Leadership (part 7 of 9): Lead in Love

Editor’s Note: This is part 7 of a 9 part series on pastoral leadership that I am writing for my seminary class, Leading Christian Communities, with Dr. Kyle J. A. Small.

Momma knows best.  You know what I’m talking about.  Say please.  Say thank you.  Smile.  Tuck-in your shirt.  Don’t be a grouch.  Age-old wisdom from those that know best.  It is amazing how quickly we can forget such basic truths of how to interact with others.  Perhaps we have carried this wisdom with us throughout the years, but the question is, do we take this attitude into every arena of our life?  These simple but profound words of wisdom from mom may perhaps be the most important piece we can carry into our daily lives as leaders.

I’m  sure you’ve been there.  You’ve had a boss that likes the idea of being in charge.  He or she  postures themselves as superior.  They work hard to get to that spot and they will make sure you know that.  A boss may have little time for their ‘underlings’ as they have important bossy things to do.  Or perhaps a boss exerts his or her power more subtly.  Rarely saying thank you, or when you tell them nice job they reply with an skin-grating “I know.”

Don’t be that boss.

Be nice.  Be caring.  Be loving.

Your secretary is a person too.  They have a story.  They are important.  They matter.

Your  co-workers have ideas.  Listen to them.  Don’t just listen to them–hear what they have to say.

Treat others how you would like to be treated.

The rule is golden for a reason.

I remember the first time I was asked to help lead a mission trip.  I was a junior in High School, filled with excitement and completely oblivious to what it meant to lead others.  We took a group of Middle Schoolers to Chicago.  I thought I was ready to lead.  I was not.  I was abrasive.  I acted like I had finally arrived.  I was somebody.  Except that I was a nobody.  I wasn’t ready–I acted more like a middle schooler than a leader.  I got into a silly tiff with one of my co-leaders because we wore the same shorts on the same day.  Silly.  So silly.  I was not emotionally ready for my role and it showed.

I did not treat others as I liked to be treated.  I acted superior, and as a result, my leadership was terribly poor.  I quickly learned that leading does not make me better than anyone else.  The very reason I was asked to lead was because I generally was a good person–always kind, filled with positivity and a supportive heart.  When I was handed the mantle of leadership, I thew all those things out the window.

Not good.

I have since found that those very basic elements that I learned at a young age are essential to effective leadership.  I now base my leadership on being a good person.  Being nice, polite, listening well, working collaboratively, meeting people where they are at, being present in my current situations, being humble, and showing love.

At the same time, good leadership does not mean creating a world of rainbows and butterflies.  Just as a parent is not simply a friend to their children, a leader needs to know when to speak challenge into a person’s life.  That does not mean being abrasive.  It means speaking boldly out of love and offering a word to help a person grow.  An effective parent will show tough love when it is necessary.  A leader needs to be able to challenge others.  It can’t all be hunky dory all the time.  In a church context, we are not to be consumers, we are to be a living body of believers seeking to live as Christ lived and doing the things Christ did.  Jesus was certainly kind, but not always.  Jesus would turn tables when the time called for it.  He would speak a challenging word to his disciples.  He would speak truth into the Pharisees lives.

Challenge cannot exist without love, and love cannot exist without challenge.  Effective challenge is soaked in love.  We must approach others in love and kindness–following the fruits of the Spirit.  Then, our challenge has a base of trust and understanding.  We must offer challenge to move people forward, but only if it is based in love.  There is no room for one without the other.  They must be calibrated for effective leadership.

Jesus was the best leader to ever live–let us look to him for guidance on how to lead.


Leadership (part 6 of 9): Joy

Editor’s Note: This is part 6 of a 9 part series on pastoral leadership that I am writing for my seminary class, Leading Christian Communities, with Dr. Kyle J. A. Small. 


“How was your day at work?”


“Just fine?”

“It was work.”

Sound familiar?  Perhaps you’ve had this conversation before.  Perhaps you’ve had it every day for the past twenty years.  Maybe (or always) your child responds this way when asked about school.  As adults, aren’t we supposed to enjoy what we do day after day?  While that sounds nice, do you find it to be true?  Do you love your job?

Here’s the deal.  Regardless of your position, regardless of whether you love or hate your job, some days are going to be worse than others.

But, working is a part of life.  Humankind was created to work.  The very first commandment God gives us is to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28).  We are given the task to till and keep the earth (Genesis 2:15).  The first man, Adam, also had a specific role: he named all the animals on the land and in the air (Genesis 2:19-20).  Work was assigned before the fall.  Work is not a punishment for our sin–it is innately good. It is not a curse.  We were designed for intentional activity to produce a sense of fruitfulness in our lives.  Do you believe that?  In your heart do you view work as a good thing, or as a hindrance?

It is easy to view work as simply the means to provide security and life’s necessities.  This is certainly true, but that does not mean that it has to be seen as a chore.  The question is, is our work producing fruit?  That’s the distinction.  Is our work simply work, or is it fruitful?

I get it.  Some tasks are monotonous.  Some jobs seem pointless.  There are good days and bad days.

No matter how bad it gets, we always have a choice.  We have the ability to choose joy.  Stick with me.  Some jobs seem completely joyless, and yet, we tend to work our way into a self defeating spirit in which we come to work expecting it to be bad.  Every day we have a choice.  Choose joy.  Making this decision day-in day-out does not mean work will always be joy-filled.  That just doesn’t happen.  However, by making a choice each and every day to open yourself to joy, to expect joy, will foster a posture most open to receiving it when it comes.  A travel mug is meant to be filled, but it will be filled mighty slowly if the lid is on as the coffee is poured.  It still might fill up through the sipping hole, but not nearly as easily as if the lid were off entirely.

We have a reason to be happy.  We have joy knowing that God created us to work, but more importantly, he created us for relationship.  God has work for us to do here on earth.  But looking at the story in the Garden, before Adam and Eve even had a full day of work, they rested.  Their first full day of existence was set aside for rest.  God created humankind on the 6th day, and on the 7th day, he rested.  God has created us to be in a covenantal relationship.  How awesome is that? Despite any of our sin, God continues to love us and offers us life with him even though we have done nothing to deserve it.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me pretty joyous.

If you find yourself dreading work day after day after day, I invite you to seek joy starting today.  Seek out those little glimmers of hope each day.  Perhaps an attitude adjustment is in order.  Maybe it is finally time to have that long overdue conversation with your boss or co-worker.  I invite you to ponder what simple, memorable, and reproducible things you can introduce to your work day to make it a better experience for you.  Seeking joy is a choice.  Remember the joy we have in knowing who our God is and what he has done for us.

Today, seek joy.