The One Thing a Leader Always Does

In my previous post, I shared my experience of not having a job at the start of 2008. That experience humbled me and changed the way I view every single Monday. Every Monday that I get to go to work is a blessing. But more than this, the experience taught me that every job has value. I may not have had the job I wanted back then, but my job as a substitute teacher had honor, dignity, and value. 

So, as we start another year, let’s level set in today’s post. Since many folks use this time of the year to work on becoming a better version of themselves or start new habits, let’s begin this year getting crystal clear on a few things: 

What is a leader? 

A leader is someone worth following — and they’re worth following because of the kind of person they are. They have integrity. They’re the same behind closed doors as they are in public. You can always trust them to do the right thing, even (and especially) when doing the right thing is hard or costly. They never purposely harm. They use their words carefully, and when they say something that doesn’t come out correctly, they own it and apologize. 

That’s right — leaders are not perfect. But they are humble, and they definitely own their mistakes. 

What is leadership? 

Leadership is the process of doing things with and through other people. Leadership is never about the leader but always about those the leader serves. This process is always a journey, meaning that it is never stagnant. It always moves something, or someone, from point A to point B. 

Base camp is the “here and now,” while the summit is some future reality that moves the soul. And nothing moves the soul like the betterment of people and the reality of them stepping into who and what God has called them to be. 

So this begs today’s question: 

What does a leader always do? 

A leader always speaks meaning into those that follow. A leader reminds others that Jesus died for them — meaning their value is priceless. The person who is begging for change at the busy intersection? Their worth is incalculable, and leaders are worth following because they get this. 

Leaders see the cashier, the janitor, the grocery bagger, or the person on their production line as invaluable. They are not just doing this to be nice — they know this at their gut level. And because they know it at their gut level, they are moved to speak meaning into others. 

Leaders know that life is tough and the days can be tougher. There have been moments, even seasons, when they’ve lost sight of their own worth, and that moment of remembering was a gift of immense value — the kind of gift so valuable you’d give anything just to experience it again. 

Allow me to speak meaning into you 

Dear reader, I can’t possibly know the situation you find yourself in as 2024 starts. I don’t know all of the extenuating circumstances, nor do I know the challenges that are on your plate. As real as they are, I invite you to set them aside for a brief moment, to lean in, and let these words wash over you. 

No human leader is perfect. Sometimes, you say the wrong thing, think the wrong thought, or forget someone’s priceless value. 

And if this makes you think of a time when you messed up, sit with it for a second. Acknowledge it. Owning it makes you worth following. We don’t make excuses — that isn’t who we are as leaders. But, we can’t stay here just wallowing in it. We have to take the next step:

I invite you to pray these words: “Lord, I confess that I _____________. I ask for your forgiveness. Please help me to turn around and live differently with your help.” 

If you need a visual, write these words on a slip of paper, including your leadership mistake. Then, slip that sheet into a shredder and watch it disappear. I am reminded of these words when I do this: “…as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

Leaders live differently. We don’t live differently because we’re sufficient. We live differently because we are loved sufficiently. This love met us at our base camp and aimed to take us to a summit higher than our deepest imaginations. In the interim, we have one primary task…

Love people. 

We, you and I, get to do this every single day if we choose to. We get to speak love and meaning into those we see and interact with at work. We get to be generous to those in need. We get to remind people that they are not alone and are of incalculable worth. 

All because we were loved first.

Let’s make this year different. 

What does a leader always do? 

A leader always loves.