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Six Questions to Get to the Heart of Leadership

Do you have a heart for leadership? To seriously answer the question, you could go in several directions. 

To say “yes,” you could be saying you have the courage to lead as in “I am not faint at heart.” You know your heart must be in it to be a courageous leader. 

You could be saying you have the compassion to lead as in “I will hold you in my heart.” You know that one of the characteristics followers want in a leader is compassion. They want leaders who will hold them dear to their hearts. 

You could be saying that you have the empathy to lead as in “I have a big heart or I’m all heart.” You know that empathy is a key characteristic of effective leaders. It is essential you have a heart of understanding.

You could be saying that you have everyone’s best interest at heart as in “I am leading in a way that it benefits everyone.” You know that courageous effective leadership is not based upon your opinions but upon what helps people grow in their own hearts and minds. 

There have been times I have said “yes” with great enthusiasm with “all my heart” but I have lacked the basic understanding of what my “yes” meant. I answered from my heart without taking into consideration the full responsibility.

Do You Have a Heart for Leadership?

Do you have a heart for leadership? I know you do. Your heart is in the right place. I have seen you at work over the past 11 months. As difficult as it has been, you have not lost heart.  So, without getting too cheesy, I want to thank you with my whole heart.  Truthfully, I am grateful. 

Two weeks ago, we discussed developing relationships as a fundamental competency of good leaders. Last week we discussed a process you can use, as a leader, to focus upon the faith development of the people entrusted to your care. This week let’s bring those two things together. 

Every Heart is Unique

I recently had a conversation with a cardiac sonographer, the technician who performs echocardiograms. The conversation took place while he was administering the procedure. I asked him if he administered echocardiograms all day every day.  He answered, “Yes. Five days a week.” Then he added, “I’ve been doing this over 43 years.”  

Thinking about myself being in ministry for almost 47 years, I asked him, “There must be something interesting and rewarding about your work if you have been doing it over 43 years?” 

He responded, “I love it. It is amazing.  Every heart is unique.” He went on to explain some of the functions and images he looked for in the procedure.

I confess that I don’t remember much of what he said after his statement, “Every heart is unique.” Truthfully, I had not given much thought to the functions of the human heart. But his statement captured my imagination, not about physical functions, but how awesome to think that every heart is unique. Could it be that if every heart is unique that every relationship is unique as well? 

Healthy Relationships 

I’m convinced that at the heart of effective and courageous leadership are healthy relationships. Unique, one of kind, relationships. Because relationships matter in all areas of life, then each relationship carries its own value. Whether you are a pastor, congregational leader, parent, teacher, coach, business or community leader, each relationship matters.   

So, during a pandemic, when you are not meeting in person, face-to-face, with the people entrusted to care, how do you develop those healthy, unique relationships that are essential to developing the depth of faith needed for people to become who God created them to be?   

Developing Relationships

The questions below are offered as one way to help with developing those relationships. There are two sets of questions.  The first set is designed to help develop and strengthen the relationships of the leaders in your congregation.  For too long, we have worked with the assumption that the people serving in leadership positions know each other.  I have learned that is a false assumption.

The second set is designed to help initiate conversation with people who are not Christian or who do not have a church in which to call home but are people with whom you are developing relationships. 

Both sets of questions are designed to be used with people in business meetings, social gatherings, or groups where relationships are key and important. (For me, that would be in every group in which I am involved). The questions are designed to assist with the following:

  • Understanding 
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Storytelling
  • Prayer

Ideas for Taking Action

You can be creative in using the questions.  Use one question for each meeting as a way of helping people get to know one another.  The questions could be used for the Story Telling time we discussed last week. 

Use the whole set of questions in a retreat setting as you assist in developing depth in personal relationships.  You might even want to think of your own questions to ask.  The point is the development of healthy relationships by understanding the uniqueness of each person involved in the process. 

For the sake of clarity and time, give each person 60 seconds to answer each question. So, if you put people into groups of three, give them three minutes to answer the question. 

You might want to consider giving an extra minute or two when you ask the question regarding praying for one another.  You know your time constraints. Keep in mind the people with whom you are working.

What is important is, you are focusing upon the growing relationships and faith development of the people involved.

Questions for Congregational Leaders

This set of questions are to help develop and strengthen the relationships of the leaders in your congregation.  

  1. Who was one person in your family who was influential in you becoming a Christian?
  2. Who was one person outside your family who was influential in you becoming a Christian?
  3. When was a time you made a commitment to Jesus?
  4. What are you doing today to grow as a follower of Jesus?
  5. What gifts do you use to serve others? Where do you serve?
  6. How may I (we) pray for you at this time in your life?

In asking these questions, you might discover that not everyone grew up in the church or came to faith in and through the church. You might also discover that one person’s understanding of making a commitment to Jesus is not like your commitment(s) or the commitments of others. I am sure you will learn that not everyone understands how they are serving others or that there are persons serving in compacities unknown to you. 

Many times, in our meetings and gatherings, we pray for the needs and concerns of others and the community, but we don’t pray for ourselves or one another.  The opportunity to pray for one another is usually a powerful experience for people.

Questions for People Not Connected to Christ or a Local Congregation

The following set of questions is designed to help initiate conversation with people who are not Christian or who do not have a church in which to call home. 

  1. Who was influential in shaping you to be the person you are today?
  2. Tell me about a time you made a commitment? Why was it important to you?
  3. What are you doing to continue to grow in your life? How is your life improving?
  4. What activities bring a sense of joy or peace to your life? 
  5. During what activities have you had moments when you thought, “How did I do that?”
  6. With what activities have you thought, “When can I do that again?”

Why These Questions?

Remember, the point to engaging in conversation with the above questions is to initially develop a relationship with individuals.  Each person is a child of God, loved by God, and sent to you by God to be loved. “Receive one another as God in Christ has received you…” In other words, each person is unique and is a person of value and worth.  

Do you have a heart for leadership? 

To answer “yes” is to develop healthy, unique relationships with people entrusted to your care as well as the people God sends to you to love as you have been loved.

This week, I encourage you to answer one of those questions for yourself. Which question will it be? Write out your answer and send it to me. I look forward to hearing the uniqueness of your heart.

I know your heart might not be in it, but sometimes your heart follows your decision to participate. Do you have a heart for leadership? Show me with heart in your healthy relationships.

One More Thing

Please know you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about relationships. Last week we had a conversation with Amy Graham. We focused on nurturing the gifts God’s given you and others and what it can look like to be a relational leader. This week our conversation is with Joe Geary. Our conversation focuses upon the beautiful as well as the messy aspects of relationships. 

This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together. 

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