Laura Ortberg Turner is a writer, speaker, and employee of Fuller Seminary. She lives in Palo Alto with her husband and writes at loturner.com.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”—Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak
When I was growing up, my favorite days were Donut Run days. Every once in a while, my dad would rouse us out of bed early in the morning with little direction–just to come downstairs quickly, to get in the car; yes, we could stay in our pajamas, yes, we could go back to bed, but only if we wanted to miss something great. We would groan in feigned exhaustion, but we knew we were in for something special. And it wasn’t just the chocolate long johns or the pink-frosted numbers, but the goodness of being with someone in our pajama-clad, bed-headed smallness. Someone who had other, important things to do but chose to be with us.
When someone has shown you tenderness of heart and great care, you will do anything for that person. You will remember their sacrifice. You will be shaped by their generosity of spirit. There is a certain tenderness of soul that a good leader must have, a way of understanding the people and dynamics around them that builds trust.
The best leaders I have ever come across aren’t the flashiest or the most well-known. They are kind and generous in spirit. They are thoughtful, humble, and committed to sharing the truth in love. They care for the hearts of the people around them.
I am especially lucky that, for me, my father has been chief among those who have cared for my heart.
As I grew up, Donut Runs morphed into lunches and long drives, conversations about career and the future, and a new kind of friendship. Our relationship has gone this way not because my dad has continued to lead me (which, now that I am an adult, is exactly what he shouldn’t be doing), but because he has shown me how to lead myself.
Love yourself, encourage yourself, and hold yourself to high standards, he has told us.
Sometimes we still go get donuts together on Saturday mornings at our local Krispy Kreme. And there are moments when, sitting across the table from each other, I can hardly believe my gratitude at the example of this imperfect, kindhearted, vulnerable person. It has been said that people will walk through fire for a vulnerable leader, and it is true. But we will also walk through life with them. Love yourself, encourage yourself, hold yourself to high standards. Learn from those who love fiercely and sacrificially. And then, go and do likewise.
Hear from John this August at The Global Leadership Summit and watch for his new title, releasing soon, Who Is This Man? The Unpredictable Impact of the Inescapable Jesus