I started my new job last summer as Executive Director of a pregnancy center ministry with great excitement. Not only did I sense the Lord had opened a door to His will and was fulfilling some specific promises He had spoken to my heart, I now had an opportunity to live out my convictions about servant leadership. My project for my Masters degree had been centered on servant leadership in the workplace. This position would be the testing ground to explore my ideas more fully.
Within a few weeks, however, I was faced with a challenge I had not expected—How do I effectively balance leading from the heart and leading from the mind? Interacting with others requires a blend of empathy and logic, depending on the needs of the moment. Leading an organization requires a similar blend.
True servant leadership prioritizes people as first and the organization as second. When people are equipped to do their jobs and thrive, the organization thrives. This model resonates strongly with my pastoral heart. (Pastoring can happen in any setting. It is not just reserved for church ministry.) I love the paid and volunteer staff at work and am committed to helping them develop God’s call. I also know that walking with others can be messy business and requires large doses of patience and grace. It takes time for people to develop their skills and God-given strengths.
It is beautiful to see servant leadership in operation. Unfortunately, there are times when despite the best efforts to love and lead others, someone will be detrimental to the mission. When this occurs, we will be required to engage in a battle of the heart and mind.
The heart says…
- I want the best for her.
- I believe in his potential.
- I don’t want to cause pain.
- I care deeply about him.
- She is incredibly valued by God.
- I should give him one more chance. He’ll get the hang of it.
The mind says…
- His performance is affecting our business.
- She is making too many mistakes.
- Her behavior is damaging relationships.
- It’s time for him to move on.
- He isn’t a good fit for this position.
- She doesn’t really care about our mission.
In this battle of the heart and mind, who do we listen to? How do we balance love and logic in servant leadership?
Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to let the mind lead the charge. When the facts show that it is time for someone to move on, it does the person and the rest of the organization a disservice to hold on. Keeping someone that is a poor fit in a position is frustrating to everyone. Keeping someone that isn’t doing the job well sends a message that work ethic and performance don’t really matter. In spite of the heart screaming in protest, it is better to say “goodbye.”
In the letters to the Corinthians there is an interesting story. One of the members of the church was involved in an illicit relationship with his stepmother. The Apostle Paul rebuked this behavior, and the behavior of the congregation for tolerating it. The same man who penned the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) instructed the congregation to remove the offender from their midst (1 Corinthians 5). Later forgiveness was offered and he was welcomed back to fellowship (2 Corinthians 2).
At my workplace, among the four paid staff members, I said “goodbye” to two of them the first three months. Not my favorite way to start off a position. But I learned some valuable lessons about servant leadership in difficult situations.
Which is easier for you—to lead from the heart or to lead from the mind?
Are you currently facing a difficult situation in your sphere of leadership? What is your heart saying? What is your mind saying?
The Lord has the wisdom you need to balance the interactions of heart and mind.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You are “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:3). You also reign with justice and make decisions that build Your Kingdom. Grant me Your wisdom. Help me to reflect You in character, and that, as a leader, my actions are motivated by love. In Jesus’ name.