These were her words after much discussion. We had been talking past each other for an hour and I was dutifully trying to lead us into "right thinking" but, at the root of all of it, Shelli just wanted to feel my unconditional love.
If you are a leader in any capacity, you know this is easy to miss. We will be "heart-deaf" when our agenda and self-concern (even about our "effectiveness") rule the day. Defensiveness and frustration are key signs (or at least the precursors) that we are not listening to the hearts of those we lead.
We need to stop being so self-concerned that we cannot be others-concerned. We need to get out of our own way enough to love those we lead. When you sense criticism, don't defend, ask questions. Seek to understand the concerns and fears at the root of the criticism. When you're frustrated that people aren't following you, don't grumble, find out why. If you are humble, you'll often find that in all your "leadership", you haven't be intentional to communicate your love. People feel safe and well-led when they feel loved.
Of course you'll never see out of your pit of defensiveness and frustration if you aren't trusting in the Gospel. So, if this is your struggle, start there. Ask if your defensiveness comes from needing to be identified as a "good leader." Examine whether your frustration comes from feeling that those you so diligently lead owe you something (well, them and God, of course). The Gospel has something to say about these things. When you believe what it says, you find a blessed self-forgetfulness and freedom to seek the interests of others before your own.
Incidentally, that's what Jesus calls leadership (Luke 9:46-48, Matthew 20:25-28 and 1 Peter 5:1-5).
For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1 Thessalonians 2.3–8)P.S. Shelli, I really love you.
"Do you get it, really..."