I want to let you in on a little leadership secret. Every leader values people. But very few leaders really value people.
On the one hand, every leader I know values people. They value people primarily for the pragmatic reason that they need people to achieve their leadership objectives. Every leader knows that nothing substantive can be accomplished on their own. In order to achieve something significant, the leader will need other peoples’ contributions.
What good leaders—and, more importantly, godly leaders—appreciate, is that valuing people for what they can do for you isn’t actually valuing them. That type of “valuing people” could be more crudely described as “using people.” A leader who thinks he values people because he needs people to advance his agenda, needs to consider whether he actually values the people he leads, or whether he is simply using them.
Truly valuing people—instead of just using them—involves a very different approach toward the people you lead. And this approach isn’t just pragmatic; it’s much deeper, starting with our heart attitude toward those around us.
Simply put: truly valuing people starts by loving them more than needing them. Truly valuing people starts by appreciating people’s inherent value—as people. And this value expresses itself in caring for them more than for what they can do. This is the way God would have us treat others. He wants us to love them more that we love leading them.
So, here’s a quick personal assessment. Consider the following differentiators between valuing people versus legitimately valuing people:
1. Is my ultimate objective the advancement of my purposes or a bigger purpose?
The first litmus test involves the ultimate objective of leadership. As long as I care more about what I want, people will only be tools to me. But if I’m genuinely focused on what God wants—and God’s priority is love—then my goals for those I lead are more about them experiencing God’s love from me and expanding His love to others. When I’m clear about God’s priorities, then I focus my leadership on loving people.
2. When I engage with those I lead; do I care as much about how they’re doing as I care about what they’re doing?
Most leaders engage in some kind of one-on-one meeting rhythm with their team members. In those conversations, is the focus of your discussion exclusively about work and moving things forward, or do you create space simply to connect about life—to know people better, to hear their hearts, to enter into their struggles and empathize with the challenges they’re facing as people, not just as people who work for you? Truly valuing people means seeing them as people—not just as widgets who can provide outcomes for you.
3. Do I view the people I lead as implementers of my objectives or consultants on how we can achieve the most and best together?
One of the most significant ways we can value people is by giving them a voice. When people are simply being used by a leader, there’s no time for that. A leader who truly values people, appreciates that they’re more than a skill set to be utilized; each person brings an important perspective that can contribute to making things better.
With those you lead, what’s the ratio of questions you ask them compared to instructions you provide them? Do you respect the people around you enough to believe that their perspectives are essential to making what you do work better?
4. How do I relate to people I’ve led who are no longer of functional use to me?
For me, this can be the toughest litmus test of all. Compounded by the pace and busyness of life, when someone no longer works for you—and therefore is no longer of pragmatic functional value to you—do they still matter to you? Do you still keep in touch? Are you still interested in their life and what they’re doing? Do you still value their opinion and input as someone formerly involved and familiar with your work? The greatest test of our legitimate value of people is how we relate to them once they’ve left our team and no longer have direct value to us.
So how did you do? Are there changes in your leadership you need to make in order to value people to a greater degree?
How about you? Do you just value people? Or do you really value people?