Power is part of every area of our lives. Whether it is romantic relationships, family interactions, work dynamics, or church connections, most of us spend our lives attempting to acquire and leverage power. 

We seek positions of authority in order to influence people, control resources, and direct information. We pursue decision-making positions to have some control over issues that affect our everyday living. There are experts who say that we all need power to live into our full potential.   

Power Comes with Responsibility

Effective leaders know and understand that with power comes responsibility. During these recent months of disruption and uncertainty, you continue to take on more responsibility than ever before. You are leading without the help of a roadmap. Your decisions are not only affecting the mission of the church but are impacting the safety and well-being of the people around you.  

On good days you understand the weight of this responsibility. But, there are days you want to use your power to put people in their place, or at least help them see the error of their ways.  So, as a leader, how do you use your power to assist people to live into their full potential? How do you empower them to become who God created them to be?

What is Power?

Some people would say that “power is your ability to control the activities of other individuals.” Although there is some truth in that statement, I believe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. got closer to a healthy understanding of power when he said, “Power properly understood is nothing but the ability to achieve purpose.”

Some people would say that good leadership is “the ability to inspire people to follow your instructions without exercising any form of force.” Again, there is some truth in that statement, but I believe Brené Brown gets closer to defining a good leader when she says,

“A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”

-Brené Brown

However you might say it, you and I, as followers of Jesus, have the responsibility to use our power, authority, and influence to assist the people around us to live into their God-given potential. It is by sharing your power and influence that helps you become more who God created you to be. So, how are you using your power to lead? How are you developing the potential of family members, colleagues, and friends?

To answer these questions, there are a couple of things to remember:

You Have a Purpose & Power

You have been given a purpose and the power to live into that purpose.  

  •  In The Acts of the Apostles, in response to a question about power, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you to be my witnesses… (1:8).
  •  As a Jesus follower, your purpose is to be who God created you to be, a witness to God’s love.
  • You live out your purpose in a relationship with the people entrusted to your care. You extend the love you have received with family and friends, colleagues and neighbors, those who need special care, to strangers and, yes, even to enemies.  
  • You are given power to live into your purpose and to assist others in living into their purpose. Even when you think you are not equipped to love as you have been loved, you have been given power to do so.
  • How are you using your power to develop God’s love in the people around you? 

Different Types of Power

There are different types of power in leadership. Keeping in mind your purpose, to witness to God’s love, there is:

Power over

This power can be seen in parenting or in the classroom, as well as in the workplace and in the church. There is a place for the parent or teacher to have authority. This power is used effectively when exercised in relationships grounded in love (trust and compassion). 

But when this power is seen in the workplace or in the church, it is usually because the person of authority feels threatened or is afraid of losing power. It is difficult to develop healthy relationships of trust when you feel you must control every situation, decision, or person you encounter.

When you focus on having and keeping power, you seek to protect it. You leverage fear and intimidation to keep it. There is little trust and lots of manipulation. Vulnerability and empathy are seen as weaknesses, disagreements are seen as negative, and being nice becomes the major mode of operation. At this point, you have lost sight of your purpose of loving as you have been loved.

To use this power might help you succeed in the short-term, but over the long run you become a detriment to your purpose and you lose any positive influence you could have with the people around you. You might feel you are courageous to face the resistance you receive, but there is little or no courageous leadership when you lead by exercising power over people.

Power With and Power To

This power can be seen in the workplace and in the church, as well as at home and at school. In each context, those in authority know that power is not theirs to keep, so they seek to share it with the people around them. 

Whether at work, in the church, as a parent, or a teacher, you come alongside others as a mentor and you learn and grow together. You model the characteristics of vulnerability and empathy. When fear and uncertainty are present, you lead with transparency and grace. You leverage love and connection as ways of bringing people together to accomplish your purpose.

When you focus upon others, whether it be your children, colleagues, or friends, you create a climate for discovering, learning, and developing. You focus upon the needs, desires, and values of the people entrusted to you. You love them as you have been loved. You seek to serve rather than be served. You empower people to live into their strengths and talents and you benefit from their exercise of power. You love people because the development of people is your purpose. 

To use this power helps you become a person of positive influence. Bob Goff says it this way, “God doesn’t give us influence so we can lead people better. He gives it so we can love people more.” Courageous leadership is rooted in your love and care for people as you share power with them and love them. 

