THE GIFT-BEARING LEADER

More from The Resurgence, this time from Dave Kraft.

 

In my book, Leaders Who Last, I propose a definition of leadership. In that definition I state that four responsibilities of a leader are to shepherd, develop, equip, and empower those being led.

It is my conviction that a good leader is more an equipper than a doer. He/she gets more satisfaction out of equipping 10 people for ministry than trying to do the ministry of 10 people. Many times the reason leaders are overwhelmed and over-committed is that they are not equipping others but doing it all themselves.

If Moses’ father-in-law were around, he would have the same advice for you and me that he had for Moses (Exodus 18). One of the main responsibilities of a leader is to develop and equip others to make their unique contribution. So, what is involved in doing that? Here are three precious gifts you can give the people around you!

 

1. Give Them Affirmation

The Rookie is a great story about an over-the-hill major league pitcher who made an unbelievable comeback. In the story was the familiar theme of a father who seldom, if ever, affirmed his son. Even at the end of the movie the rookie’s father could not say anything affirming or confidence building. How sad! Many in the body of Christ today are starved to hear, “I’m proud of you…You did a great job…I’m so glad you’re on the team.” The cross and the resurrection are God’s way of telling us that he loves us and cares deeply for us; enough so that he gave the best he had, his only Son. This is the good news that should spill over into all our human relationships, expressing to others that we love and value them.

How many once gangly, pimpled-face low self-esteem, no confidence teenagers are accomplishing great things today because a parent, coach, or teacher affirmed and believed in them? How many are still struggling big time, can’t hold a job, are in and out of trouble, because people didn’t affirmed them or told them flat out, “You’ll never amount to anything.” Might you be the first to break that negative chain for somebody you lead? Tell them their worth founded in the gospel!

Our hyper therapeutic culture would take this to mean that somehow Jesus’ death and resurrection is intended to boost our self-esteem. But biblically, it’s defined differently. As Jesus died and rose for us, we understand that we are infinitely loved and valued by God which provides hope and motivation to deal with life as it comes our way—we’re fueled for sanctification and love of neighbor.

Most people desperately need to hear this. I grew up without ever hearing my dad say he loved me and believed in me. To this day, it still causes me to struggle and I am in my 70’s. Genesis 27:38 captures the starved soul of Esau as he cries out to his earthly father, “‘Have you only one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.’ Esau lifted up his voice and wept.”

Fortunately, many other men have said it since then. Because of having not received it from my earthly father, it has taken me a long time to accept it and believe it from my heavenly Father. Continually tell your people of God’s love for them and your love for them.

2. Give Them Freedom to Fail

Fear lies at the heart of many decisions made and lives lived (or not lived). Fear prevents adventuresome prayers from being prayed, spine-tingling risks from being taken, sacrificial gifts from being offered, lives from being touched, and the gospel from being shared.

Do you sometimes picture yourself in the future sitting in a recliner at a rest home with a shriveled soul and forgotten dreams? All that can change if someone you look up to gives you permission to try, to risk, to explore, to experiment, and to fail. You can be that someone to those who look to you for leadership. Jesus did this with his disciples and then restored them when they failed. Peter was the poster child for failure on numerous occasions, but he rebounded by God’s grace to a fruitful ministry. Thank God our successes (or failures) do not define us; our identity should be firmly rooted in Jesus.

One of the jobs of leadership is being a “Fear Buster.” When’s the last time you allowed somebody the freedom to try something for the first time? Is there permission to try and fail among those you lead? Are people excited to try new things, or are they frozen stiff due to fear of failing you and the organization? Create a back-slapping atmosphere rather than hand-slapping one, and be prepared to watch those in your leadership begin to bloom and grow.

3. Give Them a Listening Ear

Someone told me some years ago, “God gave you two ears and one mouth so you should listen twice as much as you speak.” That’s hard to do for most leaders (me included). It is so easy to be enraptured with my own ideas and points and think less of what others might be feeling, thinking, or wanting to say. Nothing encourages or enriches a person more than to have a leader who is actively listening and asking questions draw them out, thereby valuing them as a person.

The ability to listen well is an incredible gift to those you lead. Listening gives you information as to where people are coming from and what’s really important to them. It takes skill and patience to listen for the reason(s) the person has for speaking. The need is to fully understand the thinking or motivation behind the speaker’s words.

Three questions to ask are:

  1. Why are they saying this?
  2. Why is this important to them?
  3. Why do they think I should listen?

Think of your mind as a blank page and imagine yourself saying to the speaker, “I’m here with a blank page for you to write on.” You, as the listener, must try not to interrupt, interject bias, or get argumentative. Truly good listening requires releasing ego and agenda. People long to know that they are valued, important, and have worth. Sincere listening accomplishes this.

A good leader gives gifts to those being led. Give your people affirmation, give them freedom to fail, and give them a listening ear. For God so loved that he “gave.” What are you giving to those you love and lead?

 

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