Welcome to ‘People centred leadership: A different perspective’. In this series of articles, Kathryn Heslop reflects on the topic of leadership, drawing on her background in social work and counselling and her role as Executive Assistant to the National Leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand, where she is surrounded by incredible leaders every day.  

In these short articles, Kathryn reflects on six characteristics she believes are crucial for leaders today: Attuned, Responsive, Inclusive, Attentive, Honouring, and Partnering.   

Her thoughts challenge some of the more traditional views on leadership. Her ideas are grounded in practical experience and a passion for serving God and others. She hopes these musings will bring you a fresh and valuable perspective on what makes an effective leader today - a leader who must, at their core, be centred on people.  

Kathryn Heslop (BSocWk (hons), PGDipEd (Counselling and Guidance))  

There is something about Psalm 139 that resonates deeply within me.  

1 You have searched me, Lord, 

    and you know me. 

2 You know when I sit and when I rise; 

    you perceive my thoughts from afar. 

3 You discern my going out and my lying down; 

    you are familiar with all my ways. 

4 Before a word is on my tongue 

    you, Lord, know it completely. 

5 You hem me in behind and before, 

    and you lay your hand upon me. 

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, 

    too lofty for me to attain.… 

13 For you created my inmost being; 

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 

    your works are wonderful, 

    I know that full well…. 

In this passage, we experience a person created by God—deeply and intimately formed and unconditionally adored by him. There is nowhere this person can go to escape this loving presence. Their actions, thoughts, emotions, their innermost being is completely known and understood. We see a God who is intimately attuned to this person that he loves. 

And in the same way, I find my soul cries out to be understood and loved liked this. This taps into the heart of who we were created to be. God is a triune God. A God of three, a ‘we’ and not an ‘I’. A God who is deeply attuned to another. A God who is fundamentally relational. And being created in his image, therefore so are we [1]

Attachment in the early years can have a profound impact on one’s life, for the better or the worse. The child that is securely attached is not the child who is held the closest and cuddled the most. The securely attached child has a caregiver who is attuned to their needs. A caregiver who knows when the child wants to be cuddled, and when the child wants to be put down [2]

Being attuned to another means that we can truly empathise with that person. We see them, we tune into their emotions, we seek to understand how they might be feeling in that moment. Consider the time a leader cleared their diary, invited me for a walk, and asked me how I was when they knew life in that moment was tough. Or when they wrote an encouraging card and brought a gift for my children because of the hard work their mum had been doing. Or when they backed my ideas during that meeting in which my confidence was fading.   

Leaders, attune yourself with those you lead. Put aside time to connect one-on-one with them, seek to understand them. Prioritise them, be present in that moment with your unconditional, focussed attention. Show interest in who they are as a person and what is going on in their life. Pursue them with a measure of curiosity [3].  

And in response, they will feel understood, accepted, and valued. 

How attuned are you to the people you lead?


Footnotes:

[1] Young, A. (Host). (2018, Apr 17). Why Your Family of Origin Impacts Your Life More Than Anything Else (No. 2) [Audio Podcast Episode] In The Place We Find Ourselves. Spotify.  

[2] Young, A. (Host). (2018, Apr 17). Why Your Family of Origin Impacts Your Life More Than Anything Else (No. 2) [Audio Podcast Episode] In The Place We Find Ourselves. Spotify.  

[3] Young, A. (Host). (2018, Apr 17). Why Your Family of Origin Impacts Your Life More Than Anything Else (No. 2) [Audio Podcast Episode] In The Place We Find Ourselves. Spotify. 


Photo: From National Baptist Hui 2022, by Charl Louw

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