I began this series of posts by presenting four practices that have contributed to my leadership longevity and effectiveness. They are the result of deep reflection in my own journey. Thus far I have discussed the valuable practices of “listening, learning, and leading”. As I move to this final practice of “loving”, it may be the most valuable practice of all. It’s important because leadership is about a trustworthy relationship with people. It’s about helping people achieve their highest dreams. For most people their dreams begin with being a valued treasure to someone. It might be that an organization is transformed in the process.
Leadership is volatile. Each decision a leader makes usually creates two groups: fans and enemies. It’s easy for current fans to move over into the enemy category, but difficult for current enemies to ever move into fan category. This reality greater complicates leadership longevity as the leader’s world can, over time, become over-populated with enemies! Once that happens, “the end is near”!
Some will openly rebel and work to sabotage the mission, others will do so deceptively and seek to malign the leader’s reputation from the inside, and still others will leave the organization because of misinformation, distrust, or misunderstanding. I’ve experienced all of these things and it’s always painful. Among those who’ve left, some have returned to apologize for leaving and want to return. It’s a joyful reunion, but it was made possible because of how I treated them in each stage of the conflict: with conviction, but with love, respect, and dignity. This is when the practice of “loving” is of most value.
The Bible, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 describes the practice of love, perhaps, more clearly than any other source.
“Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” HCSB
If we replace the word love with “leader”, it describes a leader with some outstanding qualities; qualities we should all aspire to.
“A leader is patient, a leader is kind. A leader does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. A leader finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. A leader bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Some people will certainly be repelled by the direction of our vision or decision that is made; but may they never be repelled by our lack of love. Our love could be the one thing more powerful than the point of their disagreement. Many leaders could quiet their most harsh critics, and build relational partnerships that last a lifetime if they would put this kind of leadership into practice.
I’m more thankful for the people I have the privilege to lead than I can express with words. They give me a depth of life I would not have without them. They help complete me, and I am humbled they call me their leader! The sweet lady in the photo above, Mrs. Parmer, is such a person. At the age of 93, she calls me several times each month just to say she is thankful for my leadership, she is praying for me, and that she loves me! Priceless!!!