Have you ever wondered what those you lead think about you? You may have asked them, but are they shooting straight with you? How do you really know if you are the type of leader you think you are? I can tell you this: the less and less you intentionally think about improving your leadership, the less and less you are the type of leader you want to be.

This week one of my team members blessed me by texting me saying that I had “The heart of a leader.”

I never had thought about that as a goal. In the past couple of days I have kind of thought about that. This is the response I want all of my team members to have to my leadership — to know and see my heart for them.

This all really begs the question… What is the heart of a leader? What does that mean? How do you develop the heart of a leader?
Outside of my fierce consumption of all things leadership in the past 2 years, I haven’t spent tons of time intentionally learning leadership. However, I was a High School and Middle School teacher for 8 years and a teacher in the alternative education classroom for two years. In my eyes, that is 10 years of hard knock lessons on leadership. Prior to that I spent 15 years as a day camp leader. However, none of that earns a spot on the resume if I don’t mention I have a wife of almost 9 years, Lariza, and a 7 year old daughter, Leila.
When contemplating one common thread that runs through all of the successful years leading and one that was missing during my failures, I arrive to one obvious conclusion. In my experience, the heart of a leader is characterized by love.
A love for the mission. A love for the vision. Above all, a love for the people being lead.
To what lengths would a shepherd go if he didn’t love his sheep? Not very far. Wolves would love to run across a a flock lead by a leader without love.
By the way, those wolves are real. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” ~1 Peter 5:8b NIV
A true leader must love his team.
Even the ankle biting sheep? Even the hard headed sheep?
Especially those. Loving the hard to love members of your team is the biggest part of leadership that actually benefits you most. when loving those members you are taking leaps and bounds towards the goal of Christlikeness,

Here are 3 quick tips on ways to develop the “Heart of a Leader”

  1. Pray for your team. Don’t just pray for the team as a unit. Pray for each individual team member. Seek ways to pray for them. They won’t always look to bring you requests. Go get them. If you lead a large unit, at least pray for those who report directly to you. Instruct them to pray for those that report directly to them and so fourth. Obviously the higher up the leadership chain you are, the more effective this can be and greater impact this can have, but no less important if you only lead one. You want to develop habits now so the Lord will know he can trust you to be faithful later.
  2. Add Value to your team. O feel like the phrase, “servant leadership” has been reduced to buzz words in many circles these days. This is a core piece of the concept. Sweat on their behalf. Do what it takes to improve their lives. Help them succeed. Helping your team succeed is the bottom line goal of leadership. Your team should feel, going in to an interaction with you, that they will leave better off. Intentionally be thinking, “How can I serve them?”
  3. Listen to your team. Listening is huge when it comes to showing love. Men often want respect. What better way to show respect than to listen to someone. Women often desire love. Many times my wife will express how loved she feels after I’ve just sat there listening to her woes. This is the hardest for me to often do. As a result this is the one that I spend the most of my time actively perfecting. Not sure if you need to listen more? Next time you go to dinner with a friend or a member of your team, if your plate is barely touched and they are almost done — that’s a clue. Create silence and they will fill it. Don’t feel like you have so much more to share than they do.  It is divine to give and yet holy to receive.

This is purposefully not an exhaustive list.

What does it mean to have a heart of a leader to YOU? What advice would you give to someone new to leading?