One of the classes I enrolled in Fuller Theological Seminary during 2014 spring quarter is GM 522: Leadership in Context. My professor mentioned that his primary job is to model leadership by “listening.” What he means by this is that the “first faithful step in leadership is listening to people long enough that the leader knows what to say and when it is time to say it.” The writing on the white board succinctly sums up my first lesson, “leadership begins by listening.” I am being engaged and impressed that leadership is actually a relationship based on treating people well. In a nutshell, my reflection in leadership is how, as a pastor, can I treat people well.
Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal share this idea, “that a good workplace is serious about treating everyone well” It is noteworthy that the authors did not use the word ‘equal’ but rather use the word ‘well’. ‘Equal’ or ‘same’ can generate discussion while ‘well’ or ‘good’ is easily understood. This idea of “treating everyone well”, as reframed in the context of secular business organization, is good for the wellbeing of the workers and workplace productivity. Treating people well is not a scheme but a time developed management skill and attitude that can be learned. A group of people who work together in harmony and cohesively are generally more effective and efficient. Although people differ, disagree, and are diverse in talents, ideas and culture, their creativeness are enhanced when they are treated well. This idea is very powerful when applied by leaders due to the fact that kindness is more effective than coercion, courtesy than autocracy, and integrity than intimidation. Having the right people, who work for an organization, tends to response more positively to leaders who are perceived as concerned, caring, and compassionate. Thus, the idea of “treating everyone well” must be taken seriously and imbedded in any great organization.
Why is “treating people well” so important? There are three reasons, I think, this idea is significant. First, how we treat others shows who we really are (intra-personal). In our case, we are followers of Christ. Second, practicing goodwill is generally regarded as best business practice and people like experiencing goodwill (inter-personal). We are in the business of spreading good deeds. Finally, it boost morale and enhance cooperation (extra-personal) among people. Yes, we are here to encourage one another.
Jim Collins explains that top notched “level 5” leaders builds enduring greatness because they know how to relate with other people using their personal humility and professional will to achieve their goals. Leaders who treat people best can inspire and drive people to achieve great. In essence, a leaders’ heart is filled with cells of human kindness. Truly, many great and legendary leaders possessed goodness in their hearts. Which I believe can be learned, cultivated, and assimilated into my own daily practice.
Jesus, the model of true leadership, treated His disciples well. In fact, Ellen G. White tersely describes Jesus’ treatment of His disciples this way, “The Saviour [sic] loved them all.” Such was the ministry and life of Christ on earth. Christ pioneered this concept of treating people well long before scholars understood and wrote about it. One of the most profound statements on treating people well I read is, “Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. With His stripes we are healed.” For me, this thought captures the essence of relationship based, grace oriented, compassionate leadership attitude that we pastors desperately need to develop. People first policy really means listening to them, allowing their feelings to be expressed and responding to them in a kind attitude because Christ modeled leadership first to us.
As I reflect on my first lesson in leadership it became clear in my mind that I need to do something different and drastic in order for me to be more effective in pastoral ministry. So I decided to begin with these ten important steps on how to treat other people well:
- Each day I will write in my journal practical steps on how to treat my wife better than before in my words, actions, and commitment. I am aware that leadership in the home ripples into the church, the community, and beyond. How I treat my wife in our home will echo outside of the confines of the parsonage. Paul directly addresses me when he writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her (Ephesians 5:25).” Love starts at home. My first step in treating others well is to treat my wife better each day. It means that in my journal entry I need to write something like: Today, I will say ‘I love you’ before I heed out to attend meetings and do my work. Also, I will pen in my diary to pray for her before leaving. Or to thank her for the good meal. Appreciate her dress, style, and selection of color. Say something good every time I met her and an abundance of goodwill must be shown. Before I drive I will offer a prayer for her. These are some of the many things I need to write in my journal so as not to forget that I am growing relationships with my wife and in effect with those to whom I am ministering. I am a leader first of my spouse and family. Treating people well begins at home.
- To compliment people honestly never to flatter but to appreciate the good in what they have done and discuss things that can be improved. To compliment is to be polite in expressing praise or admiration to someone. An attitude of politeness is to be nurtured in me so that I will be able to treat other people well. The tone of voice, the truthfulness of what is said, and the timing of it makes a compliment a source of encouragement for others. People knows if our compliment is genuine or not. I learned that an encourager is a person who is able to speak sincerely, tactfully, and truthfully. While at the same token able to receive any comments with calmness, understanding and humility. As a pastor, I decided to find the good in people regardless of their situation. I am sure I cannot change people’s behavior, but I can change mine and be respectful of other people regardless of status, race, and orientation. Jesus took the high moral road further by saying, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).” When the love of Christ is in the heart, appreciating people, giving them allowance to improve themselves makes a lot of joyful sense. Why? Because that’s how the Lord treated me. I do not deserved to be told that I am His child and be loved but Christ did it to me anyway. Therefore, I need to share God’s grace by being gracious, too.
