FOLLOWING TO CARE
I found him on his hands and knees, wiping up a pool of water that sprung from a broken dishwasher. He was the owner of the business, who took it upon himself to clean up the mess in his suit and tie. I threw him some more paper towel and offered to help, but he declined. His bent back swayed left to right as he soaked up the pond in the office kitchen. He rose afterward, unaffected, as if that was a normal part of his day, and I swear, in my eyes, he was a few feet taller.
This month we’re looking at traits of really good leaders. (If you want to catch up, you can check out some leadership fails in last month’s blog: Failing to Care.) In this post I have wonderful examples of leaders, like the one above, who have inspired me, taught me, and led me well.
Depending on our personalities and different work styles, I realize we may appreciate different characteristics in a boss. For instance, I had a manager I enjoyed working for, but others did not. They were not fond of her, sometimes cutting, and unfiltered remarks. She was accused of being demanding, but in her defense, I didn’t think she was too unreasonable.
Despite this, she was one of my favorite bosses. This may sound odd, but I appreciated that she could handle an honest comeback, or an opinion other than her own. She respected me, and I respected her. I appreciated that she was a straight shooter—a “what you see is what you get” kind of gal. Her yes was her yes, and her no was her no, and I admired that.
So, while we may all have different leadership styles that we thrive under, I do think there is a common denominator we can agree on. We saw last month that we are all leaders who have some level of influence on others, but what sets us apart is how we care. My guess is that the leader you admire most probably cared about you, and for you, well. Caring well captures the heart of God as we see in 1 Peter 5:2-3, Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example. (NLT)
We are called to lead them by our own good example, and the marvelous part about this is the diverse expressions of leadership that takes shape. Today you’ll see various ways the leaders in my life set themselves apart by their OWN good example. They all cared about and respected me, but how they cared looked different. Just like last month’s leadership fails cared in the wrong way, this list of leaders cared in many different right ways!
The business owner mopping up the kitchen floor was my friend, Scott. His humility and servant leadership stretch outside the office too. Not only have I seen his humility at work, but I’ve volunteered with him in other organizations as well. It is no act—he is an authentic, humble leader.
He refused my help because he didn’t want me to get messy. He cares more about others and even more about Jesus. His spirit is generous, integral, affable, and admirable. My gosh, I would love to have just an ounce of his heart.
My first experience with good leadership was back in high school. In my junior year they started co-ed gym. (I know we’re going waaaay back!) Mr. Nahabedian was the boy’s gym teacher, as well as the football and basketball coach. Now that the classes were co-ed I got to have him as a teacher. His leadership was something I’d never experienced before: he rallied us, he encouraged us, and he instructed well. Moreover, he was relational and it was evident that he cared! It was refreshing, and as a result of his good leadership the class became more cohesive and cooperative.
Marilyn was the first leader I noticed who demonstrated a high emotional intelligence. She was my supervisor by default, after a client shuffle took place. She took it upon herself to advocate for a promotion on my behalf. In all instances she was gracious, sharp, empathetic, and integral. She used words, both spoken and written, with an incredible effectiveness. They were truthful, insightful, helpful and even in critique, always caring. She had a calm, confident spirit that accompanied her business savvy. I learned so much about good leadership from watching her, and count my short tenure with her a blessing.
Years ago, a young woman named Carrie came to direct our church’s Children’s Ministry. She had a huge heart for kids and attracted and inspired a swarm of people to be the vision carriers of our VBS program. After a few years she grew it to 1200 children and over 400 volunteers. This was a remarkable accomplishment for a single-site church under 1000.
Carrie was creative, charismatic, and a visionary who was wise enough to partner with her dear friend, Laura, who had administrative prowess. Her team was able to produce and implement the program with excellence. She had a talent to draw volunteers in and make them understand what a big difference they were making in all these children’s lives. She spoke with impassioned words that she, herself, believed deeply. She called mandatory volunteer meetings and everyone attended! Everyone wanted to catch the wave…everyone believed…everyone wanted to make a difference…and they did! This effusive, encouraging leader loved her volunteers as much as she loved the kids that attended. She cast a vision well, she delegated well, she inspired well, she trusted well, and she loved well. She is a leader I continue to follow.
