fun and she wants you to have fun too.

OK, I could go on, but you get the idea. To be honest, these are a lot of the reasons I love Diane. The fact that I get to come up with some leadership lessons from them is just a bonus.

What leadership lessons have you learned from someone you love?