Listening and Leading

November 28, 2022
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If last week’s devotional was about analyzing the legacy you hope to lead, then this week is about how to lead alongside those you’re raising up.

Let me explain.

Recently I was having a conversation with a seasoned gentleman who was explaining some challenges a younger man was having in his organization. My seasoned friend explained, “the young kid just keeps trying to make changes too quickly and he isn’t making any friends.”

I smiled listening to the familiar story.

“Have you taken him out for coffee? How have you come alongside him?” I asked. “Well, I’ve tried pointing out what he’s getting wrong once in a while, showing him the ropes when I can. But he just doesn’t seem to listen.” he explained. “Yes, but have you spent time listening to him?” I nudged. At this, my friend smirked at me – finally realizing what I was getting at.

My experience working within an institution or working with folks who are new to an existing organization, is that for the new younger employees there is a “wait until they fail” mentality.

Very rarely are younger leaders assigned a guide to graciously bring them up to speed, to offer institutional wisdom, and to serve as their advocate when new questions or challenges surface. Instead, younger leaders come into an organization without previous context, attempting to make changes or shift toward what they know and are perceived as uncaring, self centered, and not listening. So what’s the solution? 

I believe the invitation for seasoned leaders, really any leader, is to position ourselves in the way of Elijah. 

In this bible passage, Elijah waits until he is absolutely certain that God is present. But how does Elijah know God is in the whisper?

He is listening.

Elijah does not presume where God would be – for surely God would show God’s self in the power of the earth shaking – instead, he listens until he is sure he understands.

I believe this same posture is necessary when we are coming alongside other leaders. We need to know the leader, understand them, find common ground and empathize with them, before we can begin to coach them, direct them, and come alongside them. When we commit to listening to one another first, we build the necessary foundation of trust and respect. We learn how to best communicate and offer feedback. 

Remember my seasoned friend?

Before our conversation ended, he looked over at me, with a sigh he said, “I gotta take that young man out for coffee.”

This intergenerational work is not new, it is elementary. But as we’re seeing in the current shifts around church, and industries, if this work isn’t intentionally done – it will never happen at all. 

So here’s my invitation.

We’re entering into the holiday season – which likely means you’ll see family you haven’t in a while. Practice listening to them.

Consider starting conversations with children. Begin to wonder how they have come to understand their role both within your family, but also within their larger context of community and society.

by Anna Radcliffe
RCA Next Gen

 

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