When you think of a leader what traits come to mind? Maybe vision, wisdom, fortitude, communication, etc. Honestly that list could be as long as we want to make it. But have you ever considered that good leaders lead through their scars? That's right, scars.
Let me explain by turning it around. When someone is telling you a personal story when do you feel most connected to them? Likely not at the beginning because you're trying to figure out where the story is going. Certainly, not at the end if they triumphed. Why? Because "Yay for them!" You are happy for them. No, it is in the middle of their struggle. In their darkness and pain. That's where their scar begins and where you begin to empathize with them and sense their pain. That's right, you are connecting with them in their pain NOT their triumph. In their triumph you're excited for them and happy for them. But in the pain you're with them because likely you've felt similar pain. It's that similarity in the struggle that bonds you.
Let's consider Jesus, the greatest leader of all time. In John 20:25 Thomas says, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Here is a man doubting the vision of others. The others had seen the resurrected Christ. Seeing the resurrected Christ gave them vision of what was to be. Thomas, however, had none. How was Jesus going to connect with Thomas? How was Jesus going to affectively lead Thomas if Thomas wasn't on board. The Bible tells us. A few verses later in John 20:27 Jesus says to Thomas, "Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
As the leader, Jesus invited Thomas to connect with his scars. To feel and see them. This is the point at which Jesus leads like no one else. Leaders, let your followers touch and see your scars.
Too many leaders try not to be vulnerable. Why? Well the reasons are multiple but some might say, "Vulnerability breeds lack of confidence." I would argue the opposite. Showing that you are vulnerable as a leader further connects and strengthens the bond of those you're leading. Take for example a very evil person in history, Adolf Hitler. When he wrote his book, "Mein Kampf" which translated to English is "My Struggle." Why did he give it that title? Because he knew we connect through our struggles. Through that book he connected to a whole nation of people. He knew that as a leader his scars where a tool to help him connect with his people and become a strong leader. (Just because he was a leader does not make him good.) I'm done with Hitler but you get my point.
Scars show that you have experience. Scars show you can be wounded and survive and even thrive. Scars show your followers you are like them. Scars show that you believe the vision is worth the pain. Scars instill confidence not take it away.
Pastors and leaders, are you trying to not be vulnerable? Stop. People need a leader they can connect with. A leader who they know has been there and done that and have the scars to prove it. Why? Because they want to feel connected to their leader and to know the vision is worth it.
Often times I tell my leadership team, "I don't know." I quickly follow up with, "But I'm not worried." Leaders, pastors, do your people know it's ok to "Not know." I've found when I say those words someone on the team fills in the gap. Just like Thomas' hand filled the gap in Jesus side. It increases the bond both emotionally and intellectually.
I would challenge you to lead with your scars. Share your woundedness with your people. Lead with, "I don't know but we'll figure it out." Let your people know the vision is worth the scars. If you can't do that, then it's time to question your vision and your role as a leader.