Open-Handed Leadership

file4411238163360Last week I listened to the newest episode of Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast.  If you’re not a regular listener to this, let me highly recommend that you listen – it’s well worth your time.  The episodes are 20-25 minutes, and they publish one episode per month.

This month’s deals with open-handed staffing.  And as I listened to it in my car, I resonated with it more deeply than I think I have with any topic I’ve heard on the podcast.

One of their organization’s core values is to be open-handed.  That involves generosity (which I taught on yesterday), but it also involves people.

One of Andy’s comments hit home concerning being open-handed with the people who work or serve in our organizations – “everybody – paid and volunteer – is ultimately a volunteer, choosing to show up… it’s not like we own the people we lead.”

So true, and so challenging.

One of the most difficult things about the context I lead in is that this is a very transitional area.  The vast majority of the people who live here are not from here, and most people come here for 3-5 years and then are transferred to another part of the country (or the world).  That has positives, but it also has negatives.  Some people you really, really don’t want to see go!  And if we’re not careful, we can impose a level of guilt and pressure on those we lead that will create a culture of secrecy, where they don’t feel like they can share what’s going on in their lives, especially concerning potential moves.  And when that’s true of staff, that can create a very dysfunctional and secretive culture.

We have to lead open-handed, understanding that everyone we lead is placed in our organization by God, and almost all of them will be with us only for a season.  We choose how that season will end – in a positive, encouraging, uplifting and blessing way, or… not.

I can recall once many years ago being contacted by a church concerning a potential job opportunity.  I felt like the appropriate thing to do was to go to my current boss, who had mentored me and taught me a great deal, and share the opportunity, seeking his insights and sharing that I was struggling with the decision to stay or go.  Unfortunately, it was not a good conversation over the following weeks.  He saw my even considering the position as a lack of loyalty to him, and the transition was not a positive one at all.  I learned a great deal from that about the value of open-handed leadership when it comes to staff.  I’ve not always been great at it – to be sure – but Stanley’s podcast reminded me of the simple truth that everything I have been given – my leadership, my influence with others, my experiences – all of it is given by God for me to steward.  And when I lead in an open-handed way, encouraging openness and providing encouragement to and blessing those I lead when our season to work and walk together is coming to a close, I honor God and others.

In whatever context you lead, intentionally choose to lead open-handed, especially when it comes to the paid staff or volunteers who serve on your team.  That kind of generosity of spirit creates a healthy staff culture, and it truly honors God and inspires people.

Have you ever worked for an open-handed leader?  Would others characterize you that way?  How can you grow in this in 2015?