Bossing vs. Blessing

for the week of November 12, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

"I'll show 'em who the boss is!" he said. So began a process that angered every person in the sales group. It also led to the resignation within thirty days of the first- and fourth-highest annual producers for last year.

"I hope he's satisfied now," said one of the team members who stayed only because of a tough employment market in her field right now. "He proved he could have the last word on everything. He also cost us the biggest accounts our company has had for years and put the rest of us in an impossible situation for this year's bottom line. We're all looking for ways to get off this sinking ship."

Sound familiar? Have you ever had to deal with a similar situation? The unpleasant reality is that insecure and/or selfish people just don't make good leaders. Whether in business, family, or church situations, the rise of that woman or man to a position of authority means trouble for everybody in the bunch. The reason why it is so seems obvious: Most people seem to understand power in terms of the right to boss, browbeat, and bully others.

People with that deficient concept of leadership tend to put distance between themselves and their group. They worry a lot about "image." Most of them are big on intimidation tactics. So they are stingy with praise and generous with criticism. In their own words, they like to "keep people guessing" about what comes next. There tends to be a lot of turnover in businesses run that way, lots of divorce in families run that way, and lots of divisions in churches run that way.

Occasionally you learn about an environment that operates by a different set of leadership principles. Even better, you are sometimes fortunate enough to teach at that school or work for that person. People feel empowered rather than micromanaged. They sense trust rather than suspicion. They are treated with respect rather than contempt and condescension. In these environments, they both thrive at their tasks and remain intensely loyal to their leaders.

A lot is being said these days about values-driven leadership, servant leadership, or spiritual economics. Whatever we call it, it is simply the modern re-discovery of the Golden Rule and the leadership style of Jesus. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve," he said (Mark 10:45).

If you want to upgrade your environment, learn to use the power you wield for blessing instead of bossing. It is a strategy that honors both God and others.



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