The Father-Heart of Leadership

You can’t understand leadership without first understanding fatherhood. The new paradigm of leadership in our mission is going from leading an organization to now leading a family; families with children, grand-children, nieces and nephews, and son and daughter-in-laws. You don’t need to see movies like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” to understand that big families come with complications and a lot if fun. But also, healthy families all building on the same values are very powerful.

I am a father of four and my oldest son has different needs than my youngest son. To my oldest, we talk differently than we do to my youngest. With my youngest I have more boundaries and spend more time instructing him about how I think things should be. We might call this “raising kids”, but with my oldest that is over 20 years of age, we communicate more like friends and colleagues. Leadership can be much the same. Father and mothers know that each child is unique. They each have different, gifts, personality, interests. Each one of my boys has a different gift and without one of them our family is incomplete. It is the same in leadership where we need all the different leadership giftings to be complete and healthy. And we need to understand how to support and communicate to each person in our team according to their need and season in life.

A value that we have in our family is that there is always room for one more person.  My children will often bring people home with them and even ask if we can pick up hitchhikers when we are on the road. This inclusiveness makes our family a greenhouse for community, and in the same way leaders who include people are leaders who will make great teams. I am looking forward to the day when my boys start bringing home their girlfriends; maybe because I love recruiting or just because it will bring something new to our family and add to our growing family culture.  New team members always bring something new with them. I often hear leaders in our mission talking about discipling as a one-way monologue but I think to stay cutting-edge we need a dialogue and to embrace what new people in our team contribute.

A good friend and colleague of mine was getting married a few years ago and we talked about selfishness.  He said to me, “You think you aren’t selfish, just wait until you get married. If you still think you are okay, wait until you have kids!” He was exactly right! Fathers and mothers need to give up and sacrifice some of their own ambitions, ministries and things they want to do in order to serve the best interests of the family. Fathers and mothers take time to raise their children, take time to come and watch the football tournament, and drive long distances to get them to practice. When they get older they to visit their student flat or to come buy them a coffee. After all, we are family and family goes after relationships. And it should be just the same in leadership.

As I said before, in our mission we need to shift our mindset from leading structures and an institution, to raising up people.  Like raising a family, in our teams we give guidance and boundaries when needed but all the while working to raise confident team members that stand on their own and fully express their God-given gifts and callings, complimenting our teams and giving them depth and diversity.  But this can’t be done outside of relationships.  We can’t lead from a distance just like we cannot raise children from a distance.  We need to be there through the different seasons of growth, understanding what kind of leadership is needed for the time and then maintaining the support and relationship as the person or team is grown and mature.  This attitude and outlook in leadership will give birth to more father and mother-hearted leadership, changing a generation of leaders and generations after them.

From my family to yours,

Rune Saether for Mission Innovation

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