There are scores of leadership models, styles, and philosophies in practice around the world today. A seemingly endless array of leadership and management experts all claim to have the keys to success in life, in work, and in ministry. Leaders have their own gifts and abilities, as well as a wide variety of experiences from which to draw their expertise. Every leader is different and has different skills. But is there one quality that all leaders can have that makes the biggest impact on their people? Is there one characteristic that trumps all the others? Perhaps there is. Perhaps it is availability.
How can being available to those we lead make a difference in their lives and in the life of our ministry?
1) Availability Communicates Value.
Those whom we lead want to feel valued. They want to know that they are important to us. They want to know that they matter. One of the best ways to communicate value to those around us is by being available to them, both in their time of need, as well as in every day life. Quality time is one of Gary Chapman’s “Love Languages” and being available communicates love and respect to those we lead in a tangible way. By spending time with people, we communicate to them that we want to know them and relate to them both personally and professionally. In a world where time is money, giving our time to others by simply being available for them meets enormously important felt needs. May we as leaders never be too busy, nor convey through our actions that we are too busy. Being available crushes the myth that leaders don’t care, that leaders have better things to do with their time. If you value your people, be available to them.
2) Availability Communicates Peace.
As leaders, we are sometimes charged with protecting those we lead and making the way safe for them, even as they struggle through the ups and downs of daily life. We are often the ones with the knowledge. We know where things are going. We have perhaps cast the vision and know exactly in what direction we should go to achieve it. Those who follow, however, may not be so certain. They may feel unsafe in their uncertainty. They may feel confused or even tense and stressed out while they journey through life and ministry with us. Therefore, being available to those we lead becomes an important part of bringing them along with us in realizing the mission to which God has called us. Answering questions, explaining things, and being there to listen to their discouragements can make a powerful difference. We may be tempted to write another document or send another email in an attempt to communicate our plans. However, that document and that email will never communicate the peace of mind our people need while serving in the trenches. Be available to your people, and bring them peace.
Communicating both peace and value to our people is essential. I speak from experience in this; I made a lot of mistakes. I led people for more than 20 years before I truly learned the importance of being available for them. I preferred typing an email to making a phone call. I guarded my meeting times closely, never taking meetings outside of office hours. I didn’t want to intrude when someone was having a crisis. All along, I never realized that I was sabotaging my leadership over these dear people. They wanted me to sit with them, to talk to them, to spend time hearing their concerns and praying together. I didn’t do it, and today I regret all the time I wasted being a less than effective leader.
We can change our tomorrows, however. We can communicate value and peace to our people every day. Be available to them. Make sure they know you stand for them and want them to thrive. Your people and your ministry will reap incredible benefits as a result.