Power Within

This power is about developing your own sense of agency, as well as instilling within others their sense of agency. In the words of Martin Luther King, “I can achieve purpose and effect change.” 

When you lead from within, you genuinely love people. Your care and concern are not about dominating them but loving them. You depend on empathy, rather than showing your strength. You choose respect over friendship and want truth and transparency. You work for the good of the people entrusted to you. 

Your power to influence comes from within. As you learn that the power is not about you, you begin to understand that your character is important. You learn that it is not only what you say, but how you say it that makes the difference. As you lead from within, you discover that courageous leadership is clear and direct in communication. Because you are centered upon the love of God deep within, you become more credible, competent, and persuasive as a leader. 

To use this power helps you empower others to live into their potential. So, you become more the leader you were created to be by “recognizing the potential in people and ideas,” and sharing your power, as you come alongside them to love them.  

Your Next Step 

So, how are you using your power to lead? How are you developing the potential of family members, colleagues, and friends? As you assess your leadership, what do you need to change? In what areas do you need to grow?    

To become the leader God has created you to be:

  • Think of two people who have been influential in you living into your potential. What did they do to assist you? Now, give God thanks for them and for their love and care for you.
  • Think of two or three persons who have been given to you to lead. How are you assisting them in developing their potential? What help do you need to assist them? Now, give God thanks for them. Ask God for the power to love them as God has loved you.
  • What step will you take to become the leader God has created you to be? You have been given the power and you have the courage, what step will you take?

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community. 

Remember, you have received power to be the leader needed at this time. Love as you have been loved.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just felt “out of sorts”? Although nothing catastrophic happened, there were a few insignificant events that ruined the day? As a result, you weren’t in the best of moods. The bumps along the way felt worse than they really were, and by the end of the day, you were exhausted and frustrated. 

I had one of those days recently. When I recognized what was going on, I decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day feeling crummy or as I say, “grousing around”. It wasn’t fair to my family, to the people around me, or to me. The last thing I wanted was to feel badly because I was a jerk. So, I took a few minutes for myself and focused on the things that had gone well and on the people with whom I had interacted. As I named each one, I gave God thanks for the opportunity to make a difference and for the people who enrich my life. 

Gratitude Can Transform Us

I know it might sound strange, but I have learned that gratitude has the power to transform. It is one of the most effective ways to become not only a better leader but also a better person. Gratitude is such a powerful behavior, it can and will enhance your leadership. Almost always, people respond positively to an expression of gratitude. 

What we know is this: A grateful leader is: 

Respected

Gratitude takes people seriously. When you express your gratitude to someone for his/her work, you are showing them respect and appreciation.  When people know you respect them, and take them seriously, you not only gain their respect, but you plant within them the desire to be grateful as well. 

Trusted

Gratitude is an expression of authentic care and compassion.  It cannot be faked. Think for a minute about a time you heard words like, “Thank you for visiting my mother,” or “Thank you for your sermon,” or “Thank you for your leadership with the committee.” How did you feel when you heard those words? Words of gratitude create a feeling of trust. Now, imagine how the people you lead feel when you express your gratitude to and for them. Expressing your appreciation and gratitude creates the trust followers need from their leader.   

Appreciated

Gratitude is always received positively.  Every person you know needs and wants encouragement and affirmation. So, when you say, “Thanks, that was awesome!” you are meeting a deep need. Grateful people are seldom angry people. When you express gratitude to and for someone, you not only gain their appreciation but create a positive culture of gratitude. 

Exercising Gratitude

Again, I know it sounds strange, maybe even too good to be true. But being a grateful leader is not easy. It requires a change of heart and persistent attention. So, how do you exercise gratitude?

Gratitude has an object.

To be truly grateful, your gratitude is focused upon a person or an event. Biblical writers are clear about the object of this gratitude:

o   “Oh, give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 105:1)

o   “Thanks be to God” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

You can’t express gratitude in a vacuum. Gratitude, by its very nature, has an objective.

Gratitude is genuine. 

You can’t fake thankfulness. You may be able to pretend you are grateful for a while, but unless you are deeply and truly thankful, it’s not going to work. The good news is, by intentionally exercising gratitude on a daily basis, you can build up your gratitude muscle, and cultivate genuine gratitude.

Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Thanksgiving is more than one day a year.  A family gathering, with turkey, once a year is okay. But what is needed is a daily reminder to be thankful or a daily pattern of gratitude. To build your gratitude muscle, you will have to express it not annually, not monthly, not even weekly. Gratitude is a daily effort. When you think about it, there are a lot of things for which to be grateful, but the one thing to remember is: Gratitude is expressed frequently.

Gratitude is specific. 

Gratitude is not generic. As previously mentioned, gratitude has an objective, but it also has an immediate cause. Try these words of gratitude: “I’m really thankful for the way you handled that tense situation in the board meeting. You spoke softly, in a controlled way, but you also showed them why we need to move forward. Thanks for doing that.” Or “Thank you for that email last night. I know you stayed up to write it, and it was exactly the information needed for the meeting. Thank you for your hard work, and the detailed information.” You get the point. Be specific. 

If I could give one quality gift to each of my family members and to all you, my friends and colleagues, it would be the gift of gratitude. If I could have God do anything for you, I would ask God to make you grateful. Gratitude is the central virtue of the Christian faith. Over my 45+ years of ministry, I have never known a person who was grateful who was at the same time bitter, hurtful, or vengeful. 

Strengthen Your Gratitude Muscle

During the month of November and into the month of December, Sara Thomas and I are inviting you to strengthen your gratitude muscle by participating in two things: 

Daily 8:46 Prayers

Every evening at 8:46, Sara will post a prayer of gratitude for the evening on the Transforming Mission Facebook page and Instagam account. These prayers are short sentence prayers designed to assist you in developing a pattern of gratitude. 

Giving Thanks Podcast Mini-Series

Every Thursday, from November 5 – December 10,  Sara and I will provide a podcast focused upon gratitude for the week. Each podcast is designed to give thanks for the way God has gifted you to lead through these days of uncertainty and chaos. This is one way we want to thank you for your leadership.

Thank You

Every list of the characteristics of leaders different. Gratitude doesn’t make many of those lists. I think it is time to change that. I challenge you to put a little gratitude into your leadership. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Sara Thomas and I are grateful for you and your leadership. In gratitude for you, we are making ourselves available to assist you in your work of leading, serving, and caring. When Sara or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

How are you doing today? To say the least, you have been through a lot this year. I don’t need to rehash all the events that have changed your ways of living over the past several months, I know that each of us has struggled in our own ways. Whether it has been with the changes in worship, gathering in groups, learning new technology, caring for family while balancing work, illness, anxiety, depression, or any number of other changes, we have each had our challenges.  

Today, I want us to shift our perspective.  

Because we use so much of our brain space worrying about what is coming next, grieving over what once was, and struggling with anxiety in the present, we often forget how much we have accomplished. Whether family, friends, neighbors, church members, you have had a tremendous impact upon the people entrusted to you. Even when it didn’t feel like you were making a difference, you were successfully navigating some huge obstacles.

So, give me a few minutes of your time today. If you are willing, I want you to stop and focus upon yourself.  You have given much of yourself, as well as time, looking after and caring for others. Now it is time for a little self-care.    

Self-Care Isn’t Selfish

Think about something you have accomplished over the past seven months? Take a deep breath and be honest with yourself. 

Feels good doesn’t it? What challenges did you have to overcome? What have you learned that can be used in the future or is helpful now?  

It is okay to feel good about it. You have made some substantial accomplishments, but it doesn’t have to be anything big. Just think about what you have done. Did you learn to cook something you haven’t cooked before, start a new exercise routine, or take up water coloring? Maybe it was keeping your children fed and clothed as you navigated the chaos of becoming an at-home teacher. When you set boundaries, either with work or in your personal life, you accomplished something significant.   

So be kind to yourself and take notice of some of the small things you have accomplished, because when you build on those things, you can put your life and leadership into perspective. Some days it is easy to forget just how strong and impactful you have been.  

What Does Love Look Like?

Are you willing to give me a few more minutes? If you are, consider these things: 

Reflect upon times when you experienced love over the past seven months. When were you vulnerable and empathetic? Where did you take people seriously, even when you felt it was difficult to do? When did you listen to and make a place for people with whom you disagree? Whether it was with family, friends, church members, or strangers, where did you provide a caring and safe place for people to become who God had created them to be? 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for loving people through me and thank you for loving me through those same people. Amen” 

Reflect on Joy

Reflect upon times when you experienced joy. 

