#302 Serving Leaders ask those who follow: “Who are you?”

June 9, 2021 

Serving leaders first ask themselves, “Who am I?” But then they take a look at those who follow them and ask a related question, “Who are you?” Serving leaders love those who follow and they desire for their followers the same that they desire for themselves. They invite their followers to also learn about their identity, their strengths and their weaknesses. They invite their followers to also consider Paul’s instruction: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Romans 12:3, NIV). Serving leaders help their followers to think of themselves with “sober judgement” by asking “Who are you?”  

Serving leaders ask “Who are you?“ to establish identity.  

Serving leaders do not identify their followers only by their role. They acknowledge that each person is unique with an identity beyond what they do. They seek to learn to know each person they lead deeply. They become students of those they lead. With a genuine desire to know they ask, “Who are you?” Beyond questions related to their work, serving leaders often ask questions like, “What makes you laugh? What makes you cry? When do you feel most fully alive?” Serving leaders also want their followers to understand themselves. They ask their followers “Who are you?” to encourage reflection on their own identity.   

Serving leaders ask “Who are you?“ to express strengths.  

Serving leaders recognize that each of their followers have unique gifts that God has given to them. They ask, “Who are you?” to identify those strengths. They are not afraid to ask, “What do you most love to do when you are here? What gives you the most energy? What more would you love to do?” Serving leaders are willing to invest time and energy to identify the greatest strengths of those they lead because they genuinely care about the person. When needed and when possible, they are willing to shift a person’s responsibilities to best fit their strengths.  They focus on the strengths of those they lead and seek to maximize the potential that they see in each person.    

Serving leaders ask “Who are you?“  to expose weaknesses.  

Serving leaders also ask, “Who are you?” to expose the weaknesses in those they lead. As they know for themselves, no one can be strong in every area. Serving leaders don’t expose weaknesses of others to demean or discourage. Instead, they help followers understand their own weaknesses to build a strong team. By recognizing an area of weakness, a follower will be willing to pass off a task to another person on the team gifted in that area. So, serving leaders ask their followers “What parts of your work are not life giving to you? Which elements of your job could be done better by another member of our team?” They listen carefully to the answers and serve by helping the follower to discover ways that others can complement their weaknesses.  

Serving leaders continue the journey of asking the right questions by asking those they serve, “Who are you?” 

For further reflection and discussion: 

  •  For these questions, choose one person you lead and answer the questions based on that person.  
  • On what does this person base their identity? Do I know them well enough that I understand who they are apart from the role they fulfill?  How can I help this person be more secure in their identity? 
  • What are their greatest strengths? How are these expressed in their role? Are there changes I should make to their responsibilities that would allow them to be more closely aligned with their strengths? What potential do I observe in this person and when can I communicate that to them? 
  • What are their greatest weaknesses? Have I explored these with the person in a way that does not diminish their strengths? Have I clearly helped them understand that these are opportunities for teamwork?  Are there any changes I should make in their responsibilities to minimize their weaknesses?   

Until next time, yours on the journey, 

Jon Byler 

In the next issue, we’ll examine another question serving leaders ask themselves: Who am I becoming?