Leading Change
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Deep Empathy Leads to Tremendous Change, Ask Jeff Saturday

robert kraft jeff saturdayJeff Saturday, the Colts center and one of the leader’s of the NFL Players side in negotiating an end to the lockout, credited Robert Kraft, Patriots owner, for being the most influential owner. Kraft’s wife suffered from cancer during the entire negotiations and recently died. 

I believe there is a relationship between Kraft’s wife’s illness and his influence and leadership during the lockout. Imagine the intensity of those negotiations and how easy it would have been for players and owners to withdraw emotionally or become unwilling to listen and acknowledge the other side’s needs.

I suspect that Kraft possessed an extraordinary amount of humility, empathy, and other-centeredness from attending to his terminal wife that broke down barriers and kept the talks moving. I’m reminded of God’s prophets and how each of them possessed a deep empathy for those they were seeking to influence. None of them were delivery an intellectual diatribe but instead spoke out of a deep and profound awareness of the other’s core needs.

An illuminating quote from an espn article:

Earlier, Kraft had apologized to the game’s fans for the lockout, showing an understanding of the frustration many endured over the past five months, before promising that the sides had struck an agreement that will allow football to grow over the next decade. He also tossed a zinger to politicians in Washington, saying, “The debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was.”

I’ve written in my old blog about the power of pruning; as God supernaturally brings pain into our lives, it stretches our ability to allow others the freedom to express sadness, anger, and differing opinions without judgment. Because of the nature of his wife’s illness Kraft had no choice but to walk through the pain, but as ministry leaders we can intentionally partner with God in stretching our capacity to allow others room to be different:

Without a commitment to embrace pruning both personally and in our leadership context, it seems that we should be content with mediocre spiritual fruit.–my post on The Lost Art of Pruning

The expression and body language of Saturday in the video shows beyond words how much he appreciated Kraft. I’d love to be able to allow empathy to flow out of me in ways that cause that type of influence!

1 Comment

  1. John Whitehouse connected me to your site. I’m working with the JFP New Media Team. I have been given the task of building a website for “My Last Day” anime short film. I would like to meet with you and run by you some ideas for the global website to help practitioners give us feed back and help them to share this new tool. I’m looking at sending the info to the webmaster this Fri. 10-14-11. If we could meet that would be great. I work in the West building at Cru headquarters.
    Thanks for your time.
    John Immel

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