By John Smith

I heard a sermon centered on the biblical account of the Apostles asking Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” There was a bit of competition, and each of these men were hoping to get this recognition; but Christ surprised them by bringing a small child into their midst. He shared that the “greatest” is the person who ministers to this little child. While I believe He was putting an intentional focus on the importance of children, it also placed a broader emphasis on helping the “lowliest” among us.

While there are many applications for this, it’s a great example for leaders. Too often the emphasis is on the “performers,” the “cream of the crop,” or stars that shine above all others. Why not? They are the ones who win the awards, get the recognition, get the promotions. But imagine what better, healthier, and more successful organizations we could have if leaders would be more intentional and consistent in taking an interest in developing all employees. Spending time with the under performer, not in a corrective manner but in a sincere interest in helping them. Or learning about the people with whom they work. What motivates/demotivates them? What do they want to do or become?

Having worked for more than three decades, I have had very few bosses who seemed to care about me personally. As long as I was performing, all was good. It wasn’t that they didn’t care but, like so many, their focus was on the “bottom line,” profitability, all things that are important and necessary but often at the expense of helping and/or developing people. It seems like most bosses just show up every day to ensure that the wheels don’t come off the bus. It’s a cycle that continues until they retire or move on, but that’s not really leadership.

I now have had the opportunity to lead others, and looking back I don’t regret not having another meeting or working more hours or even making more money and getting more responsibility. You know what I do regret? Not investing more in people. I regret not being more intentional about spending time with the people with whom I worked. Not helping an under performer become better. I regret not helping a person who was unhappy in their role find happiness. I regret not learning more about what people wanted to become and helping them get there. We need more leaders. Not self-appointed. Not title only leaders. We need leaders who genuinely care about helping and developing people. Leaders who intentionally invest in others. They are the greatest among us.

Our guest columnist this month is John Smith, an Operations Supervisor at Fleenor Security Systems. Originally from Michigan, John lives in Knoxville with his wife and three daughters.