Leaders are typically driven. They have a deep burden and that burden becomes a vision that compels them to consistent action. But conviction towards a goal without deep love for people can ruin a leader and result in people not being cared for. At the same time leaders will be hurt as leading others is challenging and the pain of criticism and of being misunderstood or misrepresented can be overwhelming. The pain can nudge leaders to pull away from people. There will be drive and motivation in a leader’s heart. And there will be hurt in a leader’s life. But leaders must not let their drive or their hurt dictate how they treat people.
How a leader sees people will impact how a leader leads. If a leader sees people as tools for an overarching vision, you will get one approach to leadership. If a leader sees people as potential pain in their lives, you will get a very different approach to leadership. But there is another way, a better way. Here are three types of leaders in relation to how leaders see people.
1. The Controlling Leader
The controlling leader sees people as tools or pawns for his or her agenda. While leaders must have clarity about direction and goals, when the task becomes the sole focus the worth and value of people can sadly be forgotten. Unbridled drive is often the seed in a leader’s heart that when fully grown becomes a consistent posture of controlling and discarding people. This is not to say leaders should not have goals or that leaders should not set compelling direction but is to say that leaders must remember that people are primary. Leaders exist to serve people. People don’t exist to serve leaders.
2. The Cynical Leader
Just as drive can turn into control, hurt can turn into cynicism. The longer you lead the more you will get hurt by people. And getting hurt by people can cause leaders to look with suspicion on others, to keep distance, and to see people as potential pain in their future. But becoming cynical towards people is no way to lead. Instead of protecting the leader’s heart from hurt, cynicism corrodes the leader’s heart and robs the leader of joy. Neither the leader nor the people win when the leader gets cynical.
3. The Christ-Centered Leader
In an amazing passage about representing Christ as His ambassador and reconciling others to God, the apostle Paul wrote that “from now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective” (II Corinthians 5:16). We are not to see people as the world sees people but as Christ sees people. He came to serve us and He did not keep His distance from us. We must not label people as the world labels them, but as God has labeled them – wonderfully made and yet in need of mercy and reconciliation. Christ-centered leaders view people through the lens of what Christ has done for them, not through the lens of what they can do for the leader.
Leaders, we don’t need to be controlling or cynical. We are invited to be Christ-centered. We don’t need to allow our drive or our hurt to dictate how we view and treat people. Jesus invites us to view people the way He views people, and the way He views us.