My middle daughter used to play for the university soccer team. In the four years she was there, her team won the national championship three times. (I like to say it was because of her, but actually it was a team effort.) That team loved their coach. I’ll call him “Coach C.” Coach C. demanded a lot from his team, but he also invested his life into the lives of his team members and they knew it. He understood that their lives were not soccer, that the ladies under his charge had other callings and that soccer was just a step on that path. So, he used that to teach them, not just about soccer, but about life and character. One day, the team had a game against another school whose team was at the bottom of the rankings. The girls on Coach C.’s team played a half-hearted game, underestimated their opponent and ended up losing. The next time Coach C. held practice, he ran the girls hard. My daughter said, “After that practice our tongues were literally hanging out of our mouths and we were leaning on each other just to stand up. Coach got us together and said, ‘You see how tired you are now? I expect you to be this tired after every game no matter who the opponent is. Got it?” My daughter said the message was received loud and clear. The girls played their hearts out in every game after that – not because they feared another hard practice, but because they didn’t want to disappoint Coach C. My daughter learned a lot of life lessons from Coach C. and God used his ministry to build her character. She’s thankful to coach for that and so am I. He is a good example of a godly leader and the kind of influence a godly leader can have on the lives of others.
Proverbs 29:19-21 are three verses that tell us about two kinds of leaders (managers) and the kinds of servants (employees) they create around them. First, we’re introduced to the employees of a heavy-handed manager:
“A servant [employee] will not be corrected by words: for though he understand he will not answer.” Right after that, we are told the kind of boss this employee has: “ Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”
Maybe you’ve worked for a boss like this (or you’ve been a boss like this). This boss is the demanding perfectionist who can only seem to find fault in the people who work for him. He’ll give a stern lecture or send a scathing e-mail in a heartbeat and has no problem down dressing an employee for all the world to see to “show him who’s boss,” and to put that employee “in his place.” If you’ve worked for a boss like this, you know the atmosphere that creates. You end up with employees who know how to take orders, but not how to take initiative. It really doesn’t matter what the boss says. You know he’s mad all the time and that he’s only looking for fault, so you spend your day just trying not to mess up. About the only thing you learn from a boss like that is how not to be a boss like that. People who stay with a boss like that only stay because they feel trapped. If they please their boss, it’s only out of fear of his/her wrath, not out of any sense of commitment. Give an employee in that circumstance a new opportunity, and they will leave and never look back.
The last verse in our passage tells us about a completely different boss:
“He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child shall have him become his son at the length.”
The big difference between this second boss and the first boss is how each of them views their position. The first one sees his status as boss as a position of power and uses his authority like a hammer, beating everyone into submission. The second boss sees his status as an opportunity for ministry. He will use his authority as needed, but he has more tools in his “boss toolkit” than a hammer. He sees his role as boss as an opportunity to mold a team and to build his team members into people better than they were when they came in. Can a boss like this be stern? Yes. But he is also fair and while he may not always say it, his employees know he cares about them as people. To use a sports analogy, this boss “coaches his people up.” This boss creates an atmosphere where the employees know how to take orders, but they also know how to take initiative. Most will “catch the boss’s vision” and learn to anticipate what needs to be done next even without being told. These employees are not afraid of messing up; they’re afraid of letting the boss down. That’s a much different and much healthier attitude. Give an employee in that circumstance a new opportunity, they might not be so eager to leave. Because a wise boss who respects his employees is hard to come by. A boss like that doesn’t just have employees, he builds relationships.