Leadership: A Mother’s Love and a Father’s Care

The similarities between parenting and leadership abound. Paul talked about leading with a mother’s love and a father’s care. Stopping to read and reread his analogy several times, I examined my model of leadership.

Perhaps, I struggle in leadership for the same reasons I struggled with parenting. With five sons born in just over eight years, I tended to “run” our household like a military general. What regrets! By God’s grace they have all become such wonderful men, husbands and fathers. Parenting isn’t for wimps; neither is spiritual leadership. 

More than once someone has commented, “People assume you to be a gentle grandmother, but you’re fierce and tenacious.” Ouch! Is that a compliment or an insult? A commendation or a warning? Should I laugh or cry?

Leadership

Honestly, as I analyze my leadership patterns, gentle, fierce and tenacious form a consistent path, sometimes leading into deep valleys and at other times upward to the highlands. I press myself and those I lead hard, while loving passionately. We only get one crack at life. Time flies quickly past without hope of retrieval.

A Mother’s Love

Paul understood. He established the church in Thessalonica under significant opposition. When persecution forced Paul to flee for his life, he prematurely left a fledgling group of Christ followers. His concern for their survival was valid.

“. . . we cared for you in the same way a nursing mother cares for her own children. With a mother’s love and affectionate attachment to you, we were very happy to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our lives — because you had become so dear to us.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

Hippopotamus family

Perhaps no other love compares to the way “a nursing mother cares for her children.” Ponder for a moment, the reality of producing milk to the detriment of her own bone structure; continuing the daily responsibilities despite stumbling through diaper changes and sleep deprivation; walking and rocking a sick or frightened infant for hours on end; rising before dawn and staying up well past sunset with spew in her hair, fatigue dragging her steps; constantly tending to the pressing needs of the one so dependent.

Her love only intensifies through the years: singing “Baby beluga in the deep blue sea,” while walking, driving, shopping, or cleaning; freezing her backside on metal bleachers to cheer for her progeny; teaching sons to cook and daughters to change the oil in the car; dropping everything in an instant when her now grown son or daughter calls in distress; interceding in prayer  for God’s grace to impact and direct their lives. How does one define such love?

Do I lead, like Paul, with a mother’s love and a father’s care? If I don’t, I shouldn’t be leading. The source of such “attachment” comes supernaturally from time at the feet of the One who by divine nature is love.

A Father’s Care

Fathers handle children much differently. They toss their littles into the air, bounce them robustly on their knees, play fight on the floor and do many other things that drive mothers a scant bit crazy. Fathers provide a different, but equally intense, care — showing strength, confidence and brevity. Yet, we’ve all watched that two hundred pounds of male hulk melt like butter to the request of “his own children.”

“And you know how affectionately we treated each of you, like a loving father cares for his own children.” We comforted and encouraged you and challenged you to adopt a lifestyle worthy of God, who invites you into his kingdom and glory.”
1 Thessalonians 2:11,12

The leadership shown by a father compliments that of a mother, as he comforts, encourages, challenges and invites. These qualities imply intimacy of relationship and closeness of contact.

Love and care

Paul experienced angst due to separation from his spiritual children — especially knowing they were facing such intense opposition.

A father leads by drawing near, “encouraging, comforting and urging” his children to excel at the most essential thing in life — “to adopt a lifestyle worthy of God.”

The “dad” quality of leadership “cuts to the chase,” “grabs the bull by the horns,” and “calls a spade a spade.” He separates the trite from the significant, without being rude or cruel. Rather, the “dad” leader invites, encourages, and invokes — comforting when needed and urging the young to press on despite setbacks.

Leadership which combines both a mother’s love and father’s care creates a synergetic force, propelling the next generation forward.

Remain Teachable

However, before Paul emphasizes his approach to leadership, he points out a critical piece for all leaders to remember.

“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you.”
1 Thessalonians 2:6,7

When I was a child, my dad’s edict ruled our home. (We were many too!) Unfortunately, I used that same tone much too often while parenting. Paul gives a better directive.

A mother's love and a father's care

An apostle held the highest authority in the church; his voice carried the unquestionable weight of authority. Yet, he refused to impose or demand from his platform of lofty position. Instead, he insisted his whole team become “like young children” — teachable, gentle, submissive, and responsive servants.

“S-e-r-v-a-n-t” spells leadership most accurately.

I recognize with aging, the less flexible, teachable and submissive I become. To follow Paul’s leadership example, I must remain vigilant at countering natural tendencies to rely on my understanding and depend on seniority or status.

