In the summer of 2016, my wife and I became state-licensed foster parents. My wife has one of the biggest hearts in the world for helping people in need. I’m thankful she’s mine because she makes me better every day. I wasn’t quite sure what we were getting into when we went through the process. I was leery about connecting to a child and then returning them to their family. As I went through the training I realized that the goal of foster care was to reunify the family. Once I learned that, it helped me to establish a new focus, and my concerns started to melt away.

Two weeks after getting our license we received a call from our social worker to take a two-day old baby boy. He was born five weeks early and was in the NICU at our local hospital. Two weeks later, his birth mom made us promise to take care of him and love him like our own children as her warm tears streamed down her cheeks. We brought him home from the hospital that day to love him as our own son. Fast forward over two years later, and we adopted him on November 5, 2018!!! He now joins our family and becomes our fourth child following our 17, 13, and 12-year old sons.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time reflecting knowing the adoption day was coming. I’ve realized that I learned more about leadership and love the last two years because of our newly adopted son. Here are a few lessons. Read these and grab onto them. They will make a difference in your life and leadership.

Love is Magnetic not Magical

The past two plus years have been full of ups and downs as we dealt with the rhythms of foster care, the court system, and a birth mom who desperately wanted to try to reunify with her son, but couldn’t complete the required steps. Every time a nasty thing was said to us or something happened that ripped at our hearts, we always went back to love. We tried to love those around us first – no matter what. It would’ve been easier to just respond and lash out, but we knew that we were called to love first. That focus became a magnetic pull that helped us keep our actions in the right place.

As leaders, we have decisions to make, and some of them are not always fun because of how they affect people. I’ve found though when I lead with a spirit of love, even the toughest decisions get communicated with a different tone, intent, and overall heart. Some may say this is weak, but I’d argue that this is the epitome of leading with courage. When you lead with love, a person’s value starts at the top, not the bottom.

When you lead with love, a person’s value starts at the top, not the bottom.

Go All In or Don’t Go at All

When we first brought our son home from the hospital, my wife and I talked a lot about guarding our hearts. A few weeks later I looked at her and said, “I just don’t think it’s right to hold back and only love him a little bit. He didn’t do anything to deserve our scraps of love and attention. Instead we should give him as much or more than we gave our own children.” At that moment, I went ALL IN, and knew I could get hurt in the process, but I didn’t care because our little guy deserved my best.

In the world of social media where everyone’s best is on display, our willingness to be authentic becomes a challenge. Leaders struggle with this even more. Many times, we hold back for various reasons like being burned in the past, an unwillingness to invest the time or energy, a fear of being rejected, or just a plain dislike for people. We are most effective when we lead from a place of pure authenticity. People would rather work with YOU than put up with who you are not. Be authentic! Let them in and take the risk! You’ll be surprised at how much deeper your relationships will go and you’ll even have fun in the process.

People would rather work with YOU than put up with who you are not. #authenticitywins #beyourself

Right People at the Right Time Catalyze Remarkable Results

I never considered adoption as a possibility for me. I respected the people who did it, but I never saw myself as an adoptive parent. However, my wife saw something in me that I did not. She saw the potential I had to love other little ones as much as I loved our own children. When it came time to decide whether we were going to adopt our foster son, I thought it was a no-brainer. I was ready to add him to our family for good because he had wiggled his way into a part of my heart, shaped just for him. My wife knew that little pocket was there, I did not.

Leadership is a lot like that. Leaders are catalysts that make change happen. They don’t just see who people are, but instead they see who they could become. The best leaders who have inspired and left their marks on my life are the ones who helped me see what I was capable, how I could impact others, and then pushed me forward. The key is potential. Do you see the potential in others? When you see it, do you share it with them?  Affirming potential in others and helping them get there is a key differentiator between good leaders and great ones.

Affirming potential in others and helping them get there is a key differentiator between good leaders and great ones.

I hope these leadership nuggets I’ve learned from our foster/adoption journey have helped you. Take them and go make a difference! While you do that, please join me in welcoming Charleston Reiland Bennett into our family for good!



David Bennett

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