Leading with… LOVE

If we’re being honest, sometimes leadership means… doing things you don’t want to do. What do I mean, you ask? Well, think about it this way. As a parent, probably 50% of what I do are things I don’t necessarily WANT to do, but HAVE to do. When we are raising children, they are looking up to us and in a lot of ways, following our lead! (Or at a minimum, taking notes!!) So we always need to bring our “A” game if we expect the same of them, right? Remember your manners, put your dirty clothes in the hamper so they’re not strewn across your bedroom floor, have patience for other people, use kind words, love God and study His word, show love to others in real, tangible ways, etc. We are constantly being challenged to not just ‘talk the talk’ but ‘walk the walk’ by our little ones.

This is no different in leadership. If you are going to lead a team at work or at church or out in the community, your words HAVE to match your actions. And let’s be honest, this is hard sometimes. Sometimes I don’t feel well and don’t have the physical or mental energy to carry out my tasks with the same passion and vigor as usual. Or sometimes we come across obstacles that just seem too great and it’d be so easy to throw in the towel. Or sometimes we don’t agree with the leadership over us and their direction and we just want to push back and dig our heels in deeper until we get our way!

But we can’t! People are watching! People are looking to YOU to see how YOU will handle these times of fatigue or strife or challenge. What you do MATTERS, as those around you will almost always follow your lead, for better or worse!

So if the people we lead are constantly watching us and how we act and react, this got me thinking about HOW we lead. I also remembered that as we learn about Leadership this month, many are focusing on something else – Valentine’s Day! A day of showing and sharing our affection and appreciation by handing out chocolates and cards and sending flowers. So wait: could these two things be more tied together than I originally thought?

What does leadership have to do with love? 

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” WOW! What a statement. Read that again: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”! If this isn’t a great summary of leadership, then we here at DMC don’t know what is. [Some of you may be thinking, so whose line is this anyway??? Not that that totally matters, but as one pastor/author put it, “My… professor got it from John Maxwell who got it from Howard Hendricks who got it from Theodore Roosevelt who got it from Jesus when He washed his disciples’ feet.”]

While this quote can be used in many different contexts and is a good one to ponder and digest and hopefully live out, for the sake of this post, the point of the quote is simple: leaders can’t just talk at people and/or tell them what to do; leaders have to show them they care first! Care about what, you ask? Care about them as a person and what they care about, care about the organization, care about the mission and what they’ve been called to do. Once people know you care, which is primarily displayed by your ACTIONS, then and only then will they care about what you SAY and what you know. Only then will you have earned their respect and their loyalty.

So this is where the ‘LOVE’ comes in! Hmmmm… this could actually change the entire way we lead, no? Let’s think about this. If we start with caring for our teams and who they are as individuals and as a whole AND if we care about the people we are serving, then everything else comes second: the mission or purpose of your organization or group; the task(s) you are called to do, etc. This doesn’t mean the mission or tasks don’t matter anymore or as much, but in a crazy, backwards way, what you are trying to accomplish will actually get done in a better way than you thought possible!

Why? Well, think about what motivates you. As a spouse, as an employee, as a volunteer, etc. For myself – as a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, employee, co-worker AND as a follower of Christ – when I consider how much God loves me – that He sent His one and only Son to die for me and that not a hair can fall from my head without Him knowing about it and caring about it – wowzers! That’s a game-changer!!! How can that NOT change/affect me and how I live? How can that not change how I turn around and love my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, my neighbours! How can that not spill over into how I lead those around me?

And the bonus (and/or the gravy on top): what I do will almost always be RECEIVED more openly by the ones I am serving! Because it comes from a place of love; not of obligation or duty or drudgery. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

So as a refresher, let’s look at the definition of love. We’re gonna turn to the most famous passage in the bible on this topic. Yep, 1 Corinthians 13. We’ve probably heard it a thousand times. BUT!!!! Let’s try something new! What if we inserted the word leadership for the word love? Can these words be interchangeable? Are they that closely related that we can even do that?! Here goes:

4 Leadership is patient, leadership is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Leadership does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Leadership never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 

What would this kind of leadership look like in our homes, churches, schools, workplaces and communities? We don’t have to look far to see this kind of leadership modelled for us by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Gospels record story after story of Jesus and how He led in this kind of way. When Jesus began His ministry, He didn’t start with just preaching and teaching. He began with miracles, showing He cared about the people around Him. He cared about their stories and about their situations. And later on, when Jesus was HOURS away from being arrested, beaten, crucified and completely abandoned by his so-called ‘friends’, He washed their feet. He humbled Himself, got down on His hands and feet, and washed each of his disciple’s stinky, dirty feet. Let that one sink in for a minute. Talk about servant leadership. Talk about doing what you don’t necessarily want to do or feel like doing, in the midst of such turmoil and angst. Jesus knew what He was about to endure: horrific suffering and death upon a cross. Jesus had every right to blast his disciples for their lack of loyalty and their ongoing doubt and annoying questions! And yet. And yet! He remained their leader At. All. Times. He remained patient and kind and humble and he did NOT throw their mistakes (their past, present and future mistakes) in their faces. His leadership always protected and always trusted and always hoped and always persevered, EVEN to death upon a cross. WOW!

So there it is. Leadership: it ain’t always easy and it will certainly mean having to do things we don’t always WANT to do. But let us be spurred on by the love we receive from our heavenly Father. A Father who loved us so much, He sent his Son to die. (John 3:16) God showed every single one of us that He cared FIRST; and then He asks us to respond.

Next Steps 

So as deacons, are we able to take up this challenge? Are we able to lead like Jesus in our churches and communities? What are ways we can show how much we care before we show how much we know and/or carry out our tasks?

One step for you as Deacons in your church is to show this kind of love and trust and perseverance in your own diaconates. Start there. Put your love for each other and your church first, BEFORE the zillions tasks you need to accomplish. We have a resource that’s been around for awhile but it’s still a good one; and we keep updating it to make it even better. Check out our Growing as a Community of Deacons handout and start there. And we know that it will spill over into your church and out into your community in no time. Don’t see the people around you as ‘projects’ or things to get done. See them as God sees them; as worthy of our time and energy and of course, our love.


Let’s Keep the Conversation Going! 

What have you learned about leadership in your journey as a deacon, or perhaps a boss or manager or parent or volunteer? Fill in this blank for yourself:  Sometimes leadership means ____________________________.

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