What I’m about to do is painful and very nearly contrary to my nature. It involves praising something about New England Patriots’ head coach Bill Bellichick, he of “Spy Gate” and “Deflate-Gate” infamy. Yet, something he was witnessed doing on the sidelines during the late stages of Super Bowl XLIX gives great insight into why he has coached a record-tying four Super Bowl champions. While Pete Carroll was on the other sideline, commendably patting players on the back and showing excitement and energy, Bellichick was seen on the other side of the field down on a knee speaking with players on both the offense and the defense. For whatever we want to say about what we don’t like about him, he’s renowned within the team as a strict disciplinarian that even makes players nervous. Without negotiation, he expects everyone to give their best. And, he expects it done without fanfare, a Wall Street Journal article showing this with a memorable Bellichick quote: “Playing well is playing well. You can break it down into 17,000 adjectives, but it’s doing your job” (Kinkhabwala, 1/15/11). But, when the Pats were down by 10 and panic might have overtaken him, he was calmly, coolly sharing an expectation or going over a game-plan to overcome the adversity.
So, I still don’t have to like him or the Patriots, but I appreciate that.
Leadership is about so many different, vital qualities. Energy and effervescence, passion and praise all can play a part. However, there is hardly a substitute for a mentor, one who is serious, thoughtful, and caring enough to pull someone aside and give him or her individual attention. The word usually translated “exhort” in the New Testament is from a Greek word which means “calling to,” “appeal to and earnestly request,” or “call to one’s side” (Kittel, np, Louw, np, and BDAG, 764). Who doesn’t appreciate the loving, caring approach of an elder or other spiritual leaders, whether preachers, older members, deacons, and the like, who guide us and help us with biblical understanding, moral dilemmas, and ethical quandaries. They have that timely word when we are discouraged, that nugget of wisdom that seems meant for that moment.
I think we all desire leaders who will get down on one knee with us, as it were. Leaders like these are who Paul had in mind when he wrote, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another” (1 Th. 5:12-13). Thank God for great leaders who, with weighty responsibilities on many fronts, take a moment to come alongside us with encouragement and insight.