Welcome to ‘People centred leadership: A different perspective’. In this series of articles, Kathryn Heslop reflects on the topic of leadership, drawing on her background in social work and counselling and her role as Executive Assistant to the National Leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, where she is surrounded by incredible leaders every day.  

Do you truly grasp how valuable all people are in God’s sight?  

For not even a tiny sparrow, who is worth a few meagre cents, is forgotten by God. Not one of them can fall to the ground without him knowing. And God tells us himself that we are more valuable to him than a whole flock of sparrows! We're so valuable that even the hairs on our head are numbered [1].  

In fact, the bible is littered with proclamations of God’s love for us. We are precious in his eyes, we are honoured by him, he loves us with an everlasting love, we are rarer than fine gold…[2] 

God cares for us deeply and values us immensely. All of us. 

I often think of a story someone once told me. This person had a manager who valued her. They asked for her contribution and sought her input. They asked her how her work was going. They asked about her life. They took the time to listen with their full and present attention. They showed her honour and respect, and in return, she had much respect for them. This manager left and another took their place. The new manager was too busy to stop and talk, too preoccupied to take an interest in her work, or her life. They never sought her input, in fact, they were so focussed on the task at hand that they often didn’t cross paths with her at all. And the result? She felt undervalued, her motivation waned, and she didn’t have much respect to give in return.  

God instructs us to honour and respect all people [3]. To treat them with high esteem, to show consideration toward them, and to grasp how truly valuable they are in His sight. 

So how do we honour those we lead? 

One simple yet profound way we can honour others is through the art of active listening. We think 4x faster than others speak, so when we listen to others, we need to pay attention to whether we are truly listening to them. Do we allow the internal noise to take precedent? Do we cut others off mid-sentence? Do we formulate a response in our mind while they are still speaking? Do we put our need to respond above their need to be heard? Do we value what we say more than what they say? [4]

Hunter writes, active listening “requires a disciplined effort to silence all that internal conversation while we are attempting to listen to another human being…it requires a sacrifice, an extension of ourselves, to block out the noise and truly enter into another person’s world, even for a few minutes”. 

To actively listen requires us to: 

  • be present and engaged. 
  • concentrate on what is being said. 
  • pay attention to what is not being said – i.e., their body language. 
  • show good eye contact. 
  • ask open-ended questions. 
  • paraphrase and reflect on what you have heard. 
  • listen intently. 
  • be open minded and non-judgemental. 
  • be patient [5][6]. 

Another way to honour others is by being on time. When we are late, we send a message that our time is more important than theirs [7].  

We need to be people of our word, following through with the commitments we make [8].  

Honouring others doesn't mean walking on eggshells. As a leader it is important to be authentic, open, honest, and assertive. Problems need to be faced; conflicts need to be resolved—but do so with the utmost respect towards the person in front of you. 

And always remember if you make a mistake, own it, and apologise. Be quick to show gratitude toward others. And when people need encouragement or support, give it freely.  

People centred leadership is not only about being attunedresponsiveinclusive, and attentive(as I have previously written) but it is also about being honouring. Philippians 2:3-4 puts it so well, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).  

How honouring are you of the people you lead?  

Other articles in this series:

People centred leadership: Introduction

People centred leadership: Attuned

People centred leadership: Responsive

People centred leadership: Inclusive

People centred leadership: Attentive

In these short articles, Kathryn reflects on six characteristics she believes are crucial for leaders today: Attuned, Responsive, Inclusive, Attentive, Honouring, and Partnering.  

Her thoughts challenge some of the more traditional views on leadership. Her ideas are grounded in practical experience and a passion for serving God and others. She hopes these musings will bring you a fresh and valuable perspective on what makes an effective leader today - a leader who must, at their core, be centred on people.

Kathryn Heslop (BSocWk (hons), PGDipEd (Counselling and Guidance)

Endnotes: 

[1] Matthew 10:29-31.

[2] Isaiah 43:4, Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 13:12.

[3] 1 Peter 2:17.

[4] Hunter, J. C. (1998). The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. Currency.

[5] Cuncic, A. (2022, November 9). What is Active Listening? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-active-listening-3024343.

[6] Kristenson, S. (2, February 10). 13 Ways to Show Respect For Others in Your Everyday Life. Happier Human. https://www.happierhuman.com/show-respect/

[7] Hunter, J. C. (1998). The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. Currency.

[8] Hunter, J. C. (1998). The Servant: A Simple Story About the True Essence of Leadership. Currency.

Photo: From National Baptist Hui 2022, by Charl Louw

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