A mother’s love and a father’s care should naturally draw me into a place of low servanthood and tender teachability.

Selfless

Through Paul, I’m reminded of the goal for such an attitude in leadership solely rests on the good of others and the glory of God.

Listen to Paul,

“. . . We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.”
1 Thessalonians 2:4

Selfless

Or again, 

“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else. . .”
1 Thessalonians 2:6

And one more,

“Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.”
1 Thessalonians 2:9

With a mother’s love and a father’s care leaders give, give and give again. They open their homes to those who eat their food and mess what’s just been cleaned. These leaders sacrifice their “free” time, to encourage the downcast, pray for the sick, and fill in the missing gaps of ministry. They turn off TVs, cell phones and computers to seek God, fasting and praying for the spiritual condition and pressing needs of others.

Leadership costs! It costs financially, demands relationally and drains both physically and emotionally. No wonder Paul so aptly uses the analogy of a mother’s love and a father’s care.

Rare is the leader that rises to such heights by bowing low to the selfless call of God. Yet, I’ve watched those rare gems shine brightly among us.

Protective family

May God continue to challenge me, you and us all to live selflessly for the good of others and His glory. Yes, let’s receive encouragement from the lives of past and present godly leaders, while consistently looking to God — the One who demonstrated ultimate love and care through Jesus Christ.



Leadership Promotion – Man’s Choice Versus God’s Chosen

Leadership promotion comes either through human intervention or the supernatural aid of God. Biblical and recent history proves how often we get it wrong. For churches, parachurch and non-profit organization, choosing leaders takes prayer, wisdom and discernment.

At times, I have blamed hindrances to personal promotion on human restrictions, rather than seen them as acts of God’s grace. At other times, God boosted my area of influence or ministry capacity when I felt least prepared or qualified.

Ecclesiastes 9:11

When God gives leadership promotion, the results are obvious! God sees with equal clarity the present and future, our inner reality and outer facade, one’s natural limitations and supernatural faith. He advances ministers and ministries in indisputable ways.

Daniel

King Nebuchadnezzar enrolled Daniel, an exiled captive, into a rigid three-year training program. The candidates for this elite opportunity possessed specific qualities.

“… Israelites from the royal family and the nobility
young men without any physical defect, handsome,
showing aptitude for every kind of learning,
well informed, quick to understand
and qualified to serve in the king’s palace.”
Daniel 1:4

Daniel’s commitment to God, the true King, actually added to his resume of qualifications. He was “resolved not to defile himself” by eating and drinking things opposed to his religious standards. (1:8) “God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning”, as well as visions and dreams of all kinds.” (1:17)

The king recognized gifting! God decided on anointing!

Psalm 89:17

God multiplied Daniel’s natural gifts! At the end of the training period, the king personally interviewed each candidate.

“The king talked with them,
and he found non equal to Daniel,
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah…
In every matter of wisdom and understanding
about which the king questioned them,
he found them ten times better than all…”
Daniel 1:18-20

This was Daniel’s first leadership promotion, but not his last. He remained humble, submitted and dedicated to God in spite of severe opposition. God unequivocally propelled Daniel to the forefront.

Paul

Judas suicide decreased “The Twelve” to “The Eleven”. Together they were “constantly in prayer,” (Acts 1:14)

“… Peter stood up among the believers
(a group numbering about a hundred and twenty)
… it is necessary to choose one
of the men who have been with us the whole time
the Lord Jesus was living among us,
beginning from John’s baptism to the time
when Jesus was taken up from us.
For one of these must become a witness
with us of his resurrection.”
Acts 1:15 & 21 

Through prayer, Peter caught God’s plan of replacing Judas. Unfortunately, human reasoning took over!  Surely 120 people, constantly in prayer, couldn’t get it wrong. So they nominated two candidates for leadership promotion: Joseph and Matthias.

Proverbs 19:21

After much prayer, Matthias, whose name means “gift of Yaheweh”, was added to The Eleven. Matthias, though a gift, wasn’t God’s chosen! God’s choice was absent from the list of elect candidates. God’s choice was on a personal rampage, killing and imprisoning new believers. Until God held a face-to-face confrontation along the Damascus Road!

“And last of all (Jesus) appeared to me also,
as to one abnormally born.
For I am the least of the apostles
and do not even deserve to be called an apostle,
but by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.”
1 Corinthians 15: 8-10

Matthias fell into obscurity! Paul received undeserved leadership promotion in an organization he hated — writing 14 letters included in the Holy Scriptures. Quite the difference between man’s choice and God’s chosen!

