If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clinking cymbal.
Leadership is not a Patrick Lencioni book. It’s not a Craig Groeschell quote. It is not a Rick Warren snippet. Leadership is not power. It is not the ability to get what you want. Leadership is love. You can learn every bit of every leadership book that there is. You should. Leadership principles, if put within the context of love, are invaluable. Vital, even.
But the church is not a business, even though it has business aspects to it, even though it makes sense to structure it in ways reminiscent of businesses. You can be the most talented leadership genius this side of Steve Jobs… but if you don’t have love, you are a noisy gong and a clinking cymbal.
Leading without love as your lead is just more noise in a world that is already raging around us. And noise is just that … it’s worthless. It’s nothing worthwhile.
And if I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
You built a church program to something big and something special. Your gut on nearly everything ends up being right – you just seem to KNOW when something isn’t right. You just have an understanding of what works for your church and what doesn’t. You have what you think is a killer instinct for the KIND of leader or follower someone might be, from the your first impression on.
No one would argue that you are not a man or woman of faith. They would be wrong. You can point out the ways that God has worked in your life and the times you’ve trusted beyond what felt comfortable or right.
But if you don’t show love to the people around you. If the people around you do not know that you are for them, then you are nothing.
If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I have gained nothing.
Paul here is separating our actions from our love. We could give the poor everything we have. We could sacrifice for the people around us. We could even die. But if our people don’t feel loved, then it gains nothing.
I think that we would make the case that giving up what you have, giving up your life – that is the definition of love. Yet Paul here separates them? Why?
Most leaders worth their salt understand that what is received in communication is far more important than what we intended. We can say, “Guys, you’re doing a great job! I have some things we can do better…” but if what is heard is “I’m saying something nice so I can critique you because I read in a leadership book to always couch the bad with the good” then what they aren’t receiving isn’t positive, no matter how you meant it.
If you are not communicating love, if love is not what is being received by those you are leading, then you have gained nothing.
Working in the day-to-day to let people know that you love them beyond what they can give you or your organization communicates love beyond words, beyond dramatic action (like giving away all you have and giving your life). Love does more than gimmicky team-building exercises to "grow the team". Love does more than a 2-day retreat to "build the team". Leadership is caring about the ins and outs of every day life enough to know that the ins and outs of every day life are what team-building is ACTUALLY about.
You don't build a team with trust exercises. You build a team with admitting you were wrong more often than defending your position. You build a team by having a two hour conversation that has nothing to do with work. You build a team by picking up the slack for the people who work for you, instead of making their failures an object lesson to be learned from. You build a team not by imagining a new org-chart out of thin air because it seems magical to you, but by figuring out what your team actually does well, then setting them loose to do it. You build a team by listening far more often than you challenge them. You build a team by caring more about their long-term health than the short-term results.
Leadership is not a fruit of the Spirit. Love is.
Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way ; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth
If your leadership cannot wait for people to grow because … results! … then your leadership style is likely not based in love. It may be based in leadership books… but it likely not based in based in love.
If your leadership is not considered kind – which is different than diplomatic or perfectly-coifed or excellent politically – then your leadership is likely not based in love.
If your leadership has to tout its position or power it is likely not based in love.
If your leadership is insistent on your way without taking into consideration the heart and passion of the people around you and below you, then it is likely not based in love. If you are known more for handing down decisions that empowering your leaders to figure stuff out, then your leadership is likely not based in love. If your leadership does not build trust with your subordinates and perpetually turn leadership over to them, then your leadership is likely not based in love.
If your leadership finds ways to hold people’s past failures against them, if it resents the lack of perfection, if it looks for ways to prove that an employee or your employees are not right for a job or you find yourself writing people off without exhausting your ability to cast vision and encourage them along, then your leadership is likely not based in love.
If your leadership would rather be right about someone – and being proved right means someone fails or does something wrong – then your leadership is likely not based in love.
Love rejoices in your people succeeding. Love is more satisfied with being good with someone than being right about someone.
One of my thought heroes is Simon Sinek. He once said, "If you are constantly trying to find the right people for the bus, you're doing it wrong. History tells us that when you put good people in bad situations, they usually end up doing bad things. If you put bad people in good situations, they many times end up learning to do good things. Environment is the key. You don't need the right people for the bus, you need a better bus."
This is the very foundation of love. It's creating a culture that calls people TO something, instead of simply hoping people get culture and get things right enough to stick around.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away. As for tongues, they will cease. As for knowledge, it will pass away, for we know in part and we prophecy in part but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.
Love in leadership assumes that you didn’t get it right. It assumes that when someone who works for you gets it wrong that it’s very possible – maybe even likely – that you perhaps didn’t do as good of job as you’d hoped in communicating the vision or the scope of the vision. Love in leadership puts the onus on yourself, not on the people who work for you. It humbly assumes that if your people didn’t “get it” than you didn’t “give it”.
And in response, love re-establishes the vision. Love in leadership chooses to bear all things. It chooses to believe the best in people. It choose to hope that if you can re-establish the vision, re-communicate it again – and maybe again and again – that your people will respond and execute the vision successfully.
Love in leadership endures the times when people fail. Love in leadership endures the times you don’t get your way or the times your vision isn’t carried out fully or even successfully.
How we judge in leadership is how we will be judged in leadership. If we judge imperfection harshly, then our imperfections will judged just as harshly. But if we endure and believe and hope and bear through imperfection, then our imperfections will be endured and bore.
Why is this important?
Because it all passes away. With completion of this race, when we are in the Kingdom, then we will know all things, we will understand finally.
And why is THIS important? Because Paul is telling us “RIGHT NOW YOU DON’T KNOW CRAP!” You don’t know everything people are going through. You don’t know everything people are struggling with. You don’t know the other things occupying their minds when you are attempting to lead them. So instead of assuming those beneath you simply are not qualified to understand vision or even to buy into it, assume that you as a leader should bear the weight of these things and continually perpetuate vision, again and again and again and again.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I gave up childish ways.
Love in leadership doesn’t thrive on chaos. It doesn’t thrive on drama. It doesn't thrive on last-minute planning because of the excitement it brings. It doesn’t thrive on being in control or on power. Those things are acceptable for the young and inexperienced; the immature; the childish leaders. They have no place in loving leadership.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been known. So now faith hope and love endure; but the greatest of these is love.
Again - we don’t know what is going on. We don’t know our own heart. We don’t know it all, no matter how many leadership books we read. No matter how many promotions we receive. We still know only in part.
So… love. Just… love.