I spoke alongside Tim Elmore at the ETCH conference and heard him give a great illustration on the difference between life-giving and life-grabbing leaders. According to Tim, life-giving leaders view leadership like chess and life-grabbing leaders view leadership like checkers. As you know, in checkers, all the pieces are the same. In chess, the pieces are different from one another with different strategic strengths. A leader who views leadership as a game of checkers treats all the people the same, while a chess-playing leader understands that people are different and should be treated differently. A wise leader knows it is foolish to treat every person the same. Here are ten reasons you must treat each person you lead differently.
1. Different giftings
God gives different spiritual gifts to His people, all to be used to serve others. People benefit from every gift, and every gift is necessary. If every person had the same gift, people would not be served as they should. Or as the apostle Paul asked, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?” (1 Cor. 12:17).
2. Different personalities
God has wonderfully created each person unique, so every person is distinct and different from every other person. No two people on the team are exactly alike, regardless if they score closely on a personality test.
3. Different roles
The people on your team are in different roles with different focuses. Those roles vary from other roles with unique demands, deadlines, schedules, and priorities. The challenges and opportunities of the roles are different.
4. Different levels of competence
Not only are the people on your team gifted differently, but they also are at varying levels of competence within those gifts and skills. Some have mastered aspects of their roles while others have much more growing to do.
5. Different levels of experience
Experience does not always equate competence. But a person who has little experience in a role surely needs more hands-on leadership than someone who has been tested and proven over time.
6. Different stages of life
Some on your team may not yet have kids, some may be in the midst of parenting young children, and some may be empty nesters. The different stages of life impact vacation rhythms, prime times for communication, and personal hopes, struggles, and joys that people bring with them.
7. Different lengths of tenure
Some have been on the team for many years, and some are less seasoned. Those on the team for many years more accurately understand the internal culture, how things really get done, and the expectations.
8. Different styles of communication
Some on your team prefer to communicate and process information verbally, others prefer written communication where they can more carefully process and articulate their thoughts. Some thrive with the spontaneity of drive-by meetings, while others prefer them to be scheduled in advance.
9. Different struggles and hurts
All of us struggle, but we also all struggle differently.
10. Different motivators
In the popular marriage book The Five Love Languages, we learn that spouses hear or receive love from their spouse differently, whether time, words, service, touch, or gifts. In the same way, people on a team are motivated and feel appreciated in different ways.
For these ten reasons and more, the people you serve and lead are different from one another. They have been fearfully and wonderfully made and are much more complex and creative than chess pieces. They are definitely unlike checkers in a box. Playing chess is much more difficult than playing checkers. Leading people well is much more difficult than treating them the same.