Wanting From….Wanting For

As leaders, it often feels like we’re asking people to give us something.  Time. Energy. Money. Ideas. And so much more.

Years ago I heard Andy Stanley say that before we ask something from people in terms of giving, we should do something for them.  I’ve never forgotten that, and it’s a shift in perspective that’s starting to invade so much of my thinking.

You can spend your life trying to get something from your kids, from your spouse, from your friends, from your faith, from your family, from your employees, from your volunteers, from your community, from your congregation.  But what are you doing for them?  What if you cared more about wanting something for them than wanting something from them?  See the shift?  I think it’s huge.

A great example came a few weeks ago from friends who are in real estate.  We’re on their mailing list, but instead of the typical “please use us and please give us business”, they instead sent a newsletter full of helpful tips on credit rating management.  They didn’t ask anything of their customer base.  They did something for us.  They added value.  They really want to see their clients and friends manage their money well, so they sent out practical tips.  With no expectation of anything in return.  And of course, that made me appreciate and respect them even more.

There are multiple ways this idea is impacting me:

  • As a boss, I’m thinking far less less about what I can get from my co-workers and far more about what I can do for them.  Sometimes it’s material (how about some Starbucks?), but often it’s less tangible than that.  I just want them to be better off for because we worked together.  I’m looking for ways to help them professionally and personally.  I want to do as much to add value to our time together as I can. Whether it’s sharing insights, encouraging them in their personal journey, praying for them or offering some of my time to help them with their responsibilities.  It’s getting to the point where I don’t think they work for me; I think I work for them.
  • As a friend, husband and father, life shows me again and again the best thing I can do in a relationship is to bring something to it, not simply try to get something out of it.  In fact, the more I try to get something out of it, the less healthy it becomes.  The more I give, ironically, the richer and more rewarding the relationship becomes.
  • When leading any group that “follows” you (whether it’s a congregation, a crowd or even your Twitter/Facebook friends), the more you can do for them, the better it gets.  Share freely…point to the work of others…celebrate other people’s victories…mourn when they mourn.

This may not be news for you, but just being honest, many leaders are inherently selfish.  Maturity involves crawling out of that skin and putting on another one.

None of this should be a surprise because this is actually how God operates.  He didn’t really come to be served, but to serve.  And as much as God asks us for things from us, underneath that is a much deeper desire he has to see something positive happen for us.    It also shouldn’t be a surprise because some of the most draining people in our lives are the people who always want something from us and rarely do anything for us.

What are you learning in this area?  What are some of the best ways you’ve discovered to want something for others and to do something for others?

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