Over the past seven months, what has made you stop to remember God’s goodness and to give God thanks? What was taking place when you realized your interaction with people was a response of gratitude for God’s grace? When did you feel at one with God and the people around you? 

Think about a time when you laughed so hard you cried, a time you were amazed by God’s presence, and a moment you wanted to capture and to hold. Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. 

Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for the deep joy you have planted in my heart. Help me be so joyful that the people around me experience your joy in and through me. Amen.” 

You’re Generous

Reflect upon the moments you experienced generosity.

When did you give someone the benefit of your doubt? When did you show God’s kindness and goodness to people entrusted to your care whether they deserved it or not? When did you say to yourself, “I know he is doing the best he can.” Or “How can I help her take the next step?” 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you caring for people in and through me. Help me to be open to receive your kindness and goodness through them.  Amen”

Courageous Action

 Reflect upon the situations where you experienced courage. 

What risks did you take? When did you have to be vulnerable? What empowered you to make decisions and lead through difficult situations? Who were the people that came alongside you to encourage you? 

Get one or two of those people or moments in your mind. Now breathe deeply and whisper this prayer, “O God, thank you for giving me the strengths and skills to lead with courage. By your grace, give me the courage to assist others to live and lead courageously. Amen.” 

Look at What You’ve Done!

As a leader, you have accomplished more than you have given yourself credit for accomplishing. You have been gifted to lead at this time in history. People are looking to you to be the leader they can trust, a leader of compassion, a leader who is stable, and a leader who offers genuine hope.

You can and will lead through this present crisis. At the moment, we are in the middle of a mess. But because you have taken the time to reflect upon what God has done in and through you, you are able to step and out to lead with courage and grace.

Take Action

Are you still with me? Here is the last thing I’m asking you to do.

Call, text, email a trusted friend or colleague and tell them what you have accomplished. Give them the opportunity to celebrate with you. At your best, you cannot be who God created you to be alone.  Remember, it is okay to feel good, so celebrate.

If you don’t have someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing, then call, text, or email me.  It would be my pleasure to celebrate your accomplishments with you.

Grateful for You

I am grateful for you and your leadership. You have accomplished much. Now is the time to stop and catch your breath before stepping back into the mess. 

Just remember, you will get through this by staying focused upon the God who has gifted you. Keep focused on how God has already used you to make a significant difference in the lives of the people entrusted to your care.

Don’t forget, when Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.

O God, thank you for my friends and colleagues. Thank you for the ways you have enriched my life in and through them.  By your grace, embrace them through me so we can be the leaders you need us to be at this time in history. I offer them to you in the name of Jesus. Amen

Where are you experiencing joy in your leadership? You might think, that is a strange question. Do leadership and joy even go together? Why not? Joy is about being connected to meaning and purpose and to feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment. So, why wouldn’t joy and leadership be connected? 

There is no way to be a courageous and effective leader if you are not a happy leader. It is hard to be happy if you are tangled up in doing things that you don’t truly enjoy. Take leading through the past several months for example.

Where has leadership been a joy? 

It is not easy. In fact, for the most part, it has been discouraging. At the end of some days, you sighed as said to yourself, “I’m glad that is over,” and on other days you said, “I didn’t sign up for this.”  

There have been times when you did not have a clear vision of your purpose. Your mind was distracted by frustration and your heart covered in negativity. Yet, you have continued to move forward. 

Having joy in your work is not all about your satisfaction. As a leader, your joy affects the attitudes and motivations of the people entrusted to your care. It affects how you reach out and receive people, how you invite others to join you in the movement of God, how you practice your faith, and how you engage others in your community.

How to Bring Joy

It is easy for any leader, especially those in the church, to focus on what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. It is during this time of multiple pandemics and of chaos and confusion, you have the opportunity to refocus upon the meaning and purpose of leadership. 

How do you bring joy into the lives of the people who are tired, acting out of frustration, and ready to go back to the way things were?

Psalm 30 gives us insight into the source of joy needed for effective and courageous leadership. David writes, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,so that my soul may praise you and not be silent” (Psalm 30:11-12). 

David on Joy

When we meet David in this Psalm, he is no longer popular. He is facing opposition. He has lost his health and his emotional well-being.  He speaks of his soul being in Sheol, a dead place of deep darkness. He is weeping all night long. Today we might say he was depressed. It is like he is living in the midst of a pandemic, facing the opposition of racism, trying to make sense of family and work, and feels like he wants to give up. 

