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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

02 Feb '11

Soft Hearts, Thick Skin

Posted by T.J. Addington in emotional intelligence (EQ), Healthy leaders, The heart

Healthy leaders develop a well regulated balance between nurturing a soft heart while maintaining a thick skin. Leadership is both a wonderful privilege and at times deeply painful. And it always requires us to have open minds.

Leadership is not for the easily discouraged, quickly offended or easily wounded. After all, one cannot lead for any length of time without being misinterpreted, unappreciated or even maligned. If it happened to Paul (Philippians 1, 1 Corinthians) it will certainly happen to us. To survive, it is absolutely necessary to develop a thick skin that does not take issues personally, keeps life and people in perspective and even maintains a sense of humor about otherwise crazy circumstances. The ability to laugh at ourselves is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.

While a thick skin is necessary it can also insulate us from the necessary sensitivity to people and situations that make it possible for us to lead well. We risk the temptation of becoming hard in our desire to protect ourselves from the inevitable pains that leadership inflicts – losing our sensitivity to people and becoming immune to the counsel of others. It can cause us too to quickly dismiss counsel we did not seek, especially when it is delivered poorly – which is where the pain often comes from.

I am always impressed with the Apostle Paul's gracious love and sensitivity toward people, even when they had significantly disappointed him. This does not mean he could not be hard on individuals who needed to wake up and smell the coffee but he maintained a soft heart nonetheless.

Healthy leaders understand the need for both a thick skin and a soft heart and they nurture both. Thick skin helps us keep perspective and not take things personally – even when others make it personal and even seek to inflict pain. Soft hearts keep our minds open to the possibility that even though the delivery of criticism may be faulty, there may still be truth to the message that we need to consider. And, a soft heart allows us to stay connected even with those we may disagree with - if they are willing to reciprocate.

Soft hearts are maintained by an ongoing analysis of our own motives, attitudes toward others, compassion toward even people who hurt us and being willing to consider criticism while not taking it personally. When you get it down perfect, send me the recipe.