Picture the best leader you ever worked for. Take a second to recall some of the experiences you had under their leadership. Then, think about what made that person a great leader in your mind.
The leaders I most respected were those who showed gentleness, especially when it was needed most. It doesn’t mean they weren’t demanding or didn’t have high expectations of me, but they were so very human in the moments that counted.
They were gentle with their words and actions.
Often, they used a softer tone, or softer words, or both. I can remember hearing, “It’s okay, Dale. Mistakes happen. I still believe in you.”
Do you aspire to be a great leader? If you do, start with gentleness.
A friend of mine, Jack, shared something with me he heard years ago. It’s crucial wisdom for every leader:
“Be gentle with yourself, or you won’t be gentle with others.”
I also worked with many leaders over the years whom I did not respect. As I picture them now and my experiences with them, they were autocrats and bullies, especially if someone didn’t agree with them. They came across as consistently selfish, showing little care for those who served them.
Sadly, I have no doubt they were full of personal insecurities. My hunch is they treated everyone the way they treated themselves—without gentleness or generosity. That’s sad, both for the leaders and those they impacted.
As a leader, my job has always been to develop the whole person of those within my responsibility. Their physical presence and intellectual capacity are not enough. I want all of them to show up, all the time. I want their intelligence, skills, and a positive attitude.
An employee with a positive attitude and a good spirit can take their gifts to a new level. Your gentleness is key to developing that attitude and spirit.
I always attempted to show gentleness as a leader, but I know I was far from perfect. I knew to raise my voice or attack people rarely got positive results in the long run.
In my experience, those who worked in my area of responsibility were always more critical of themselves than I was. So, why beat them up? Remember, my job was to build up their spirit, their value, and their self-worth.
Yet, I know there were times when I unintentionally hurt others with an unplanned reaction or comment. Most often, it was when I was under pressure. In situations like those, our worst self tends to come out.
In looking back, I see Jack’s wisdom reveals the root of the problem.
I was always more critical of myself, not gentle, thinking I should have done better or anticipated what happened. Because of that, when I was under stress, I could be less than gentle with others.
God wants us to be gentle with each other, especially during a conflict. Work on gentleness with yourself first, then with others. It will make you an even better leader than you are today.
As the Lord’s servant, you must not quarrel. You must be kind toward all, a good and patient teacher, who is gentle as you correct your opponents, for it may be that God will give them the opportunity to repent and come to know the truth.
(2 Timothy 2:24-26 GNT)