- Smile often. I think people respond to smiling better that frowning. I practice smiling in the mirror when I am in the bathroom. I could see the wrinkles due to aging smoothened. My face value becomes brightened. People look up to pastors. And it is my sacred duty to carry on my responsibility with a smile not only from my heart more so from my face. I realize that the more I smile and frequent the more people respond positively. It lightens their day. Mine, too. It helps me project hope in a tangible way that people can see. Aside from being remembered as a praying pastor, I also desire to be known as a smiling pastor because to me God is good and He is good all the time. And it better shows in my smile. Paul seems to encourage smiling when he wrote from the dungeons of Rome, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”
- Maintain appropriate eye contact when someone speaks. We are living in a distracted world. Our attention span and time is shrinking by the minute. The purity and art of being attentive is becoming extinct. That’s why I realized I need to give my undivided attention to someone when that person(s) speaks. I need to look into their eyes. Cellphones should not be used when conversing to people. I find it awkward when I am talking and the other person is busy manipulating his/her cellphone. Thus, I tried not to open my cellphone or look toward other people when I am conversing. I need to stay focus on the person who is talking to me. Relationships are important face to face. People on the phone can wait (except when it is really urgent). A person standing there and giving me his/her time is worth listening and maintaining eye contact sends the message to that person that I do care. Once every Sabbath people give their time to me when I am in the pulpit. I should give them my time too when I am conversing with them. In fact I feel better when I see the glow, the glee, and the gentleness of a person(s) when I am attentive to them. No wonder then that God Himself tells us to, “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:26).” If I pay attention to God with my eyes then I can see His glory. In the same manner, when I use my undivided attention to treat other people well I can see their need and minister more effectively.
- Listen more and bit the tongue when tempted to speak more than necessary. I have been talking more than listening in my career. If there are statistics on the number of words spoken in my life time and compared to the time when I am listening, I think the former out scores the latter. Since the tongue can be a power for good and bad I literally developed the method of gently biting my time when I realize that I have spoken more than listening to my wife and others. James pointed correctly that, “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so (James 3:10).” The good news is the tongue can be tamed. I should not use my tongue more instead use my ears often in order to treat other people well. I bit my tongue gently in this way I am reminded that my ears are more useful when conversing.
- I will not cut someone in conversation. I am guilty of cutting off someone in conversation many times. I know how it feels when I am being cut off in mid sentence. It feels I am not being heard. Cutting off someone in conversation is like not listening to them and saying to them that what they say is not important. This is not good in leadership. Although there is a time and place when it is sometimes necessary to cut off someone when that person is disruptive or unruly, generally a conversation must be a time to take time with each other and listening holds the key. Small steps like this goes a long way. Solomon is right when he said, “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues (Proverbs 17:28).” This is what I must endeavor to do as I lead God’s people.
- I will practice courtesy by allowing others to be themselves and still accept them. Accepting people for who they are is paramount. If Jesus accepted me for who I am, then as an under shepherd I am not only duty bound to accept people as they are, but also to show courtesy. Courtesy is an outgrowth of human kindness expressed outwardly. Paul writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).” I need to be courteous first to my spouse, my family, and to others. I need to convince them that I accepted them through my words and actions. Both verbal and non-verbal cues must be used to persuade them that I care for them. Leadership is a skill that can be nurtured. Courtesy is likewise.
- I will put my feet in someone else’s shoes. Empathy is the ability to understand others feelings and emotions. Leadership is about treating people how I would want to be treated. Jesus demonstrated this by saying, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).” Being conscious that how I treat others is a reflection of who I am will greatly enhance my capacity to treat people better. Goodness begets goodness. Love begets love. Leadership begets leadership.
- I will not assume things but rather serve other peoples’ needs. Leadership is seen by others as serving other people. Peter says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:10).” Being arrogant and presumptuous has no place in Christian leadership. Christ came down from heaven to serve. I should not be higher that my Master. Therefore, I need to begin today to serve the needs of God’s people. I can only do this if I know what are their needs.
- I will do to understand that leadership leads by humility, as taught in the Scriptures. I need to struggle against pride, fear, and walk the walk not just talk the talk. One of the great passages on how to treat people well is articulated by Paul, “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:1-4).”
These ten steps that I am taking must be constantly prayed for and practiced. Prayer is my power. Nobody should aspire to dominate or to lord it over others. I must not. But rather leadership is a calling to treat other people very well. Because God, the Father, loved me first. Jesus, His Son, treated me extremely well. And the Holy Spirit inspires me to do well.
So help me, Lord, I get it.