Leadership Survival in the Family

18 January 2020

3.1 MINS

Some time ago, I attended a seminar where I was handed a little cellophane bag, tied with a blue ribbon, full of unusual goodies with a tag titled ‘Leadership Survival Kit”. I had never received a Leadership Survival Kit before, so I picked it up to have a good look.

I like to think of myself as a leader, but more importantly, I want to survive. As a father with five children, some of whom I look up to now because they are taller than me, I find that they still come to me for advice. Sometime ago, one of my sons rang me because he had just bought a house and had found termites under the bath.

You see, my background is in building, and so he looked to me for advice. A leader provides advice and when he doesn’t know the answers, he seeks them out in order to help those who asked for the advice.

Being a leader is a difficult job. Being a Dad is even more difficult, because not only does it require you to be a leader but also a carer, lover, encourager, motivator, listener, communicator, teacher, mentor, protector, provider, spiritual guide, discipliner, driver, lawyer, sports hero, comforter, doctor, psychologist, counsellor, mechanic, navigator, story teller, truth seeker, builder, gardener, cook, cleaner, fix-it man and walking encyclopaedia.

Being a Dad and being a leader is synonymous. You can’t get away from the responsibility of leadership as a father, even if you want to. As Marlene Dietrich said,

“A king, realising his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties; a father can do neither.”

Knowing that leadership is a dangerous job, because you are the first to stick your head above the parapet and get shot at, I was eager to learn more about the contents of the Leadership Survival Kit. I was most perturbed by the unusual things I found in my little cellophane bag. They were:

Lifesaver candy – for the times others need your help or you need theirs.
Bandaid – to bring healing.
Rubber band – to remind you to be flexible.
Puzzle piece – without you, things wouldn’t be complete.
Toothpick – to help pick out the good qualities in others and yourself.
Tissues – to wipe the tears of joy and sadness.
Salt sachet – we are to bring salt and light into the world.
Mint – to be a breath of fresh air.
Tea bag – to remind you it’s OK to take a break and relax.
Chocolate Heart – love is a healer and covers all things.

Reading the tag on the bag put a smile on my face; I hope it puts a smile on your face too.

After we all received the Leadership Survival Kit, a story was told about the motivational speech given to a supermarket chain about the power of special service to build a business.


Johnny was a 19-year-old boy with Down’s syndrome, who packed the groceries for the customers.

He was so affected by that motivational talk that he began to put a Thought for the Day into each of his customer’s bags. Pretty soon, his queues were three times longer than anyone else’s. When the store manager panicked and tried to get extra checkouts open, the customers said, “No it’s OK. We want to be in Johnny’s lane. We want his thought for the day.”

The store manager said, “It was a delight to watch Johnny delight the customers.” The store manager went on to say that Johnny had transformed the whole store, because he had inspired the other employees and they were all having fun creating memories. “Our customers are coming back and bringing their friends.”

Johnny’s idea wasn’t just innovative, it was loving. It came from his heart – it was real. That’s what touched his customers and his peers. Watch the Johnny the Bagger’s story here.

To survive as a leader, we must first learn to serve others. This is what true leadership is, and that is what those ten points epitomise. In order to lead, you must first love. If you are a true lover, you will be a true leader.

Johnny had a disability, but he stirred the spark of love within and began to serve his customers in a special way. In doing so, he transformed his store and made it a happy place to be.

You can do the same for your family!


Reflect on the contents of the “Leadership Survival Kit”. Stir the spark of love in your heart as a father, and begin to serve your wife and family in a special way. This is what servant leadership is all about. In doing so, you will make your home a special place for all to be.

Yours for great leaders in the home,
Warwick Marsh

[Photo by Anna Pritchard on Unsplash]

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