I was driving in the Pavilions parking lot last week when I spotted
former Laguna Beach City Councilman Wayne Peterson. We waved at each
other and I immediately thought of Wayne’s leadership following the 1993
firestorm. While the entire council rallied around the fire victims, it
was Wayne who constantly drove up and down my street, comforting and
encouraging those of us who had lost our homes.
I’ve learned something about leadership over the years, both as a
pastor and as the sales manager at the Sawdust Festival. The most
important characteristic of a leader is not how experienced they are.
It’s not their organizational skills. It’s not personal charisma. It’s
not how much knowledge they possess. It’s important how they treat
people. The greatest leaders possess authority, softened with compassion.
In other words, they are firm but care deeply about those under them.
This principle is true both in ministry and the secular world. Good
leaders care about people. This was brought home in the recent A & E
production of “Shackleton,” the story of a British explorer whose
expedition to the South Pole in 1914 almost turned into a tragedy when
his ship was crushed in an ice floe. Shackleton managed to press through
almost insurmountable difficulties to bring back every crew member alive.
It was an incredible story of perseverance and the determination of a
leader who cared deeply for his men.
Skilled leaders release the very best in people by continually
encouraging them. Good coaches get far more out of their players by
building them up, not tearing them down. When I coached in Laguna Beach
Little League, I worked hard at strengthening the self-esteem of those
kids who perpetually felt lousy about their abilities.
My job was to convince them that with a little effort they could be a
decent ball player.
When a husband comes to me struggling in a difficult marriage, I give
him an assignment as a part of my counseling. I tell him to go home and
for two weeks do nothing but build his wife up, pour out praise for all
her good points and refrain from criticizing or communicating anything
negative. Almost always the husband returns, amazed over how much the
marriage has improved.
This is what I love about the Lord. God is continually affirming me,
revealing in Scripture how much he cares for me. Even with my faults and
inadequacies, God tells me I am fully accepted by him, loved
unconditionally. Thus I willingly yield myself to God’s authority, a
submission made easier because I’m absolutely convinced that God deeply
I called Laguna Beach City Manager Ken Frank a couple of years back to
tell him how much I appreciated his leadership. I told him I was praying
for him and the City Council and was there anything specific I could ask
God for on his behalf.
Sounding surprised that someone was praying for him, his answer
reflected how much he loves our town and why he has been an effective
leader in Laguna for so many years.
“Laguna has a lot of great people but I wish a few of them would be a
little less angry and a bit more patient in their differences,” he said.
“If they did, our city would be even a nicer place to live.”
I love working in my yard. I’ve noticed my plants flourish when I give
them nourishment and attention. If you are a leader, consider carefully
how you treat those under you. A little love and encouragement can go a
long way in bringing out the very best in your people.
* JAY GRANT is a pastor and 32-year resident of Laguna Beach. He can
be reached at P.O. Box 391, Laguna Beach CA 92652 or by e-mail at o7