But there is one thing he has not lost: his praise of God. When he feels he can’t go on any longer, he turns to God in praise, 

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning

-Psalm 30:4-5

David is so caught up in praising God that his depressed situation becomes a demonstration of joy. You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.”

Joy-filled Leadership

Could it be that joy-filled leadership is rooted in praising God? I don’t know how you define it, but I think of praise as remembering God’s goodness and reciting God’s greatness.  What would happen, if in the midst of what you are facing right now at this moment, you stopped, remembered God’s goodness, and gave God thanks? What would happen, if in your leadership, you remembered God’s goodness, and acted in gratitude as you engaged and interacted with the people entrusted to you? 

Joy is built into the fabric of all creation. Genesis says that joy was first in line when God created everything. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…and God saw that it was good.”  The writer of Job says, The morning stars sang together, and all the angels shouted for joy.” Joy couldn’t watch God’s creation and keep silent. From the beginning, God intended joy to be fundamental in your life. If this is true, then it is time to lead with joy. 

Joy-filled Questions

So, let’s try something. The following questions are just for you and your reflection.  This is not a test but a reminder of the roots of your joy that feeds your leadership. Here are the questions:

When was the last time you…

  • gave God the gift of your laughter?
  • experienced the sheer beauty of God?
  • were amazed speechless in God’s presence?
  • prayed a song instead of singing it?
  • sang your prayer instead of praying it? 

Joy is energized by the praise of God. So, as you face the unprecedented demands of leadership, what have you lost? Have you lost your joy, or have you lost your sense of praise? Without praise, your joy at best, is incomplete. 

Five Behaviors for Joy-Filled Leaders

Because joy is rooted in praise and praise is directly related to God, then you will understand and focus upon these five behaviors:   

1. Strengths

Joy-filled leaders know their strengths.  

Although they do not ignore their weaknesses, they primarily focus upon their strengths and the strengths of the people entrusted to their care. Are people around you involved in ministry that match their abilities and interests? What would bring them joy in their work in and through your church? Know the strengths of people in your congregation and let them experience the joy of becoming who God has gifted them to be.

2. Health 

Joy-filled leaders know how to care for themselves as well as others. 

They know their limitations and understand that stress is a part of life. They give themselves time and space to replenish the energy needed to stay focused upon their goal and the health of the people entrusted to their care. Healthiness is contagious. I remember a children’s book titled, “How Full Is Your Bucket?” This little book lays out this concept of health very well. You can choose to fill other’s “buckets” with positive energy, or you can choose to take energy from their buckets. Your healthiness and the healthiness of others will fuel the joy needed to be effective in ministry.  

3. Presence

Joy-filled leaders are engaged in the lives of the people entrusted to them. 

They are authentic and hopeful as they assist others to be engaged with one another and with the community. One way to become more present or engaged is to ask, the people with whom you are in ministry, these questions: What do you like about the church? What needs to change?  What makes you proud about your church? What does it look like when we are at our best as a church? Being present by listening to others and by taking their responses seriously will bring a sense of joy to you and to them.

4. Relationships

Joy-filled leaders develop relationships with the people entrusted to them and the community in which they serve. 

At the same time, they are looking for the connections with the systems needed to help the people around them become all God has created them to be. People experience joy in their connection with others. So, developing trust and respect, in the midst of differences, provides a healthy environment for relationships.

5. Purpose

Joy-filled leaders know their purpose. 

Your sense of purpose is an important element of their resilience, happiness, and faithfulness. Because you are focused upon your purpose, you learn to adapt as you navigate the obstacles and barriers in the way of accomplishing your purpose. 

Plant Seeds of Joy

Where are you finding joy in your leadership? Mahatma Gandhi said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do, are in harmony.” 

So, where will you plant the seed of joy this week? Why not take a few minutes at the end of this day, reflect upon God’s goodness through the day, and then offer words of praise and thanksgiving? Then, tomorrow, invite someone, family member, friend, or colleague to reflect with you upon God’s goodness and together offer words of praise and thanksgiving. You cannot command joy, but you can plant praise. “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.” 

When Sara Thomas or I can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. Sara and I are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call upon us as we seek to assist you in deepening your relationship with Christ, the church, and your community.