Aaron

 “Korah … Dathan and Abiram …
became insolent and rose up against Moses.
With them were 250 Israelite men,
well-known community leaders
who had been appointed members of the council.”
Number 16:1-2

Picture it! Moses and Aaron on one side. Powerful and influential leaders, on the other — 250 delegated spokesmen! Over a million men, women and children witnessed the mutiny. Accusing Moses and Aaron of exerting too much authority, they forcefully expressed their opposition!

These were not rag-tag back-benchers! These men formed the spiritual and civic leadership of the nation. All were members of the ruling council!

Leadership Promotion - Deitrich Bonhoffer

Several times God pressed against the agitators to bring order out of chaos. Nothing was working! Finally, He gave Moses an indisputable plan,

“Speak to the Israelites and
get twelve staffs from them,
one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes.
Write the name of each man on his staff.
On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name,
for there must be one staff for the head
of each ancestral tribe.
Numbers 17: 1-2

Each tribal leader brought his staff — the symbol of his identity, authority, and ministry. A man’s staff was more than a piece of wood! It bore lasting generational significance.

“Place them in the tent of meeting
in front of the ark of the covenant law,
where I meet with you.”
Numbers 17:4

God’s Chosen

Each man surrendered his ministry, calling and gifting — hope for future generations, laid first in Moses’ hands, then in God’s. With the names of each written on his staff, there would be no disputing the results. All that long night, their staffs lay hidden before God. He alone would decide leadership promotion.

Leadership Quote - Frank Damazio

Similarly, we too lay our hopes and expectations, visions and calling, gifts and abilities before God. In surrendering our rights, we allow God to determine the duration of hiddenness, trusting Him to bring forth His divine purpose.

“The next day Moses entered the tent
and saw that Aaron’s staff,
which represented the tribe of Levi,
had not only sprouted but had budded,
blossomed and produced almonds.
Then Moses brought out all the staffs
from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites.
They looked at them,
and each of the leaders took his own staff.”
Numbers 17:9

Can you imagine that moment? Take your staff Simeon — dry, bent and worn. Look at yours Reuben — rubbed smooth. Barren! Check yours Dan — fruitless as before! Each leader “took his own staff.”

The Presence of God brought supernatural fruitfulness to one man’s staff, while leaving the others still dead. Each man needed grace to accept God’s decision, whether chosen or left. God publicly revealed His irrefutable choice for leadership promotion.

Lay it Down

All leaders require grace to lay down and pick up the “staff” of either promotion or limitation. Not once, but continually! Setting everything before God’s Presence! Graciously and humbly “owning” our staff — living or dead.

Those who by ungodly promotion, via self or others, press beyond their God-given parameters become disqualified. God invariably exposes all interior motivations. Even publicly if necessary!

1 Peter 5:6

I relate to the eleven tribal leaders as I lay my “staff” before God. Will He return it without substantial change? I have vision for more! Prophetic words over my life declare more! Yet, the timing is God’s. The position and dimensions of my influence remains His.

I’ve been deceived to believe that the right people with the right gifts, accentuated by the right training program, makes great leaders. I’ve slipped into the faulty, half-right, totally-wrong, reasoning of Peter and others in making leadership decisions.

If only God would mark his “Daniel” ministries clearly, propelling them ten times better than all others. Perhaps if there were more Damascus Road conversions, we would recognize God’s choice. Or maybe if every “Aaron” ministry would stand out with miraculous growth and fruitfulness, discerning leadership promotion would be easy.

Or maybe not!

This I know:
the favor that brings promotion and power
doesn’t come from anywhere on earth,
for no one exalts a person but God, the true judge of all.
He alone determines where favor rests.
He anoints one for greatness
and brings another down to his knees.”
Psalm 75:7-9 TPT

There is one thing for certain, God’s choice is often not man’s! One option remains! Continually place everything before His Presence, trusting Him with leadership promotion.

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Lead and Follow! Who is in the Lead?

Some people find it naturally easier to lead; others prefer to follow. Whether we lead or follow, the question arises “Who is the leader here?” Without followers, a leader isn’t leading; without a leader it is difficult to know who to follow.

Who is in the lead?

Lead and Follow

I introduced a practical exercise to a group of children learning worship dance. First a leader was chosen. Each child faced the leader and mimicked the lead dancer’s movements. After a couple of minutes the leader  became a follower designating the next dancer as the new leader. Around the circle we went. Everyone had opportunity to lead; all attempted to follow.

