Leadership doesn't always have to be tough, forceful and demanding. In fact, I'm learning that type of leader is not really a leader but a dictator who loves little and yells much. I've been learning this from my son, MJ.
As a Father, I feel like my children should obey me and should simply comply because I will it, (anyone who is a parent is laughing out loud at my naivety right about now) yet I have found time and time again this just doesn't happen. Being a leader; I've tried all types of leading styles with my son; but coercion isn't helpful in the long run; reasoning doesn't really work with a 3 year old brain; and demanding his compliance was my main method until about last week and it only brought about frustration and an angry side to MJ's otherwise pretty happy go lucky daddy.
I'd say I'm a pretty tender guy, but I've become more so towards my son recently and have seen a dramatic turn of events in the way he interacts and listens to me. One such examples comes from how I do bed time with him. Instead of trying to hold my son tightly in my arms until he falls a sleep through force (because he won't stop moving), I decided to simply hold his hand while laying next to him for nap and night time. Another example is how I get him to do certain things. Instead of hauling off and telling MJ what to do, I've learned (thanks to the teaching of my wife) to explain what's going on and tenderly ask MJ to do the things I need him to do because of those things going on.
These shifts in my leadership style with MJ have taught me some lessons that I think are also applicable in regular leadership.
1. Tenderness Leads the Heart; not the Behavior
One thing I consistently find in the Bible is that God is after the heart before he ever tries to change behaviors. Yes God is harsh at points and soft at others but the truth still rings true that he leads tenderly. When his harsh statements do come, its after a long period of waiting and trying to lead his people tenderly. When we lead with tenderness, we tell the person: "you matter because you are a person". When we lead from a harsh task-master type of attitude, we are saying: "you matter because you perform". In my interactions with MJ, he sees the difference in my approach and has been doing much better because he can sense I care for him as a person, not because of what he does.
2. Tenderness is Contagious
When We are tender to people, there is a good chance they will turn around and be tender as well. My new approach to MJ has caused him to be more affectionate towards me. Before when he wouldn't want to sit on my lap during a show, he now asks to sit on my lap. Now, I know it's early and this may only last for awhile but he's also been more affectionate to others as well. I'm afraid my attitude was affecting him a lot more than I originally thought and the attitude of the leader is contagious...if we lead out of fear and anger, the people whom we lead will act similarly. Tenderness is contagious when leaders lead from that angle.
3. Tenderness Allows for Explanation
When people mess up, miss something or plain disregard something that's "ordered" without tenderness or grace there is simply no room for error, no room to explain the situation and no room to be heard. Tenderness allows a policy to hear the person out and allows room for a leader to better explain what they truly are asking of the people they lead. Jesus in his interactions with the disciples was pretty tender at times (he was also blunt at times) and explained things to them well. Sure he showed his frustration with their not getting concepts but always lovingly explained where appropriate.
There are times when we need to be tough and not employ as much tenderness, I know that. Yet, if we never employ tenderness with those we lead...we can be doing a large amount of damage. I know "tenderness" is not an "in vogue" method of leadership but I am convinced we need just a little bit more tenderness in our leadership style!