Over the last several months, I have written to you about leading – why leadership is important, what leaders focus on and do, and how leaders develop. Today I focus on the being of leadership. As much as the doing of leadership is important, if we are not in sync with the being of leadership, all of our doing may not matter or may not connect with people.
Mahatma Gandhi, world renowned spiritual leader, prophet and teacher was teaching a group of students under a tree one day. While seated on the ground, a scorpion stung him on the hand. He shook the scorpion off his hand and continued to teach. Again, the scorpion stung him on the hand and again Gandhi shook the scorpion off his hand. This happened several times and finally a student asked, “Why don’t you kill the scorpion?” Gandhi replied, “Just because it is in the nature of the scorpion to sting, it does not have to change my nature.”
Jesus said it this way, if someone slaps you on the cheek, turn your other cheek (Matthew 5:39). Jesus later said, “Love those who hate you and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
The being of leadership is a humble posture. It doesn’t assume one is right but listens to learn about what others experience and the challenges they face. Learning and being open to others is one of the most humbling acts a leader can engage in.
Today, we live in a world where ideas, convictions, beliefs become weapons to hurt others. I am hard pressed to find a scripture where Jesus used authority, power, beliefs and convictions to hurt others. I find Jesus’ leadership posture one of healing, correcting through story. And while being clear and even firm at times, his posture was not criticism of the person, because Jesus saw everyone as created in the image of God. The being of leadership is not always in your words but in your posture and actions. Maya Angelou said, “people will not always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel.”
The best leaders are humble, always listening to learn and open to correction, as well as being clear, competent, focused, relational and results-oriented.
Today, leaders are facing some of the most challenging issues. The “being” of leadership is hard these days. Today’s leaders, in the midst of challenges, face criticism as if the circumstances are their fault. Ron Heifetz, a leader in the area of leadership development shares the illustration that when a soccer player is dribbling the ball down the field and fans are screaming at the player, they are shouting at the player because she has the ball. It isn’t her, but the role she is playing. Take heart pastors and all leaders: it isn’t you; it is your role.
You make the difference through humility, willingness to listen, to learn and to see the image of God in every person. What will be your nature: to sting when you are stung or to remain humble and clear? The best leaders are humble, always listening to learn and open to correction, as well as being clear, competent, focused, relational and results oriented.
In the midst of the challenges, your leadership will have greater impact when you focus on health, healthy people, healthy ministries and healthy outcomes. As leaders, it is our natural tendency to be drawn into problems—others’ problems. We wind up giving more attention to the problems, while opportunities and possibilities quietly die because they are not given the nurture and care of leadership. I encourage all leaders whether in the workplace, the community or the church to focus on health, the places where your humble convictions and leadership can make a difference. And like the soccer player, recognize that people are so concerned about how you are leading because you have the ball.
Keep the faith!
Equipping transformational leaders for
New Disciples | Vital Congregations | Transformed World