You and I should be hospitable leaders.
I know hospitality isn’t something you’ve commonly associated with definitions of leadership, but it’s critical to our effectiveness that we begin to do so. Why?
You can’t influence people if you haven’t invited them and welcomed them once they’ve arrived. When you can get people to the table, when you can get people in a place where they’re willing to listen to you, then you can be successful.
This is the power of marrying hospitality and leadership.
Hospitality is a precursor to any effective leadership theory or strategy. For instance, servant leadership is amazing. However, you can’t serve someone who isn’t there. It’s hard to serve someone, even if he or she is there, who doesn’t feel welcome.
The concept of hospitable leadership contains inherent tension for those who believe leadership is exerting power and control.
I prefer to think about leadership as influence. I need to get people in a place where I can influence them. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with power if it’s used properly, but frankly, I just don’t think the best way to think about leadership is in terms of power and control. I think it’s better to put people in a place where they’re willingly influenced and where they engage their will in the leadership effort you’re exerting, not where they’re being lorded over. I want my team to want to go where I’m trying to lead them. This is where I think there’s a differentiation made between moral leadership and immoral leadership.
Hitler was a very effective leader, but he wasn’t a moral leader. Moral leaders lead in moral ways to moral ends. They’re taking people someplace good and they’re doing it in the right way. Hospitality creates an environment where moral leadership can be exercised and moral leadership is about engaging people’s wills. It’s about leading people who give you the permission to lead them. Hitler was an example of an inhospitable leader.
When I think of hospitable leadership, I think of my friend Frances Hesselbein, the former CEO of Girl Scouts of the United States of America. She is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a protégé of Peter Drucker, the consultant, educator and author Forbes magazine referred to as “the founder of modern management.” Frances once told me and my congregation that “leaders of the past tell. Leaders of the future ask.”
Today, over the last 27 years as a pastor and leader in a suburb of New York City, I’ve learned that if I want people to do something because I tell them to, I’m going to be wanting a long time. I’ve got to figure out a way to motivate people to want to do good things ultimately because they want to do good things. For me, this begins by following Jesus’s example of being a hospitable leader.
For more information on hospitable leadership, check out my new book, The Hospitable Leader.
This article originally appeared here.