If You Want to Lead, You Must Do This First

(Unsplash/Garrett Sears)

If you are reading this, it's because you are a leader. The old saying is true: Leaders are readers.

And as a leader, obviously you have people who are following your leadership. But let me ask you a question. Why are people following you?

People follow leadership for different reasons.

Fear of the leader: An example of this is a dictator, who people follow because if they don't, they will be put six feet under.

A common cause with the leader: An example of this would be a group of people following a leader because they want to help the leader feed hungry people.

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They can personally benefit from following the leader: This would be someone following the boss at work because it's how they can get a promotion, which means more money for them.

The leader has earned their trust and respect: The leader has strong moral character and integrity. They see these character traits in the leader and follow out of trust and respect.

They have no other choice: Perhaps they are just a few years from retirement in the company and don't want to jeopardize their future.

The leader has great qualities: It might be a skill the leader has. It might be the boss is extremely smart. It might be the leader is looked up to as a "winner." They follow because they want those same skills in their life.

The leader offers hope: Hope for their future. Hope for not getting stuck. Hope for supporting their family at a better level.

While these are good reasons for people to follow you (except the fear one), I believe the biggest one is not on the list above.

I offer this thought today:

If you want to lead people, you must first love people.

I believe this. When someone knows you really care about them, it will result in the person caring about you and the vision you are asking them to pursue.

Jesus was such a great example of this. He built close relationships with the disciples who followed Him. Look what He says to them in John 15:15: "I no longer call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, for everything that I have heard from My Father have I made known to you."

The disciples knew Jesus loved them. He proved it time and time again. He proved it by forgiving Peter when he denied Him. He proved it by washing their feet. He proved it by spending time with them. He proved it by giving His life as a sacrifice for their sins.

Jesus took His leadership with the disciples to the ultimate way to lead well. Love. Check this verse out. The scene is at the foot of the cross. Jesus is talking with his disciple John: "When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, "Woman, here is your son" (John 19:26).

Jesus' way of leadership stood in stark contrast with the way other people led in His day.

The Romans lead with fear: "Do what I say, or you will be killed!"

The Pharisees led by offering no other choice: "Follow the rules, or else. Follow the Old Testament laws, or we will not associate with you."

Look back again at what Jesus says: "Greater love has no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

The ultimate leadership, the greatest leadership, is empowered by love. And Jesus proved this by dying on the cross. That's ultimate love. That's ultimate leadership. The kind of leadership that changed the world.

I want to remind you that people don't follow a title. An amazing office with a great window view won't cause people to follow you. Throwing money at people with promotions won't cause people to follow you long-term.

The bottom line is this: People are going to follow you when they know you really care about them. When they know you love them, not for what they do, but rather for who they are, they will follow you anywhere.

On this Monday morning, pause for a few minutes to ponder these questions:

  • Am I leading with love?
  • Am I showing people I love them by caring for them, being there for them and empowering them?
  • Do the people I lead know I've got their back?
  • When was the last time I showed my team that I love them by doing something for them?
  • Do I spend time with my team every week?
  • Do I know the love languages of people on my team?

Jesus put a great big exclamation point on this leadership by saying this: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

If you want to lead people, follow Jesus' example. Lay down your pride and love the people God has placed on your team.

Forget about your title and focus on loving people. Focus on serving out of love instead of being served out of greed.

Focus on making others better instead of promoting yourself.

Leading through fear, manipulation, money and title will only take you so far. If you want people to go the distance with you, start loving them.

Your turn. What are your thoughts about leading with love? How do you show your team you love them? What have you learned about leading people? Share your insight in the comment section below.

Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 27 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in south Florida. Christ Fellowship has nine campuses and ministers to over 25,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a children's ministry staff team of over 70 and a volunteer team of over 2,600. He has authored 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children's Ministry, 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Preschool Ministry, Children's Ministry in the 21st Century, Sunday School That Works, the churchleaders.com Top 100 book, and If Disney Ran Your Children's Ministry.

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