titles do not make leaders

He always had a smile playing around the corners of his mouth ready to burst into that full fledged humorous smile that made others around him smile in spite of themselves. He had a sparkle in his eyes and a jaunty spring to his step. He had a gift for seeing the humor in almost any situation and was quick to point it out.

He always had a kind word for people; always encouraging others and he seemed to know when you needed it the most. He was the kind of person that caused you to become better just by being around him.

He was optimistic about the future and was always “planting trees” for the next generation. He didn’t look back, but was always looking expectantly towards the horizon.

When I was first privileged to meet him, he was already well into his 70’s and had retired from his vocational job many years before. In his 70’s he was a “younger” and more optimistic person than most 20-year olds. He had endured much and walked with a limp due to a German machine-gun bullet that had gone through both of his legs.

We both sat on the governing body of a nonprofit as volunteers and had no formal authority as individuals. Many times our meetings got quite lively if you know what I mean. Yet when that gentle man quietly started to speak, all the noise, all the fuss stopped as everyone waited to hear what he had to say. Just a few quiet words of wisdom from that man changed the direction of many meetings – in a good way.

He was a man of integrity, a man of honor, a man of wisdom, who cared for people, who cared for the truth, was passionate about the mission, and was ever looking forward. He was a leader because of who he was, not because of any title.

I miss Mr. Al and I want to be like him when “I grow up”.

compassionate leadership – a new idea?

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  – 1 Peter 2:3

“. . . You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37 – 39

The Harvard Business Review blog has an entry entitled “The Rise of Compassionate Management (Finally)“.  Following are some lines from the article:

“Don’t look now, but all of a sudden the topic of compassionate management is becoming trendy. . .To manage compassionately, Weiner noted, doesn’t come naturally to most managers. It requires spending the time to walk in someone else’s shoes — to understand what kind of baggage that person is bringing to work; what kinds of stresses she’s under; what her strengths and weaknesses are. In high-pressure environments, such a time investment is anathema to most of us. But such an investment is analogous to the work of a carpenter who carefully measures a piece of wood three times before cutting once: spending such “compassion time” with an employee, Weiner insists, pays off in that person’s much greater efficiency, productivity and effectiveness (and obviates later regrets). It’s not just altruism: as it turns out, companies that practice conscious capitalism perform ten times better than companies that don’t.”

Compassionate management is now trendy? It’s not natural for most managers? How incredibly sad that it is just now a trend – how incredibly sad that it is “just” being realized that people actually work better when they are cared for – how incredibly sad that truly compassionate leadership is somewhat rare in business, ministry, and the non-profit worlds.

Obviously God’s word calls us to love others, to be compassionate, to shepherd those we lead. Yet we fail to do so – so very often.

If you are a leader, take time to read the great little book The Way of the Shepherd. I use it often in the management courses I teach at Bethel College. Consistently, I am told that little book is life changing.

Also, check out this earlier blog post on the difference it makes when you take a genuine interest in the lives of those you lead.

Are you leading with compassion? Are you genuinely interested in the lives of those you lead?

If not, try it and you will be blessed.


Are They Worth It? Yes

He is 50 years old and has spent 22 and a half years of his life in prison.
She used to be a high school teacher but has only been out of prison about 18 months.

I have the privilege of teaching a nonprofit management course as an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Bethel College in Mishawaka, IN and the two people I mentioned above were guest speakers for my class last night.

He was an angry man with addictions that was dangerous to himself and others. Less than ten years ago, he returned to this area homeless and destitute. He is now a follower of Christ, married, father of a young son with another child on the way, working on his MBA, rising in leadership responsibilities at the large nonprofit where he works and he serves on several boards of organizations in the community.  He said that he used to destroy communities but he is now in the business of rebuilding them. His countenance seems to shine with joy and purpose.  I don’t know her story except that it possibly has to do with drugs, but she too has a countenance of someone who is grateful and enjoys serving others.  She is now using her teaching skills to help those in need.

Two transformed people who are now making a difference in the lives of others – being instruments of transformation in the lives of others.  All because of the transforming love of Jesus Christ and His people.  People who looked past the label “felon” and saw broken human beings who needed and wanted help.  People, who because of the love of Christ, took a chance on ex-felons and invested in their lives and gave them a hand up. People who looked on broken people with the love and compassion of Christ and allowed themselves to be instruments of restoration in the lives of others.

The impact of the transformation of these two people will be incredible as they touch the lives of others.  When you look at people do you see labels (felon, criminal, troublemaker, drifter, vagabond, busybody, stuck up, and so on) or do you see broken human beings desperately in need of compassion shown in the love of Jesus Christ and His people?

Take a chance and give someone a “hand up”. Be part of the transforming of a human life.  Make a difference.