South Africa Journal 7: Leaders Must be “Thankers”

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I’ve heard Bill Hybels talk about times when the team at Willow Creek had performed exceptionally well, and how afterwards he would become a one-man “thanking machine”.

I’ve filed that lesson away, remembering it in the form of an axiom, “Leaders must be Thankers”.

Today, God used an eight year old girl from the KwaMaphumulo area of South Africa to remind me of the power of this axiom.

World Vision sponsor child homeAs we continued our journey through South Africa along with a group of Canadian pastors, we were given the tremendous privilege of visiting our eight year old World Vision sponsor child at her home. I had visited her last year, but now with my wife Nora along, and with a year’s more relationship established through our correspondence, anticipation was running high on both sides.

Our reunion, and Nora’s first meeting with her, was everything I could have hoped for, and then some. Through hugs and tears of joy, Nora opened a bag containing simple gifts we had brought along for her, and her two sisters; pencil crayons, stickers, photos, and writing pads, which our girl accepted with Christmas morning-like joy.

But then, far too soon, we realized that we had to leave. But as we turned to go something extraordinary happened.

Our girl suddenly dashed away from us and disappeared inside her house. We simply assumed that she was either overcome with sadness at our parting, or perhaps wanted to start drawing with her new pencil crayons. Either way, we simply turned and began to walk back up the path.

But moments later we heard a small voice behind us yelling something in her native Zulu language. We turned to see our girl running to catch up to us, her face beaming, clutching items she had gathered from her home.

In her arms she was cradling a large bottle of Coca-Cola, an item so large she had to carry it like a baby. Dangling from her hands were packages of cookies.

We met her along the path, not exactly sure what she was doing. She held the pop bottle and the cookies out towards us and spoke hurriedly in Zulu. We were able to make eye contact with our interpreter, who immediately listened, understood, and explained.

“Your sponsored child wishes to say thank you for all you have done,” she said. “And she wishes to show her appreciation with this gift.”

More embraces were exchanged, as we choked back tears in accepting these gifts of thanks; a bottle of Coke. Two packages of cookies.

Obviously, my greatest take-away from this was simply humble gratitude that, as a World Vision child sponsor, I was able to be a part of an encounter as meaningful as this.

But as a leader, my bell was also rung yet again in this simple, yet important reminder of the power of a “thank you”.

Leaders must be “thankers”. And I trust that through this experience this axiom will grow and shape my own leadership.

How do you respond to the idea that a leader must be a thanker?

How do you put this into action in your leadership?

the author

Scott Cochrane

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