Afterward I asked what was difficult about leading. These answers and more came in childlike honesty:

  • “I was afraid no one would follow!”
  • “What if others didn’t like what I was doing!”
  • “Everyone was expecting me to come up with the ideas!”

Then I asked what was difficult about following.

  • “I was moving in one direction and the leader went the other way!”
  • “When I thought I had the leader figured out, she changed what she was doing!”
  • “I never knew what the leader would do next!”

If we are honest, we too would acknowledge similar problems when leading and following.

A Leader who is Safe

Whether we articulate it or not, we want leaders who are safe and predictable!

Jacob had connived his brother out of his birthright and his blessing. Then, fearing for his life, he fled to the far side of the known world. God met him in his running.

In a dream, he saw angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven.

” There above it stood the Lord, and he said:
I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.
I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.”
Genesis 28:12-13

 

Leaders who are safe and predictable

Needless to say, Jacob was disturbed by the dream. Frightened, he bargained with God:

If God will be with me and will watch over me
on this journey I am taking
and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear

so that I return safely to my father’s household,
then the Lord will be my God…”
Genesis 28:20-22

If my thoughts and prayers were publicly exposed to scrutiny, they would appear just as self-centered. If God will be a safe God, a me-serving God, ensuring my comfort, provision and care, then I will worship and follow Him.

Jacob wasn’t ready to give up the lead, until God proved He was good!

A Leader who is Present

How do you follow a leader you cannot see? That was Peter’s predicament!

Just a few short years prior, Peter made the choice to “leave all” and follow Christ, even when leaving meant passing up the greatest windfall catch he had ever seen.

“Then Jesus said to Simon,
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”
So they pulled their boats up on shore,
left everything and followed him.”
Luke 5:10-11

Peter was a natural leader. For three years, his leadership training took him through unfamiliar territory of following Jesus. Just when he was beginning to get the hang of this following stuff, Jesus left. What does a follower do without a leader?

The most natural leadership Peter knew was from a fishing boat. He immediately diverted to old patterns. Three years of training appeared to fly out the window, or should I say jump overboard?

Follow the leader!

“Quack! Quack!” Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, plus two other disciples joined the line of would-be-deserters and followed Peter’s lead. Like it or not, a leader is always leading – for better or worse!

Just like his last fishing excursion, Peter’s all night fishing accomplished nothing. Then Someone on the shore suggested he try fishing in a new way,

“Throw your nets on the right side of the boat
and you will find some.”
John 21:6

The immense catch of fish revealed Jesus’ identity. Peter immediately jumped overboard and approached Jesus, leaving his would-be-followers alone in the boat.

Jesus challenges Peter’s devotion three times and then finishes with,

Follow me!”
John 21:19

This unpredictable, unseen One is still asking and inviting one-time followers and would-be leaders to follow undeterred His lead. “Follow even when you can’t see Me. Out of heart of love, follow Me, leading others well!”

A Leader who is Predictable

I have always felt drawn by nature into secluded places. As a young girl, I chanced upon a herd of white-tails. The buck sensed something alien hiding in the willow bush and advanced with nostrils flaring and antlers flinging dust in the air. I crouched breathless – unmoving! Though he could not see me clearly, he was wary. With one flick of his tail, the entire herd of thirty-or-so deer turned, springing effortless over fences and out of sight. My heart raced in the midst of unpredictable danger and wonder!

Whitetail deer - encountering a stag in the lead!

Following God often leaves me breathless in heart-racing uncertainty with a combined sense of danger and wonder!

[bctt tweet=”Following God often leaves me breathless in heart-racing uncertainty with a combined sense of danger and wonder!” username=”MAWardAuthor”]

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9

I want God predictable! But ask Job how predictable God is! Or maybe Joseph!

God, unpredictable? Yes! He seems unpredictable only because His ways and thoughts are brilliant and magnificent in every dimension.

Climbing to mountain heights

While He is leading the way to jagged mountain peaks, I’m content frolicking in the plush meadow. I’m know I’m not alone! Others have been caught slip-footed as He has leading them through flooded rivers, toward “invincible” armies, or into prisons and cave fortresses.

Lead And Follow

Following well has always been difficult for me. I echo the sentiments of my little dancers. It is uncomfortable to follow, when I’m not sure where, how or when God is about to move, change directions, or lead toward unfamiliar terrain.

I often sense God looking over His shoulder wondering if I will follow here… now… ever…

Though His ways are confusing, at the least, and perplexing more oft than not, I know I can (and should) trust His lead. Why? Because I know He is indescribably good. Where He leads is for my inevitable benefit, though perhaps lacking in personal comfort.

