A core mission of Loving on Purpose is to train healthy leaders who can develop a healthy relational culture among their leadership team and throughout their church, organization, or business. In the simplest terms, a healthy relational culture is one in which anxiety and conflict are low, and love, courage, connection, and safety are high. A healthy culture brings out the best in people and promotes effective teamwork, while a dysfunctional culture, being full of anxiety, shuts people down and brings out the worst in them.
Unfortunately, most relational cultures are dysfunctional because their leaders haven’t learned to overcome their own fear. The more fear is driving our thoughts and behavior, the more we end up in a mode of self-serving and self-protection. In leaders, this typically manifests in a controlling, authoritarian style where people are more or less micromanaged and punished when they do something the leader doesn’t like, or in a laissez-faire, irresponsible style in which anything goes and the leader never takes the blame when something goes wrong. Both styles create relational cultures in which anxiety is high and no one really feels safe to be themselves.
Healthy leaders, in contrast, not only overcome their own fear—they understand that their role as a leader is to lower the anxiety of the people they are leading and give them the clarity and courage they need to show up and happen in the relational environment. There are many ways in which healthy leaders foster love, courage, safety, and connection in people, but here are 5 things that every healthy, effective leader I know practices:
1. Healthy leaders are empowering.
Because healthy leaders are powerful people, they expect those around them to be powerful. They understand that dictating, demanding, or acting like it’s their job to make all the decisions is not only disrespectful; it hurts the people they’re leading by removing responsibility and opportunities for growth, and ultimately hurts the team by preventing each person from contributing their best. Effective leaders want every person on their team to happen, to contribute to the team, and to share in the team’s success. Therefore, they use their authority and influence to put power into the hands of their people and invite them to take ownership of the team’s mission and vision.
2. Healthy leaders give great feedback.
Every great leader I know seeks regular feedback, because they understand that feedback is critical to growth. Because they seek feedback for themselves, they can be effective at encouraging and modeling a culture of healthy feedback in the people they’re leading. Healthy feedback majors on encouragement and affirmation, and brings correction or raises concerns in an honoring way that invites, and hopefully inspires, people to grow. A healthy feedback culture fosters courage to address challenges, weaknesses, and struggles, and facilitates conversations that help team members to know, trust, and meet one another’s needs more effectively.
3. Healthy leaders discipline instead of punish.
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Discipline and punishment can sometimes be mistaken as the same thing, but they have totally different goals. The goal of punishment is to make someone pay for a mistake. The goal of discipline is to help someone fix a problem that is hurting them and the people around them so that they can become more whole and better protect their relationships. While fear would tell us that a person who made a mess shouldn’t be trusted with the power to try to clean it up, love knows that giving them that chance is the only way that true restoration can happen for everyone involved. A loving leader gives people the chance to take responsibility for their poor choices, leading to better choices in the future.
4. Healthy leaders give opportunity for advancement.
The goal of an effective leader is to help everyone around him or her to become an effective leader. Leadership is the natural trajectory for every person in a culture of empowerment and growth. In order to facilitate this trajectory, healthy leaders will strategically and appropriately increase the level of responsibility for their people so they can take on new challenges and increase their wisdom and skills.
5. Healthy leaders value complimentary strengths.
Fearful leaders typically surround themselves with themselves, and tend to feel threatened by those who have different strengths, behavior styles, or personalities. But effective leaders invite people with complementary strengths into their circle of influence, recognizing that when people bring different things to the table, it helps people grow individually, interact more effectively, and make better decisions. Effective leaders proactively seek out team members with strengths that may be missing in their environment or organization.
Each of these practices of healthy, effective leadership requires us to resist fear and choose to walk in courage, hope, humility, forgiveness, generosity, patience, and wisdom. I encourage you to look for and learn from leaders who are practicing these things, and pursue ways to grow in them yourself. No matter your current position, leadership is part of your calling in life.