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.

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