I’ve thought about this for quite a long time now. There is a lot of racket and noise out there about leadership. Leadership quotes and books, and everybody self-proclaiming themselves as leaders. It’s a big thing in the business world, of course, and many of the articles shared on Linked In are about leadership. How to be a great leader, 7 characteristics of a good leader, a leader is someone who makes more leaders, you get the point. Some use the term servant leadership and I ask myself do they truly know what that means?
Some use the term servant leadership and I ask myself do they truly know what that means?
I’ve interviewed a fair number of people in my career and, oftentimes, they were for positions that were a higher ranking than mine in the company, so inevitably the topic of leadership comes up during the interview. Typical responses to a question like “What is your leadership style?” include: collaborative, hands-on, supportive, or lead by example. Sounds pretty good and who wouldn’t want any of those characteristics in their leaders?
One answer resonated with me deeply and showed me the depth and character of what I think God would consider a true leader. She answered, “I call myself a restorative leader.” My ears pricked with those words because I had been ruminating about this bible verse for well over 15 years. (When I ruminate, I really ruminate!)
A crushed reed he will not break, and a fading candle he won’t snuff out. He’ll bring forth justice for the truth. (Isaiah 42:3)
She went on to explain that we all make mistakes, that we all need time to mature and grow, and that if an employee under her care (love that, don’t you? – care – not supervision or management) were to falter, her first instinct would be to attempt to restore and help that person grow. Lovely, isn’t it? But how often, do leaders truly do this?
If God Had a Blog
I can’t help but think if God blogged about the top 7 characteristics of a true leader restoration would be Number One. Can’t you just see the meme or blog title now? God’s 7 Characteristics of a Leader: Implement These Now and Become the Leader You Were Meant to Be.
Seriously though, is there anyone reading this that doesn’t want that? Is there anyone who is thinking, “Oh if I mess up I want swift punishment, berating, and a tongue lashing? I want to never be trusted again, to be talked about across the company, the church, the family. I want this one mistake to define me for years to come”? No – nobody wants that, and yet that is oftentimes what we dish out to others.
I’ve been on the receiving end of leadership that offered no grace, no support, no commitment to my growth.
I’ve witnessed others literally crushed under cruel and inexperienced “leaders.”
Achieving a position or a title does not necessarily make one a leader, unfortunately.
I vowed that as a leader, in any situation, I would be the coaxing breath on the ember about to go out, that I would not take advantage of an already bruised or broken spirit – instead I would bend down and prop that one up, lend my support and take notice of the damage. Restoration is not easy. It’s messy. And sometimes your efforts don’t yield the amazing results of a success story.
But restoration leadership is true leadership.
What We Should Be Looking For
I’m skeptical of self-proclaimed leaders. I suffered (no I’m not being dramatic using that word!) – and was damaged by a church leader who had no business being a leader of anything or anyone.
Out of that experience and pain, I entered a new church with a huge chip on my shoulder. I swear I think that chip was visible. I was hurting badly, and like a person with a broken arm, I guarded my heart so it would not get hurt again. I knew that one bump or bruise might damage my heart beyond repair in this life. So I was standoffish, I did not mingle for coffee and donuts, I did not introduce myself to anyone, and I did not trust.
There was an elderly gentleman who typically served as a greeter and greeted us the first time we visited. He asked our names and welcomed us like a greeter should. We returned week after week and every time he was at the door he repeated this. After a few months, I became aggravated. Why be a greeter and ask my name if you really don’t care? I tossed him into the phony leader category I had created in my heart.
A couple of years went by and I had learned to avoid this man so as not to have to repeat myself and become aggravated again. He was a pillar in the church so he was often around and involved in many activities. One day after service I watched from the sidelines as he warmly greeted a little boy with a tussle of the hair and a smile. This seemed so genuine that I continued to watch the interaction. Then he got down on one knee and tied that little boy’s shoe. I think I cried.
A few months later I learned that this man had been in the early stages of Alzheimer’s for a few years (just about the time we started attending.) I felt immense guilt for the way I had misjudged this man’s actions and vowed I would not be so quick to judge in the future.
I also vowed to be that type of leader – the one who would take the time to make a little child feel special, who would bow low to lift up.
Restorative leadership – if you see a quote, or a meme, or a Pinterest pin, or a Linked In article about this, would you share it with me? If not, would you consider being that person that a meme or quote will be made about?
Thanks so much for reading and sticking with me. I hope you’ll hold that image of the smoking ember or the bruised reed with you as you go and lead, or care for those around you.
Don’t forget – you are always being an example to somebody whether you know it or not. ~Mary