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Male Leadership In Crisis - Part Three

By Barrington H. Brennen, June 2001, 2021


Parts One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four


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.


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 category.

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 relationships.

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: question@soencouragemengt.org  or call 242 327 1980 



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