Male Leadership In Crisis - Part Three
By Barrington H. Brennen, June
Today, more and more community activists are endeavoring to
re-instate men to their "rightful places." This has frightened me over
the years. Why? Because what is perceived as the man’s "rightful
place" is based on a traditional role of male supremacy and gender
inequality. And it is my opinion that this is what has led our society and many
other societies into the gender-war arena. Male supremacy is not always
presented in overt terms, but it is subtly propagandized by spiritual leaders
who sway thousands to hear and believe what they call "Thus saith the
Lord." The greatest voices in society to maintain the "woman’s
place" in society are the spiritual leaders. I believe this is the number
one reason why we have a male leadership crisis. I need to remind you, dear
readers, that the male leadership crisis is not the overwhelming increase of
female leaders but the failure of males to work as team players and
co-transformational leaders with their wives in their homes and other females in
society. When female presence becomes intimidating, those who believe in
male dominance say that male response is diminished. Hence, for the male to feel
"like a man again," he resorts to other means of power
dominance--family abuse, perverted sexual relationships, or criminal activity.
In reality, spiritual leaders haven’t done much to teach men how to share
leadership, negotiate, or become partners with the ones they promised to
"cherish until death." The emphasis from the pulpit has been for too
long that husbands are to lead rather than cooperate and become true partners
with their wives.
One of the powerful ministries that continue to reinforce the
traditional role of the dominant male is Promise Keepers. It is an organization
I first admired and often desired to attend its annual conventions. Although it
is an avenue for men to truly share and bond, it is perhaps the greatest
platform where the traditional role of the patriarchal leader is perpetuated.
Outstanding spiritual leaders such as Tony Evans and T.D. Jakes continually
drive home to hurting men that their role as men is to get out in front of their
wives and lead. In one session Tony Evans told thousands of men to "go home
and take over the leadership from their wives. Don’t ask for it, just take it
back." What an encouragement to male dominance! Richard Rohr in his book, "The
Wild’s Man’s Journey," shares his ideas on the subject. He
points out that "the vast majority of young men are first fascinated by the
archetype of the warrior. The warrior is that part of a man who has focus and
determination but lacks the breadth of the king. The warrior must be in
submission to a good king or he will be a loose cannon." Richard Rohr says
that "What we have in the Promise Keepers movement today is "a lot of
negative–guilty and overcompensating–lover. . . . " He states that
Promise Keepers is trying to fine-tune male warriors, but men are "tired of
being warriors and success objects," but the problem is we know nothing
else. Now is the time to teach our men how to how to be co-leaders rather than
warriors. They must stop hearing the demand "go and lead." Instead
they must hear the words "be somebody." This warrior practice
has only created generations of twisted leadership styles that have reaped havoc
on our families and the healthy development of society.
LEADERSHIP IN MARRIAGE
What then has the male done to the home? How does he lead?
Unfortunately too many men try to lead in absentia. They eat and sleep at home,
but seldom bond with family members. Yet they insist that they must have the
major say in what goes on in the home. Here are four examples how men have led
in their homes. These are actually four types of male dominant leadership styles
ranging from the overt to the very subtle approach. First there is the
"lion king," authoritarian leader. This is the husband who makes
it known who is the boss. He sits, as all lions do, waiting to be served. When
he roars, everyone must move. His children respect him as head, but they are
really afraid of him. His wife nervously honors his wishes so as not to cause
him to become angry. Other words that can aptly describe this type of head are
"domineering" and "military commander" head.
Second, there is the "passive-aggressive" leader.
This is the male who insists he is in charge, but is seldom seen or heard, and
he is not visibly involved in the life of the family. Sometimes these husbands
are alcoholics or religious addicts. They often use put-downs and manipulation
to force their wives and children to accomplish tasks or fulfill their requests.
When they become angry, everyone trembles.
Third, there is the "gentleman" leader. (The
subtle power-leader) This is the husband who is respectful and does all in his
power to enrich the marriage, although he will never change his views about it.
He is usually willing to attend married couples’ club meetings and marriage
seminars. He will never talk down to his wife. If he washes the dishes or helps
with the laundry, he makes it clear that he is just helping his wife do some of her
chores. Nevertheless, he insists that he is the head of his wife. He argues that
the husband must have the last say in important decisions, although he tries not
to disregard his wife’s opinion. Many Christian husbands fall into this
Fourth, there is the "ceremonial" leader.
(The even more subtle power-leader) This is the husband who deep down inside
really believes in equality, mutuality, and partnership in marriage; but he is
afraid to let his friends see how often he washes the dishes, cooks the food,
and takes care of the children. He avoids getting involved in the discussion
about headship because his true feelings conflict with the traditional lifestyle
of his friends and associates. Only when he is pressured, does he stand on the
side of tradition and states shyly that he is the head of his home.
What is missing in all of these leadership styles is the
failure of men to think of their wives as equal partners. Dr. David Olsen, in
his book "Empowering Couples," discusses his four types of
leadership in marriage First, there is the "husband-dominant
relationship" where the husband makes the majority of the decisions in
spite of the wives’ feelings and opinions; but they must follow. This
constitutes a majority of relationships. Second, there is the "wife-dominant
relationship" where the wife on the other hand makes the majority of
decisions irregardless of what the husband feels or thinks; but he must follow.
Third, there is the "independent relationship" where husband
and wife make the majority of decisions independently without any knowledge or
input from the other. Very little decisions are made jointly. These are the
types of leadership that have caused lots of problems in family and marriage
Dr. Olsen presents what is the ideal leadership type in
marriage – the egalitarian relationship. This is the relationship where
authority is shared and decisions are made jointly in most areas. One reason why
this type of relationship is not so common is because it is the hardest to
achieve. It calls for lots of negotiation, which we have not socialized our
males to do, especially with women.
Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and a
board certified clinical psychotherapist (USA). Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 242 327 1980
or 305 767 4976 or 242 477 4002