By: Esteban Murillo
As we waited for our first child, Etienne, to be born, Dhariana and I read and researched a lot about the whole world of babies. One of the fundamental items was food. For rookie parents, everything is completely new. When to give solid food? How much? Which foods are best, and which should be avoided? One of the things that we found most curious was a rule we came across often: when the time comes, never feed your baby fruits first, but vegetables. The explanation was very simple: if infants taste the delicious and juicy flavor of fruits first, they may not like the characteristic flavor of vegetables.
As good new parents, we did that with Etienne. We started with purées (without salt) of carrots, then potatoes, and so on with many others. Watching him eat celery and broccoli as a 1-year-old was a marvel! Now, when he had already grown to love his new food, we then gave him access to fruits: banana, papaya, watermelon. He loved them just the same! Today, at 7 years old, Etienne loves his vegetables as much as he loves fruit.
At the leadership level, this concept may need to be applied to the way we establish and develop relationships with the people we lead. If we want to be best friends with our employees or disciples (or even children!), they won’t take us seriously when it’s time to discipline. Vegetables before fruits.
Also, sometimes our leadership style is dominated by one or the other: either we are experts giving “vegetables”, or we always love to hand out “fruits”. A leader must never shy away from direct, sometimes difficult, communication while simultaneously remaining empathetic. Communication is a vital element when it comes to establishing intentional and productive relationships in leadership.
Giving instructions in a specific and direct way is essential if the leader needs to make clear what is required. If not done properly, she can be seen as a rigid authoritarian. Similarly, for instruction to be well-received, it must be empathetic, friendly, and genuine. Courtesy should never be lacking.
The goal is clear: to be demanding but understanding, to be direct without being inconsiderate, to be respectful without being permissive, to know how to set limits without losing consideration for the human being at my side. It seems complicated, but with intentionality, this can become a daily practice. But beware! Discipline is required to be able to tightrope walk on that slim margin.
Eating vegetables and fruits should be part of our lives. Let us never forget that both are an essential part of our development – and leadership.
*Esteban Murillo is the Communications Coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene in the Mesoamerica Region.