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.

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