Leading with Kindness

Nov 13, 2020

Super Bowl coach and respected Christian witness, Tony Dungy – Super Bowl champion coach formerly with the Indianapolis Colts – has left a mark on America in terms of exemplary leadership. He didn’t curse, sarcastically chew out players, or rant on the sidelines. He believed he could get his team to compete by calmly providing direction and treating players with respect. Interestingly, this demeanor allegedly prevented him from securing a head-coaching job for many years. From my vantage point – we need more Tony Dungys, who, in the process of trying to glorify God in their own lives, set powerful examples for others while accomplishing much.

In the hectic, demanding world of church planting, leaders often too busy or distracted to realize what’s going on or they may even refuse to do anything about the subpar efforts by those they lead. Point leaders who fail to step in when people need them most are certainly culpable. It may be time, as both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal recently wrote, for a new type of leader who casts aside the largesse of ego and exercises power in ways that are more humane. The less invasive leadership style symbolized by the shepherd’s staff reminds me of a quote attributed to the late Prime Minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher: “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

Leaders of course exhibit many qualities besides kindness. It is, for example, possible to be hard-nosed and kind … to be cantankerous and kind … to be analytical and kind … to be gregarious and kind. Kindness can come bundled with many other leadership traits. Certainly, a leader’s own unique qualities give him or her a distinctive style.  Yet, I deeply believe that kindness not only can, it should be part of every good leader’s constitution. Many different types of people are kind. The search for the perfect leadership personality is terribly misguided and ultimately fails to explain what leaders really do and what makes them effective.  After all, kindness is not a personality trait. It is most definitely a character trait. It is foundational.

By kind, I don’t mean to imply one who is a sucker or pushover. Nor do I suggest that a warmly permissive leader whose staff team is undisciplined and unaccountable is commendable. Kindness does not preclude a full range of expression, including, at times, displeasure, correction, and firm discipline. Nor should kindness be interpreted as mushy amicability. The goal of spiritual leadership should not be to get results just to please the overseers or financial supporters, but to increase the impact of a ministry team and the maturity of the team members over time using agreeable, consistent, and strategic means. So, even though kindness doesn’t appear in many popular books devoured by hard-charging leaders, I’m convinced based on personal experience as a pastor and coach that leading with kindness is key to lasting effectiveness.

John has been fully engaged in the church planting world since 1983. He has served as a strategist, coach, trainer, professor and concept pioneer. He has filled a variety of roles with Stadia since 2004 and came on board full-time in July 2012. As Church Relations Director, John coordinates the direct support of our church planting partners, with a focus on churches planted by Stadia. As a church planting statesman, John’s experience and prolific connections throughout North America are a huge asset for the Stadia family. John and his wife, Leslie, live in southwest Florida, where his wife leads an innovative decorative lighting business. They have three married children and six grandchildren.

John Wasem

Advancement Director, Stadia