Two Faces of Leadership
“As apostles of Christ we certainly had a right to make some demands of you, but we were as gentle among you as a mother feeding and caring for her own children. We loved you so much that we gave you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.”
The Apostle Paul had founded the church in the city of Thessalonica. Persecution had forced Paul and his ministry partner, Silas, to leave town after just a few weeks. You can read the whole exciting story here. As soon as he could, Paul wrote the Thessalonian Christians a letter reminding them of the things that he had taught them. This letter also included some excellent insights into his leadership style.
In this letter, Paul discusses the two faces of leadership. He says that when he was with the Thessalonians, he was as gentle “as a mother feeding and caring for her own children.” The first face of leadership is that of a mother. There are many times when we need to be “mom” to people. This is especially true of new or weak Christians.
Paul said that he gently nurtured and fed the new believers. The picture here is of a nursing mother. She is feeding her baby from her own body. This requires her to be healthy and nourished herself. As leaders, we can only feed people if we are healthy ourselves. If we are not feeding ourselves on God’s Word and spiritual food, we are not going to have anything to feed others with.
Mothers also convey a gentleness that fathers just cannot duplicate. Sometimes, Paul seems to be saying, the best thing that we can do as leaders is to give the person a hug or or a kind word to let them know that we believe in them. A good mom has a way of reassuring and comforting their child that lets them know everything is going to be okay.
In pointing out this first face of leadership, it is important to remember that this is not a male/female thing. Guy leaders also have to convey the “mom” side of leadership. Over and over again Paul tells leaders to lead with a spirit of gentleness.
“And you know that we treated each of you as a father treats his own children. We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy. For he called you into his Kingdom to share his glory.”
The first face of leadership that Paul mentioned in his letter to the Thessalonians was that of the mother. There are times that leaders need to have the personality of a mother: nurturing, nourishing, and gentle. This style of leadership is very important when dealing with new or weak Christians. It should not be a permanent leadership style. If this style of leadership is always used, the leader will never see their followers grow and become mature.
The second face of leadership that Paul discussed is that of the father. The father is often the one who brings discipline. Most of us have heard the words, “Just wait until your father gets home!” Discipline has negative connotations but in its purest form, discipline has to do with training.
The word “disciple” comes from “discipline.” Discipline is a vital part of life. No athlete will ever become successful without discipline in their lives. When a father correctly provides discipline for their children, they are providing guidelines for the child to follow.
While dads can be gentle and nurturing, no one ever mistook their dad for their mom! Dads are probably going to be more direct with their children than mom is. Fathers usually have ways of motivating their kids that mothers just do not.
The “dad” face of leadership is the one that leaders will probably employ most of the time. This leadership style, done correctly, trains people, challenges people, motivates them, corrects them, and encourages them. Those whom we lead need both faces of leadership.
Everyone can have a bad day when they need a mother to comfort and encourage them. Most of the time, though, we are going to set standards, implement guidelines, train, and encourage our followers to be the best that they can be.
Which face of leadership do you relate to the most?
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