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What Sex, Love and Marriage Will Teach You About Leadership

I spent a day recently with a group of ministry friends and mentors, all of whom have been leading their organizations for a long time. In some cases, over 20 years.

We had a heartfelt, gut-wrenching conversation about the challenges of leading in the same organization for most of our adult lives.

As I processed our day together, I realized there are more than a few common denominators between leadership and sex, love and marriage.

After all … most of us are trying to make our relationships work out, both personally and organizationally. And it’s not easy.

Just like it’s easier to be unhealthy than healthy, at some points it’s harder to make the magic happen year after year than it is to keep starting over again.

Now, as you read this, please know this post comes out of my experience. I realize many marriages don’t make it and I realize that I will have a hard time understanding those dynamics.

I’ve been married to my wife, Toni, for 23 years. We have not always had an easy marriage, but we are both so thankful that we decided to work through the issues (Toni and I talked openly about the struggles in our marriage here).

Similarly, I’ve been in leadership with many of the same people for 18 years in the same community. It hasn’t always been easy, but there we’ve seen some incredible things together.

While these reflections come out of my personal experience, I offer them in the hopes that they help us all filter through the challenges of life and leadership.

So whether you’re …

a young leader just starting out,

thinking about quitting,

are happily engaged in long term leadership,

… here are six things sex, love and marriage can teach you about leadership:

1. There is no such thing as casual leadership.

As much as we live in a culture where casual sex has become normal for many people, it doesn’t produce strong or healthy relationships. Similarly, there is nothing casual about leadership.

Like a healthy relationship, it takes work, effort and commitment over the long haul. As much as we try to make things easier and easier in our culture, leadership will remain challenging by its very nature. Just like great relationships—it will always take work, effort and commitment.

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Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.