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How to be a kinder, gentler leader

blog video May 11, 2022

It’s essential that we use our organization to build people rather than using people to build our organization.

Here are ten ways to do that in a gentle, kind way—


#1 = Don’t lead fatigued.

This works best when we live in rhythm (see video 6).

If you’ve ever been around whiny toddlers, you know… sometimes, they just need to rest. Set them down for a nap (or even send them to bed early), and they wake up completely renewed.

In other words, they weren’t reacting out of emotional dysfunction; they were simply tired.

Adults function much the same way. And, although we don’t snatch toys and yell, we do respond differently when we’re tired.

After Elijah fought the prophets of Baal, he found himself tired and depressed. In response, God offered him a nap and a snack (1 Kings 19:4-9). The solution, in other words, was very practical.

One of the best, most proactive things you can do as a leader it to step into rhythm and stay un-fatigued.


#2 = Take a weekly stroll through the offices.

Place this unhurried time on your calendar. Make it the highlight of your team’s week.

Build them up.

Speak life and words of encouragement.

Publicly applaud them during these informal times (see point #8 below).

Make sure they see you MANY MORE times informally talking to them about what’s going right than they do formal times when you tell them what’s going wrong.


#3 = Be demanding without being demeaning.

These two words, demanding and demeaning, are mutually exclusive. We often wrongly link them together.

You can be right about something— and require adherence to a standard— and do it righteously, in a manner that honors everyone.

Or, you can be right and behave unrighteously.

Never be demeaning.

(In another video, in The Killer Teams Framework, we discuss how to even release someone from employment without being demeaning— even when they’ve failed to meet acceptable work standards.)


#4 = Care about the family.

If you want to hire people who are smarter and more gifted than you, they’ll need to sense you care. This includes care for them both professionally AND personally.


#5 = Assume the best in people.

Give grace and the benefit of the doubt.

Automatically assume they weren’t equipped correctly (equipping them is, in fact, your job). Or, presume they had something happening in their personal life.

The reality is that in any leadership situation you— the leader— are the lid. And that’s both good news and bad news.

  •  Bad = it’s on you
  •  Good = you can adjust it!

In the end, as the leader, always take responsibility.


#6 = Keep a clean slate and a short memory.

We tend to carry offenses around. We also veer towards artificial harmony instead of healthy conflict.

If we create a culture in which we can confront disagreements quickly, we can readily adapt and move forward.


#7 = Do the right thing in the right way.

Deciding WHAT needs to be done in a situation is generally the easiest part. Determining HOW to do it is often a bit more nuanced.


It’s not just WHAT you say, but HOW you say it.

It’s not just WHAT you did, but it’s HOW they perceived it…

Pause before acting. Particularly when you’re confronting someone or correcting a situation.

Remember, most things aren’t the emergencies we make them out to be. And, giving a few hours— or even a night— before handling a situation of helps diffuse the emotion attached to it.


#8 = Cheer publicly and critique privately.

The time and place for both cheer and critiquing matter.

Always applaud your team when others can see it— even in front of their co-workers or family.

Always correct them privately.


  •  WHAT you say,
  •  WHERE you say it, and
  •  WHEN you say it…

… are all important!

By the way, NEVER raise your voice.

First, your team members don’t deserve it. Even when they’re wrong.

Second, you’ll train people to only respond to you when you DO raise your voice. That doesn’t work well for anyone.

Third, you don’t want your team members to be afraid of you. God didn’t give us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7). And perfect— that is, mature— love removes fear (1 John 4:18).


#9 = Ask for consistent feedback.

Your team members aren’t the only ones who need to get better at things. You do, too!

Invite feedback from them regularly, particularly as they’re invested in your mission.

Then, don’t be defensive when they offer it. Receive it. Even if you need to process it.

Your team members interact with you regularly and they see you up close. Their words— offered in love— will create some of the best opportunities for your growth.


#10 = Lead with questions, not commands.

Your tone— and how you approach people— matters.

The lowest level of leadership is POSITIONAL leadership (i.e., your title, your place on the organization chart).

The highest level is PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP.

Nurture the relational side as often as you can by honoring them relationally….

Instead of, “Do this by __________.”

Ask, “Can you have this done by ____________?”

Or, “How soon do you think you can do this?”

You’ll be surprised. Honor overflows, and they’ll often execute things quicker than you expected!



Kindness matters.

And so does gentleness…

They’re both fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

It’s essential that we use our organization to build people rather than using people to build our organization.

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