The Fragrance of Leadership
Standing in my friend's kitchen while she was making oatmeal, I was immediately transported back to my grandmother's home, where every morning of my summer visits, she would make the best oatmeal on the planet. Loading it with real cream and brown sugar, she would place the bowl in front of me, making me feel special and loved. Now, once again, I was feeling that same sense of comfort and love.
The aroma of oatmeal that evoked a powerful emotional response in me is much like the fragrance of influence. Leadership influence, the effect of one person on another, has the power to shape the destiny of others, either negatively or positively. Positive influence is grace-filled, generous, and authentic. It leaves a sweet fragrance. Negative influence leaves a putrid stench—it focuses on tasks rather than relationships, hoards ministry, and is pride-filled. Let's look at Dana and Lisa, two hypothetical leaders who wield their influence differently.
Dana: Negative Influence Yields a Putrid Stench
Tension filled the air as the team waited for Dana, the director of women's ministry, to enter the conference room. After two years, Dana struggled to garner the respect of her team. Four members resigned and the remaining women were on the brink of leaving. Her influence impacted her team negatively because of the following:
• Tasks Trump Relationships—Dana expected her team to execute her vision before she invested in building relationships. Consequently, her team did not have "buy in," did not value the task, and felt they were being used.
• Hoarding Ministry—Dana rarely gave projects to her team to execute and micromanaged the process, leaving them feeling unvalued and inadequate.
• Pride—Thanks to a superstar complex, Dana's identity was embedded in performance. If her team members brought a concern or criticism to her attention, she took it personally and accused them of sabotaging the ministry. Pride kept Dana from recognizing her weaknesses and submitting herself to spiritual oversight.
Lisa: Positive Influence Yields a Sweet Aroma
Lisa and her team celebrated yet another successful fundraiser for the community. For the seventh year in a row, Lisa ended the fundraising season with a dinner to honor her team, thanking each member with a gift of her appreciation. At the end of every celebratory dinner, the same team signs up for next year's fundraiser with one stipulation: that Lisa lead the committee. Lisa's influence positively impacted her team because of the following:
• Grace—Lisa's leadership style is based on Philippians 2:3-4: "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too." Lisa intentionally invested in a relationship with each member of her team. She spent one-on-one time with each person, asking about dreams, passions, and vision for the future. Feeling valued and affirmed, each team member wanted to execute Lisa's vision for the fundraiser.
• Generosity - Lisa gave ministry away, often asking individuals to speak at community functions. When she saw potential in others, she would give them opportunities to flex their leadership muscles and spearhead a project.
• Authentic - Lisa didn't pretend to know all the answers. She understood her weaknesses and managed them by humbly submitting herself to accountability partners.
Those of us in leadership can see ourselves both in Dana and Lisa, but to what degree will determine the fragrance we leave in the lives of the people we influence.
Use this quiz to determine the fragrance of your leadership influence. Use the following scale:
4 = always
3 = sometimes
2 = seldom
0 = never
1. Do the people you lead hang around after meetings to speak with you?
2. How often do you affirm and reward the people you lead for a job well-done?
3. How often do you use social media to acknowledge a job well-done?
3. How often are you developing new leaders?
4. How often do you allow people you lead to represent you at public functions?
5. Are you invested in your staff's leadership development and discipleship?
6. Do you have regular meetings with your spiritual authority, discussing your heart issues?
7. How often do you have heart-to-heart discussions with the people you lead?
8. Do you regularly pray for the people you lead?
The higher your score, the sweeter your leadership influence. If your score was lower than you hoped, here are a few practical steps to improve your fragrance:
• Speak candidly with your spiritual authority, giving permission to address issues that hinder your leadership.
• Find a mentor to help you develop your leadership skills.
• Humble yourself before your team, explaining your desire to improve your leadership and, if necessary, ask for their forgiveness.
• Consider taking a sabbatical from your leadership position. Take time to reflect, pray, and seek the Lord. Remember, at the end of your leadership tenure you want the lingering fragrance of your leadership influence to smell of grace, generosity, and authenticity.
Julia Mateer serves as the director of women's small groups at Bayside Community Church. A writer, speaker, and professional Christian counselor, she lives in Florida with her husband, Mark.