When I was new to Nashville, I jumped right into volunteering at my church. Little did I know how being led by such a benevolent, volunteer leader, would change my life. Let me tell you about Naomi. She headed up a team of diverse people who popped in on Thursday mornings to fold thousands of church programs. Naomi was responsible and dependable; she was always there or arranged back-up if she couldn’t make it. She was organized (extra points!) as she anticipated what supplies we would need from week to week. She was warm and welcoming to everyone. She was loving; she genuinely cared about you, even while making her way around the room to connect with others. She was amiable, authentic and had a beautiful spirit. Yep, unless it was unavoidable, I didn’t schedule anything on Thursday mornings because ‘folding programs’ was so fulfilling.
Naomi created an environment of fun and social support, while meeting a logistical church need. She spent her time at home folding programs in advance, to make it easier on us, and always brought a snack for the group. I respected her all the more because this was a volunteer position. At the end of our time we’d pray over the programs, and for those who would use them. The people I volunteered with were fun, uplifting, supportive, and a gas! Many are still my friends, even though there is no more need to fold programs. We cherish those days where a leader, with a heart for Jesus, created an environment for others to serve and to be filled while serving.
He is a man who chases after God and after the spiritually lost, like no other. He leads with purpose, vision, energy, excellence, and more. When I mentioned last month about the leader who didn’t like me, who ridiculed me, and ignored me at meetings, Kevin is who God delivered to get me through that time. During that struggle he made it easy for me to confide in him, he spoke truth into me, supported me, and unleashed me in his area of oversight. He’d challenge me, inspire me, surprise me, but mostly he “saw” me.
I could have used an assortment of words to describe Kevin’s style, but the reason I chose trustworthy is because without trust, nothing else would have happened. He “saw” me because I always felt comfortable sharing what was on my heart and mind, without fear of any penalties down the road. I knew there wouldn’t be political consequences to things I was dealing with. That’s huge! That allowed me to voice my insecurities in healthy ways without fear that I’d lose out on future opportunities, or be judged by some temporary feelings. He always had my back and I knew he was always on his knees in prayer for me. To be led in such a remarkable way has made me a better person, and for that I’ll be forever indebted to him.
FOLLOWING THE BEST EXAMPLE
With the exception of my gym teacher (I didn’t know his religious affiliation), everyone else is a Christian. While I understand that being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you a good leader, I’m convinced that these great examples of Christians show us something important. These leaders reflect Christ well because they know how to follow Him well. Before they lead us, they are closely following Him, and that’s what captures the heart of God the most! Jesus is, of course, the best example of all because He followed so well too; He led only after following His Father.
There are so many more wonderful leaders that I wish I could include, but seriously, I need to let you get on with your day! Needless to say, through the years I’ve learned a few things about leadership:
- it’s not easy
- everyone is watching
- the best Christian leaders are good Christ followers first.
Whatever your style, you can capture the heart of God by leading by your own good example. Whether that’s being humble, encouraging, an advocate, inspiring, caring, trustworthy or something else, as long as you closely trail behind Jesus, you’re going to reflect Him and set yourself apart.
These leaders each captured an aspect of Jesus’ leadership in their own personal way and I know that delights God! 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. Fully committed leaders trust in God and care for those they lead, just like Jesus did. Let us all follow better, so we can all lead well.
What fun this has been to be able to honor those who made a difference in me. Share some examples of how good leaders have impacted you too!
Want to improve your leadership? That’s easy, just experience a few coaching sessions to take your leadership to the next level! As a Christian Life Coach, I can help you move from where you are to where God wants you to be. If you’d like to explore this further, then let’s chat. I’d love to be your champion in what God is calling you to do!
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