It’s an old adage, but as I come to the end of a long teaching ministry, I think it’s true: people care how much you know when they know how much you care.
Students get used to being “passed around” in the educational system, moving from one class to another—one professor to another. When that becomes natural for them, they begin to look for something else: teachers who love them and truly care for them.
I am fortunate to have had teachers like that in my life. Decades later, we are still loved by them and our friendships grow more precious year-after-year.
A long time ago, I decided to “lead with love” in my teaching, and then later, to do the same when I became an administrator at Asbury Seminary. This was a conscious decision on my part, not an accident or a failure to “understand” what leadership is. I’ve had examples of people whose styles were regulatory, dictatorial, and punitive—people who think they have to create a “culture of fear” in order to lead.
I have chosen another way. And if I had to do it all over again, I would do it the same way. Teachers are ultimately respected and leaders are ultimately followed when those around them feel valued, appreciated, affirmed, and loved. This does not diminish our ability to critique and challenge; in fact, knowing we’re loved is the way we know that another’s disagreement is based on a genuine desire to see us do better.
If we do not know we are loved by another person, we never quite know what their motives are in relating to us. But when we give and receive love, then even the hard times can produce a good harvest.
And when you come down to the end of that “professional season,” you can leave with a host of friends who will genuinely miss you, not secretly be glad to see you go.