Leadership Skills: Understanding 

 December 9, 2023

By  Evan

This is the face of someone who finally feels understood:

A two-year-old boy smiles because he feels understood - good leaders are good at understanding

Our two-year-old knows exactly what he wants, but he doesn’t really know how to communicate it.

We play the guessing game with him a lot. He gets increasingly upset when we cannot figure out what he wants, but as soon as we get it right, his mood changes instantly. He smiles and laughs (see picture) because he feels understood.

Good Leaders Make People Feel Understood

Making people feel understood is one of the most underrated skills on the planet. It can help heal wounds, prevent arguments, and make people feel valued.

It’s also an essential part of leadership.

As a leader, it can be easy to forget what it’s like to be a follower.

For instance, the leader of a large company doesn’t have to think about money the way a new, young employee does. The leader of a church may not remember how hard it is to find time in the Word when it’s not part of your job and you have kids yelling about how hungry they are (even when you thought you woke up early enough to have some alone time).

And so, as leaders, we sometimes need to step back and really listen. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and do your best to understand what is going on.

Because once someone feels understood, they’re much more likely to listen and trust the way you are leading them.

The importance of understanding isn’t just a good idea because it sounds like a nice thing to do – it’s also modeled by God in the Bible.

The God Who Sees

The story of Hagar and Ishmael is tragic.  When Abraham’s wife, Sarah, could not conceive a child she decided to take matters into her own hands and suggested Abraham sleep with her maidservant, Hagar.

When Hagar conceived a child, Sarah treated her so harshly that she eventually ran away. Pregnant and alone in the desert, Hagar is approached by the Angel of the LORD, and he listens to her story. He hears “her affliction”, and calls her to return to Abraham and Sarah, while also promising to bless her with countless descendants through Ishmael.

Hagar then gives the Lord a name (many argue that this is the first time a human in the Bible gave the Lord a unique name). Genesis 16:13 says, “ Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees me.'”

Feeling understood, and no longer alone, Hagar returns to Abraham and Sarah.

How is it that the God of the Universe, the all-powerful one who created all things, can hear our affliction and see our pain? He made us, he knows us inside and out. Not only that, he came to Earth and lived as one of us.

As Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin.”

Understanding Brings Peace

Finally, its important to remember that understanding provides an incredible path to peace.

Whenever there is an argument, we tend to try and prove the other person wrong (or at least prove that we are right). Next time you find yourself in this position, try something different.

Instead of trying to prove the other person wrong, try to understand them. You’ll be amazed at how working towards understanding can diffuse situations. You will learn things about people you never knew, and you’ll build a stronger relationship. Not only that, when someone feels understood they’re much more likely to want to understand your position.

It’s not easy – we want to prove that we’re right and we want to be understood ourselves. The good news of the Gospel, however, is that we already are understood. We already are seen. The God of the Universe sees us and understands us, and we can rest in that instead of trying to prove ourselves.

leadership principles of nehemiah

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