A few weeks ago, I had a FaceTime conversation with another young female leader living in a different province. She and I had a conversation about God, rest, work, life… one of those conversations that reminds you that time really does fly when you’re having fun.
At the end of our call, she asked for a word that she could keep in mind when praying for me. After a few seconds of thought, I said, “Love. Love is my word.”
In that moment, I wasn’t sure why I said “love,” as beautiful and wonderful and deeply complex as the word is. Just a few days later, though, the question of why God would put love on my mind was answered as I was reading from the book of Daniel. In just a few verses, I was profoundly reminded of the importance of love in leadership:
“He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, ‘O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved.’” (Daniel 9:22-23a)
“And he said to me, ‘O Daniel, man greatly loved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for now I have been sent to you.’” (Daniel 10:11)
You are greatly loved… Man greatly loved…
Not man of great visions and insight. Not man of great talents and abilities. Not man of powerful influence. Man greatly loved.
This made me pause and think about the place of love in a leader’s life. The love of God has profound implications for the way we lead, two of which I want to highlight: first, our identification as “one greatly loved,” and second, identifying those we lead as “greatly loved.”
Identifying ourselves as women greatly loved by God is paramount for healthy leadership. It reminds us that our value is not based on our accomplishments, performance, or influence; our value is rooted in being recipients of God’s gracious love. Being secure in this identity gives us joy, confidence, and courage in our leadership; at the same time, it is the antidote to insecurity, envy, and comparison. Love also makes us resilient leaders: when we make mistakes, or get discouraged, it doesn’t have to overwhelm or devastate us; we know that regardless of what’s going on around us, we are deeply loved – and that’s enough.
Identifying those we lead as greatly loved is also crucial to godly leadership. I was invited to preach at a retreat, not too long ago, when God had to gently remind me to love the people in the audience, no matter what the response to the message was. Our advice may get ignored, our concerns dismissed, or our appointments cancelled last minute (or stood up). Worse, we may get hurt, let down, or blindsided… It’s in these moments that we forget that we’re shepherds called to love our flock regardless of how they behave, just as God loves us regardless of how well we follow Him. Love is key, love is paramount, love is “the greatest of these” (1 Cor. 13:13). We could be the most gifted, charismatic leader around, and yet without love, we’d be missing the point. Love transforms how we treat those we lead.
So I invite you to reflect on two questions today, in prayer and time spent with God:
1. What is your identity as a leader rooted in?
2. How can you better love those that you are leading?
As you consider them, may you be challenged, encouraged, and blessed by the answers that God reveals to you!