In recent years Junior has been increasingly sought for leadership development. While many of these are ministerial or church-related, he has also helped communicators, sports coaches, developing business leaders, even teachers and doctoral candidates, in some of the most nuanced and often overlooked ways. Similarly, a growing number of leaders have expressed interest in a regular devotional, mini-teaching, or commentary from Junior on leadership. In response, the bit below is for you. (All content here and sitewide is the intellectual and copyright property of JDM. All rights reserved.)
When doing multiperson leadership equipping, Junior loves to use small "Mount of Olives" home meetings. These relaxed, candid environments compel leaders to ask questions, share freely, dialogue in-depth, nourish interleader intimacy, and practice their gifted craft in a nurturant, but guided, setting. Individual follow-up spins off naturally and supernaturally from these unusually productive meetings.
As a leader, you are the genes of your group or organization. Your unique helix of personality, instincts, abilities, experience, and maturity level will determine the visible nature and quality of your group. Not only does this impose a stern mandate of personal growth and leadership development, it cautions us to wisely discern the epigenetics of leadership also: who we agree to lead, under what conditions, and for how long.
A favorite JDM scripture on leadership captures "the heart" and "the brain" of leadership, or said another way, inner health and leadership skill. It is Psalm 78:72 (NKJV): So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.
Below is Junior's most recent devotional, mini-teaching, or commentary on leadership. Sometimes these are ministerial, sometimes ubiquitous or some other specialization.
On Mature Listening:
You are not a good leader if you are not a good listener. Your knowledge and know-how validate your ability, but your listening validates your humanity, and in the long run, people do not respond to ability they respond to humanity. They follow and trust longterm those they feel connected to at a level deeper than goals, projects, to-dos, finish lines, and bottom lines. Even the most aloof, ambitious, seemingly unfeeling person follows or allies with a leader that can contact, prod, prompt, validate, and draw out their deeper humanity. Of the many ways this can be done, listening is #1.
For starters, grow out of sippy cup listening. Do not steal another person's sharing moment, barging in before they can even finish their thought or feeling or story or explanation. Do not kneejerk-react to what people say; delay your words stoically and browse around in the Spirit for a wise, reality-creating response. Do not listen with the excitement of someone reading a recipe or getting a prostate exam, giving required attention but also trying to go to a happy place. Do not rehearse in your mind what you are going to reply while someone else is talking, instead of actually listening and entering the truest reality of their words first. You are not leading well or at all if you are too selfish, too controlling, too scared, too skittish, too tired, too hungry, too grouchy, too sad, too busy, too whatever, to listen well with your whole being.
Mature listening, altruistic listening, prosocial listening, reality-creating listening, means listening with our whole being, heart first. Heart-first listening means having the empathy, a noticeable existential compassion, for this person in front of you, inspiring you to actually, really, truly, genuinely care about the reality coming out of their mouth. A person who listens with their head first (analytically), or needs first (selfishly), or goals first (ambitionally), or problem-solving first (actionally), has already failed the most basic test of leadership: actually caring about those you lead. Even in fast-paced, goal-oriented, organizational environments leaders can still be heart-first listeners. That certainly does not mean every conversation is therapeutic or warm-fuzzy or personal, not at all. It means leading with a human touch in all things, with an undercurrent of empathic humanity, especially in listening moments. Leaders who do this well are transformational, incredibly powerful in social dynamics, and engender deep loyalty. Leaders who do not do this well are transactional; their (leadership) days are numbered, their results are short-lived and fragile, and their alliances are also short-lived and fragile.
Mature listening is sacrificial (the lower self has no place whatsoever), intuitive (sensing what is and is not being said, followed by creative discovery questions), fortudinous (listening with a strong stomach, not skittish or hypersensitive), and therapeutic (comforting and validating). To say it in capsule form, mature listening is entering another person's reality and emerging with them to co-create. This is, without a doubt, the highest form of listening--especially for leaders. It is universes higher than listening simply for information or simply for what is relevant to your needs or interests. It is listening because we care about someone enough to enter their reality, understand and empathize with that reality, and through dialogue emerge with them to co-create a better or greater reality.
"But that takes time and energy and a lot of patience," you might say.
This is precisely why so few leaders are truly great. So few are great listeners.