Moving the Hearts of Men and Women Three Essential Questions Every Leader Should Ask
The way to get the best from people is to appeal to their hearts. Below are three questions highlighting key areas that a leader must constantly examine and work on if they hope to move the hearts of men and women.
We know that using pressure or force is not an effective means to practice healthy leadership. People don’t respond well to these tactics. Even when they seem to, they will likely harbor resentment and thus will not give their best in the long run. They may eventually leave us, or sabotage our work—knowingly or subconsciously. Clearly expressing our expectations while respectfully implementing accountability measures is most desirable, especially if we can do that in the context of partnership. In a partnership, both parties are benefiting, both are being fulfilled, and both feel honored and valued. A culture of partnership creates the ideal foundation for appealing to the heart.
I have done my best work as a leader when I have been able to move the hearts of men and women. Sometimes I am unable to because my heart is not in the right place, or I don’t have enough maturity, experience, or skill. I may not know how to communicate effectively. I may not know how to be vulnerable and let others in. Many times I am tired, unsure, overwhelmed, or too nervous about the future to have enough to give, to reach the hearts of others.
And so my prayer every morning is for God to reveal these three areas to me as a leader. I ask:
1—What can I say to move the hearts of men?
If only we knew how to say the right things in the right way… What we say as leaders defines our journey. Likewise, what we say is a reflection of our heart and what is inside of us. It reflects our wisdom and our character. My longing is to the say the right thing at the right time in the right way, so when people hear me they are impacted. My wish is that what I say will be genuine, transparent, and edifying.
I want my words to be courageous and bold when needed, and gentle and healing when needed. My hope is that when I open my mouth to speak, hearts are moved, lives are changed, and people come along. I am happy with myself sometimes, when I have thought about matters deeply enough and long enough. Just the other day, I shared these three questions with a group of new leaders in our organization, and it felt promising that in a small way I moved their hearts.
Other times I let myself down. With this same group a week earlier I blurted out about a staff member, “Don’t worry about her. She is just a whiner.” After I said it I was astounded at the words that had come from my mouth. Obviously I would not have said that if I were thinking before I spoke. So my personal goal is to work every day at seeking wisdom to say what needs to be said—even when what is best is that I say nothing at all. Many times, we can speak volumes with few or no words.
2—What can I do to move the hearts of men?
It is inspiring to watch how people respond to leaders who will sacrifice for others, who serve, who do the hard work of leadership. But it is more than a formula that we sacrifice, serve, and do difficult work. Wisdom is required to know how to sacrifice, whom to serve, and when to come onto the scene to tackle challenges. As leaders, we must be judicious in how we spend our time and efforts.
When there is a natural or man-made disaster, what a blessing it is to see a leader come to the scene to provide hope and relief. We saw a good example of that when President George W. Bush came to the carnage of 911 and spoke while holding a bullhorn next to a firefighter. His actions and his presence moved the hearts of men. We also saw the same President stall at the scene of another disaster later in his presidency, the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. Some say, that because President Bush did not show up in New Orleans, it damaged his presidency. He failed to do something quickly, and as a result failed to move the hearts of people.
I had the pleasure of meeting President Bush last year as he talked to a small group of us about leadership. I know from listening to him that he understands healthy leadership. So why did he make that mistake with Katrina? Because leadership is hard. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we simply do not do things to move the hearts of men. But we must always seek to grow in this area.
3—Who can I be to move the hearts of men?
While the first two points highlight something we take action on—saying and doing—this last point is about who we are, and what is growing in our hearts and minds. What we say and do is simply a reflection of who we are. Our actions reveal what principles and values guide our lives. They demonstrate our character.
One lesson I learned early on in my leadership journey is that one cannot mask their character well. One impressive quality of humans is that we can quickly sense the motives of other people. This may be in part because it is nearly impossible to control all the nuances of our body language, even if we are able to control our words. Bottom line, people can see through us to see our character to a fairly accurate degree.
We all want to be led by people of character, people who truly care, not just say that they do. People who are truly humble, not just act like they are. People who are truly understanding and patient when things go wrong, not just patient when things are according to plan.
So, my prayer today for you and me is that we seek God’s guidance in these areas so we can lead people faithfully and successfully to higher places.
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