Hospitable Leaders Are Willing to Let Go

Hospitality is not a subtle invitation to adopt the lifestyle of the host, but the gift of a chance for the guest to find his own." - Henri Nouwen

I love that quote from Henri Nouwen. To me, it reveals a really important aspect of leadership.

Too often, we've mistaken leadership as this old-school idea of the leader "carrying" their followers to a destination. He or she is the hero. And, without their presence, the followers would be a lost cause. But true, quality leaders help people find their place instead of putting them in their place. Whether their “place” is somewhere else in the long-term, or whether it’s in the same office as the leader for the next 30 years, they do whatever it takes to provide vision and direction.

True leadership isn't selfish.

Look, I'll be the first to tell you I struggle with this at times. I'm blessed to have people who believe in what I'm doing enough to go on this ride with me. But I'm also blessed to have been a part of inspiring other people who have left me to go pursue their dreams elsewhere.

That stings a little when I first realize someone I've dreamed and partnered with for a long time is leaving. But that's just part of leadership. Part of what we do to is to help our followers' dreams come true in their God-destined place.

In every leadership setting, we have to make sure we're creating space for those we lead to grow as people and leaders themselves. This involves listening to their ideas, giving them room to be creative, and allowing them to make critical decisions. And, sometimes, it's simply letting them go.

You see, hospitable leaders aren't interested in creating people in our image. We're interested in creating space for people to become who God made them to be. We want to help them find their place and be everything they were meant to be in that place – no matter where that might be.

"Hospitable leaders aren't interested in creating people in our image. We're interested in creating space for people to become who God made them to be."

Henri Nouwen compares this to the relationship between parent and child. He says "our children are our most important guests, who enter into our home, ask for careful attention, stay for awhile and then leave to follow their own way."

The temptation, Nouwen says, is to cling and hold on to our children, using them for our own unfulfilled needs. But we have to remember that they have their own purpose and destination, and it's our job to help them find it – and rejoice when they do.

Now, not everyone will eventually leave us (And, hopefully, your kids won't be living with you forever!) You might lead some people whose long-term dreams are connected with yours, people who stay with you for a long time.

That's why it's important to create environments that are equally welcoming to those who leave and those who stay – to the people who will grow and mature by fulfilling their dreams elsewhere and to those who will expand by continuing to pursue their dreams with us. Maybe this whole deal didn’t originate with them, but they still feel like they're a part of something bigger and are inspired to help create a future with us.

As a leader, we'll have people come and go throughout our careers. Let's make the most of their time with us, whether it’s one year or 30 years, encouraging them and helping them fulfill their God-given destiny.

Then, one day, they'll become hospitable leaders, whether they're collaborating with you or venturing out on their own.

To hospitable leadership!      

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Becky Scholten