When thinking of strong leaders, there are many traits that likely come to mind. Some leaders are perceived as strong because they have an outgoing personality. Other leaders are considered effective because they produce results. One characteristic that may not jump off the page when describing effective leaders is gentleness. Similar to meekness, gentleness may be perceived as weak and ineffective, but let’s revisit this line of thinking. As we will see, Jesus describes himself as gentle, and it is imperative that we as his followers allow the Holy Spirit to cultivate in us the characteristics Jesus embodied in his life and ministry.
We are in the middle of a series on the application of the fruit of the Spirit in the workplace, and this article focuses on gentleness. In Galatians 5:22-23, the Apostle Paul writes, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness…” (ESV). Here, gentleness is the ability to carefully accomplish an objective while maintaining an approachable posture.
The ESV Study Bible’s commentary notes draw a correlation between gentleness as a characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit and gentleness as a characteristic of Jesus. They reference Matthew 11:29 where Jesus uses gentleness as a characteristic to describe himself, and when we examine this passage in Matthew, we find great insight about the nature of a gentle leader.
Jesus was Gentle & Approachable
At first glance, gentleness may not be seen as a characteristic of a strong leader. However, Jesus uses gentleness to describe himself, and therefore it is imperative we reevaluate the role of gentleness in leadership and in the workplace. In Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus states, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” As we consider this passage, is it possible Jesus is identifying traits of his own life and character that he wants to be found in his followers, to be found in you and me? After he encourages his audience to learn from him, he immediately draws attention to his gentleness by describing himself as “gentle and lowly in heart.” It appears these may be characteristics he wants to see in our lives.
The word that best summarizes Jesus’ posture in this passage is approachable. Gentle leaders are approachable leaders. They maintain a sense of presence where their colleagues feel the freedom to approach with questions. Jesus was approachable because he was fully God and fully man. He could relate to people who were experiencing the brunt of life’s difficulties because he also went through many of the same challenges. An example of this is Matthew 4 where we see Jesus hungry and tempted during his wilderness experience. He knew what it was like to experience the effects of a sinful world, though he never sinned, and he was approachable because he could relate to those who were hurting around him.
Jesus was gentle because he carefully accomplished his mission while maintaining an approachable posture. He lived a perfect life (literally) while simultaneously allowing those who were perceived to be the least and lowest of society approach him. He never lost focus but carefully followed the Father’s will throughout his life and ministry. In our workplaces, we should consider Jesus’ example and learn from him by modeling his gentleness to our colleagues and customers. Like Jesus, we too can carefully accomplish our work while maintaining an approachable posture.
Gentleness at Work
One of the ways we can maintain an approachable presence is by investing in the lives of those with whom we work. We have all heard the saying that “people do not care how much we know until they know how much we care.” If we invest in our colleagues by caring for them and for their needs, they will recognize us as being approachable. When people think we are approachable, they will be more likely to collaborate with us and follow our lead. If they think we are aloof, we should not expect to build strong working relationships with them.
Another way to invest in people is by giving them our time. If we think we do not have enough time to equip and care for those we are leading, we are too busy. At this point, we have lost our ability to be gentle towards others because they no longer see us as approachable. This may seem elementary, but spending time with people is a requirement for developing strong and healthy relationships. Organizations that lack relationships have a weak infrastructure, but organizations built on strong relationships tend to thrive because there is a gentle attitude that allows them to carefully accomplish objectives while being present to serve one another.
As we seek to practice the habits and attitudes of Christ, let’s ask ourselves, “How gentle am I at work? Do I pay careful attention to the details, and do other people see me as approachable?” If we give attention to the details, and if we spend time with people, we will be positioned well to excel in our calling. As we invite the Holy Spirit’s presence into our work, He will give us the ability to cultivate gentle work environments where objectives are accomplished and where people can experience life-giving relationships.