the shape of leadership

Lead With Encouragement

Four lessons from Paul

Kent Ingle on February 24, 2021

Reflecting on the leaders I’ve known, there are two types I most remember: the ones who inspired me and the ones who discouraged me. The former empowered me through encouragement, while the latter pushed me to become a better person only because I wanted to prove them wrong.

Although both types of leaders made an impact on my life, the ones I want to emulate are those who inspired me and spurred me on in my career through positive words and actions. As leaders, we should consistently find ways to encourage those around us.

One of the greatest examples in Scripture of an encouraging leader is Paul. Throughout his letters, Paul sought to motivate others to stay rooted in their faith and do the work of the Kingdom.

Here are four ways to follow Paul’s example and encourage your team members:

1. Promote Encouragement

For better or worse, leaders influence those under their authority. The best leaders seek to create an atmosphere of mutual encouragement.

Paul urged the Thessalonians, “Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Words of encouragement are often transformational. Encouraging words can empower people to reach new goals, gain confidence in their positions, or do the right thing even when it’s hard.

2. Express Gratitude

Through words and actions, leaders set a tone. This is why it’s important to weigh carefully what we say and how we say it. If we want others to thrive, we must create an environment that allows them to do so.

In his letters, Paul set the tone by expressing gratitude. In Romans 1:8, for instance, Paul says, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.”

Before Paul addressed the purpose of his letter to the Romans, he recognized the commitment of the recipients and expressed appreciation for them. This let the Romans know Paul valued them.

3. Inspire Hope

The words we use as leaders can lift the spirits of those around us. If a team member is dealing with something personal or feels discouraged in his or her calling, Spirit-guided words of encouragement can make all the difference.

The words we use as leaders can lift the spirits of our team members.

In Romans 8, Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (verses 34–35,37).

Leaders should always encourage their teams to trust in the Lord, especially in the midst of trials. We don’t always know what others are facing, but it’s safe to assume someone needs a reminder of the hope Jesus offers. In a world of suffering, we need to be a voice of hope to those around us.

4. Acknowledge Contributions

Use encouragement to show your team members you recognize them and their contributions. Most people don’t receive recognition for everything they do. Much of their work goes unnoticed.

Be intentional about noticing and acknowledging the hard work of others. Even a simple gesture — like a handwritten note or a few words of public recognition during a staff meeting — can make people feel like what they do matters.

Writing to the church in Thessalonica, Paul said, “We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Paul recognized the commitment of his fellow Christians. His letters offered encouragement and served as a reminder for them to keep pushing ahead.

Once someone feels valued, they may stop listening to the discouraging words in their head and feel like they can conquer anything.

Encouragement not only comes through words, but it can also be demonstrated by how we lead. Paul encouraged others in his letters and through his example as a leader.

Despite the challenges he faced, Paul continued to share the gospel and looked for opportunities to build up his fellow Christ followers. “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong — that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Romans 1:11–12).

It’s amazing what a few words of encouragement can do for our teams. We have the opportunity to be a part of helping others live out the calling God has placed on their lives. Imagine what could happen if we consistently called out the best in one another.

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