It’s Okay to be a “Sensitive” Leader

Leadership is a responsibility. Some people desire a place in leadership so they can have a say or be the one calling the shots. They don’t want to be told to clean the bathroom, they want to be the one doing the telling. Others are thrust into leadership without asking for it. There are few who really understand all there is to know about leadership.

The very first thing to consider, for everyone who aspires to lead, is the issue of responsibility. John Maxwell often says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Scripture warns those who want to be teachers about their higher level of responsibility. Surely God considers the work of a leader to hold as much weight, if not more. Old Testament prophets often delivered God’s judgment on leadership for their failures that had destructive consequences on the people.

If our individual assemblies were meant to coast their way downhill, ending up wherever whenever, God would not have ordained leaders or provided the spiritual gift of leadership. The fact God places people in authority means that authority is as special to Him as those being looked after. It is no small thing.

[tweetthis]The fact #God puts people in #authority means it’s as special to Him as those being looked after.[/tweetthis]

So a leader cannot fall asleep. He or she cannot trust the system to work everything out. The leader has to be awake and vigilant. If he is responsible for the end result, he is responsible for every step along the way. If she is going to be judged and reward according to her fruit, she must tend it carefully. Part of that diligence is protection.

We shouldn’t be surprised to hear about protection when it comes to church leadership. One leadership role, that of a pastor, is equated with the work of a shepherd. A shepherd doesn’t just guide and feed the sheep. He is also responsible for protecting the sheep. Even David, before he was a warrior or king, protected the flock from harm (see 1 Samuel 17:34-35). To be a leader is to be protector.

Of course, as soon as you start protecting, someone is going to get their feathers ruffled. Overseers want you to do it their way. Followers want you to do it their way, or the way “we’ve always done it”. You want to do it the way you believe God is leading you. And when you speak up about it, you hear things like, “Don’t be so sensitive.”

What good is a leader who isn’t sensitive? Isn’t that what leadership is all about? A leader is meant to be on the lookout for danger, to protect from harm, to welcome in what is beneficial and toss out what is harmful. The leader is given the task and responsibility for knowing the difference and making the choice, sometimes unilaterally, as I wrote about in a previous post regarding authority.

[tweetthis]What good is a #leader who isn’t sensitive, welcoming what is good and tossing out the bad?[/tweetthis]

When push comes to shove, and the leadership over you chooses the path, your job is to submit and follow. If you can’t follow, don’t be a thorn in the flesh, but kindly step away. This is the way it should work at every level. It’s the same attitude you desire from those who follow behind you.

But when you have the final say, here are three areas you must choose to protect as the leader.

  • The Foundation. The key to your church or your organization is the foundation. In the church, this is more than God and the Gospel, though it is built on upon them. It is your reason for being. Your mission. If your ministry is just getting going, the choices you make now set a precedent for every similar decision in the future. If your ministry is 80 years old and it never made those key decisions, make them now. Or, if it did, renew that mission in your current context.
  • The Future. We just said every choice sets precedent for future decisions. But protecting the future is also about looking down the road and imagining what will be. We often talk about having vision for where you want to be further on or at the end of your journey. But looking forward also means having an eye for future challenges and temptations. Eliminate as many as you can today so you don’t have to expend your resources on them later.
  • The Frontline. Think of where you are today in the sense of a frontline in a war. Behind you is the land you hold precious, your headquarters and homeland. They are often heavily fortified. You strategize about taking enemy territory, the land ahead of you. It isn’t yours yet, but you want to be ready when you get there. But right now you are on the frontline. It is this moment, this day or season. Don’t forget about where you are while you protect the past and plan for the future, or you’ll find your frontline pushed back instead of moving forward.

Sensitivity and foresight are gifts God gives to help us lead. He doesn’t want His people or work to be tossed around aimlessly by the waves of life and culture. Jesus said the Church of God is built on a Rock, and the wise man built his house on rock. God knows the path of endurance and fruitfulness comes with strength and stability.

Don’t apologize for your sensitivity as a leader, be prepared to explain it. Share your heart about the importance of your role as a leader and the care you have for what and who you are entrusted with. And when you receive complaints about your sensitivity thank people for it. They may not mean it as a compliment, but it shows you are actively seeking to protect the organization and people God has placed under your care.