People are led best by people who believe in them. If people sense we don’t like them, we think they are not as bright or hopeless…we’ll never be able to lead them effectively. True, there are some dysfunctional relationships out there in which people lead through violence, emotional abuse, or fear. But, that’s not biblical leadership—that which is rooted in love and oriented toward hope.
People can sense how we “are” toward them. If we are frustrated by our inability to lead someone or a group of people that need our insights to brighten their darkness—we probably don’t need to look any further for the reason. The reason is probably us. One of the reasons I love preaching where I do is because I believe I’m preaching to people God is doing something great in–even on the days it isn’t terribly obvious. Even in the darker times, I try never to lose hope in what God can do in them.
I believe totally in God’s work in our people, and I want that to be genuine and palpable to them.
In one of my favorite leadership books, Leadership and Self-Deception, the writer notes: “…no matter what we’re doing on the outside, people respond primarily to how we’re feeling about them on the inside. And how we’re feeling about them depends on whether we’re in or out of the box concerning them” (32). “The box” is a way of referring to one’s view of another that is fixed to aggrandize one’s virtues and the faults of others while minimizing one’s own problems and the virtues of others.
We can’t lead those we believe aren’t worthy of it, or who we think cannot succeed without it. Our attitude will then have already doomed our leadership to struggle. In general, our ability to lead others is directly proportionate to how we “are” toward them. The more we believe in them, the more we’ll find they believe in us.
Believe in what God can do in them and through them first. Then, lead. Only then.