Pay Attention!

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Mr. Stephens is one of the most effective educational leaders I know. As I have watched him, I have noticed several things about his style that make him very successful at what he does.

He never passes anyone on the campus without acknowledging them. He has a friendly word for the janitor, the gardener, the pre-K teacher, and the largest donor to his school. Everyone receives the same courtesy and respect.

He always has his "antenna" out when greeting people, noticing their body language, expression, and tone of voice. He seems to know when people need more than a perfunctory "good morning."

Watching him in delicate interactions with parent, faculty, staff, and students, I noticed that he has an intuitive grasp of when to be forceful and when the situation calls for gentleness and tact.

Mr. Stephens also knows when to speak and when to be silent in his conferences with others. Sometimes people need to "blow off steam." Sometimes they need to be interrupted. He knows when to engage and when to detach in conversation. This particular skill allows space for the real issues in the discussion to emerge. You can get to the bottom of what is really going on with someone.

Jesus had this special touch. I recall the way the Lord responded to Bartimaeus, the blind man on the side of the road (Luke 18:35-43). The disciples ignored Bartimaeus. But Jesus asked the man what he needed, and then gave it to him! Bartimaeus received his sight.

Zacchaeus was rich, but socially he was an outsider (Luke 19:1-9). Jesus "saw" him. Jesus "got" Zacchaeus without his having to say a word. He saw the wealth, the isolation, and the social embarrassment of profiting from one's neighbor. By his presence, Jesus provided a bridge for Zacchaeus to rejoin his community.

Moving even lower on the social ladder, Jesus treated the woman of Samaria with great respect and dignity (John 4:4-39). He talked to her. He treated her like an intelligent person even though she was a Samaritan, hated by the Jews as one of "mixed blood, and even worse, a woman with no standing in the ancient world."

When Mary wiped Jesus’ feet with her hair, Simon judged her to be unworthy (Luke 7:36-50). But Jesus was forceful with Simon and gentle with Mary, whose heart was broken.

In all of these encounters, Jesus is asking directly or indirectly, "What do you want me to do for you?" Sometimes the answers are spoken aloud, and sometimes they remain unspoken in the hearts of his hearers.

Whether he speaks to us directly or not, Jesus is our role model, and he listens to us. He wants to meet our needs, and he does. He never prejudges, ignores, or belittles anyone. He always pays close attention, demonstrates true care, and reunites the people he touches with their community. These are leadership skills we need to emulate.