“Lead and Follow” is far more that a children’s activation exercise. I, too, am perpetually working on my step-by-step follow to my Father’s perfect lead. You see, to follow well requires complete surrender to another’s will and ways.

The only way I will grow as a leader is to ultimately become a faithful follower. It is wonderful paradox!

 

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More on leadership!

 Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

Moses – The Defining Qualities of a Great Leader

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Leadership 101 – Take it from the Eagles

Biblical View of Leadership
Being a prairie girl, rarely have I spotted an eagle. Usually it has been in spring or late fall as they follow the migratory path of geese. Each sighting is inspiring! These majestic birds are leaders in every way.
It is no wonder the bible references eagles often.
“But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
… run and not grow weary.
 walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40:31

Leaders Rise Above

Eagles fly at elevations up to 10,000 feet.

“Pigeons scavenge on the ground and grumble and complain all day long. Eagles fly.”
Dr. Myles Munroe

Though cranes, vultures and geese fly higher than eagles, eagles soar effortless on upper level currents. When other birds take cover from a coming storm, eagles seizes thermal opportunities for updraft and lift.

Great leaders are problem solvers! They don’t hang around on the ground complaining. Leaders pick up the challenge and find resolutions. They are high flyers! Leaders thrive on challenges using them as instruments to propel both themselves and others forward.

Fearless Leaders - Eagles

“There are three things too amazing for me;
four things I do not understand;
the way of an eagle in the sky ….”
Psalms 30:18,19 

There were a handful of things the psalmist found difficult to comprehend; the first one, mentioned is how eagles fly.

Leaders Build Relationships of Trust

Eagles are monogamous, generally mating for life. When a male eagle wants to mate, she first tests his commitment. Then and only then, will she allow him to mate with her.

Developing this high level of commitment ensures relationship that will endure through all seasons.

Protective Leaders - Eagles

An eagle’s nest can weigh a ton or more. That’s a lot of nest!  Both eagles and leaders take seriously the responsibility of those they have been entrusted with.  They develop an environment of care and protection.

“Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?
On the cliff he dwells and lodges, upon the rocky crag, an inaccessible place.
From there he spies out food;
His eyes see it from afar.”
Job 39:27-29 

Leaders are Visionary

Leaders are long-sighted – “eagle-eyed”! They have a capacity to see what others miss!

Visionary Leaders - Eagles

Sight is the eagle’s strongest sense. I read once that an eagle can see a dime in the grass a mile away. True or not, I don’t know. Eagles do have a wider range of vision and see about five times better than humans. They also see a wider spectrum of colour than we do.

Godly leaders continually have divine foresight to see and perceive what is not humanly possible. They are able to see opportunities, detect threats or spot out fresh food to nourish the young.

Leaders Don’t Eat Dead Meat!

Eagles, unlike vultures, always eat and feed their young fresh food. Leaders maintain personal strength by guarding their eyes, ears and hearts carefully.  The media offers up a lot of “dead meat” these days!

Godly leaders intentionally study and read the word, participate in private and corporate worship and enjoy authentic relationship.

Leaders Train the Young

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them,
He carried them on His pinions.”
Deuteronomy 32:11

Leaders of Strength - Eagles

To help strengthen and train their young, a mother eagle throws the eaglet out of the nest.  As they shriek in fear, father eagle flies underneath catching them and bringing them back to safety. Together they continue the process until the eaglet is strong and confident to fly and soar on its own.

Leaders use their strength to strengthen others. They guide those around them to grow, sometimes even pushing them beyond their comfort zone. In so doing godly leaders are willing to do whatever is necessary to train and elevate others, equipping them to soar.

Leaders Self-Examine

“Who satisfies your years with good things,
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle.”
Psalms 103:5 

The life-span of an eagle is thirty to forty years, much longer than most birds. Perhaps, that is why the psalmist thanks God for “renewing” our years like an eagle.

Self Examining Leaders - Eagles

A strong leader examines his life carefully in view of eternity. He will look back and take stock, ignoring neither the good nor bad experiences and learning from both. He will create checks and balances for personal and professional growth. Proper periods of rest, nourishing food, and adequate exercise are conscious choices he makes in his renewal process. He willingly maintains relationships of genuine accountability.

Inspired by these amazing birds, my focus shifts instinctively from the created to the Creator of all things. I want to learn well, what He is teaching me in these moments.

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Here’s more reading on leadership:

Moses – The Defining Qualities of a Great Leader