Whether leading a Church, a ministry, a business, a team or a family…we’re all leading something. The circle of influence we have is as much blessed privilege as it is a monumental responsibility so we’d be wise to consistently work to improve our skills as leaders. Today, I’ll share a few things that I’ve learned (am still learning) about leading well. Rest assured, you won’t be blown away by the insight you’ll read here as you’ve heard this before but I think The Lord may use a few of these leadership points to remind you of something you’ve forgotten or abandoned altogether.
I just had another birthday. My, how good it feels to turn 22years old (ok….wishful thinking). Anyway, I did some looking back on my birthday, some reflecting on where I’ve been and what I’ve learned along the way. The Lord has been really good to me and in spite of me (and all my warts), He’s allowed me to be in some form of leadership nearly all of my life and I wrote down a few things on the subject that He’s taught me. Some of what I wrote down I’ve gleaned from others somewhere along the road, other things by trial and error and still others through fire but all of them have this one thing in common…”I wish someone would have taught me this years ago”
Disclaimer: It is entirely possibly that someone, or a collection of many someones, DID tell me these things years ago and I was to full of myself to listen.
Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Leadership
You Can’t Lead On Empty
We talk about busy. We complain about busy. We use the excuse of busy…but we don’t know busy. Not the way Jesus knew busy, that is. Think for a moment about His earthly ministry. Everyone, whether friend or enemy clamored for His attention. Crowds mobbed Him constantly and when that wasn’t happening, He was teaching the 12, dining with sinners or healing the downtrodden. Late nights, early mornings…day planners would have been useless….and all of this, with the cross in mind. Talk about hectic! Yet in the middle of this fast-paced mess, He sustained His pace, handled the stress and even built and maintained vibrant relationships! How?
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went to a solitary place, where He prayed” Mark 1:35-37
Jesus, the leader of all leaders, understood the importance a full tank. He set aside time for that to take place.
In a lot of ways, we can relate. Schedules that are filled to the brim with deadlines, demands, burdens or responsibilities that simply come with the territory. Things that MUST be addressed. We can’t shirk them so we follow the example Jesus gave us….we make sure that our tanks are filled.
Leaders Must Have Tender Hearts AND Tough Skin
I’m talking rhinoceros skin. Tough stuff. If you’ve been in leadership for any amount of time, you know exactly what I am talking about. Try as you may (and you should) there will always be people who simply do not like you! Sometimes these folks will work hard to tear you down, discourage you and even spread false accusations against you. As a leader you’ll hear some unkind things, often from people you’d never expect to hear them from. There will always be someone who can “do it better“, someone who thinks you’re a fool, someone who has decided their spiritual gift is to ruin you. There will always be pit-vipers, coiled and ready to strike.
Fact is, you’re going to have to learn to get over that. It happens. It’s the real world with real, imperfect people. If you are one who is easily offended and have feelings that are easily hurt, leadership (especially in ministry) is going to be a tough road to hoe. If Jesus (who was perfect) had more than His share of detractors, it’s awful prideful to think that we (who are imperfect) shouldnt.
Leaders Must Never Quit When Things Are Bad
Mountaintops and valley floors are going to be experienced in leadership. It really is a rollercoaster. The tendency is to give up when things get ugly. That’s the cheap and lazy way out though. I’ve found that it’s wise to never make any big decision when things are bad as my emotions cloud my judgment (more on that later). By the way, the thrill we experience the rollercoaster flies up the track cannot take place without it plunging to the bottom every once in a while. Hang on.
Leaders Must Cowboy Up
Allthough I now pop and crack and ache and…well, you get the drift…from years of punishing my body through bullriding, I did learn a few things while doing it. One of the most fruitful lessons that bullriding taught me was the need to cowboy up. No matter the pain, fear, risk, etc, if you wanna be a good bullrider, you have to get in the chute. No excuses, no whining. You have to cowboy up. Same is true in leading well. No matter what, there is never a good enough excuse to keep you from climbing on and giving it your best try. Leaders cowboy up.
Leaders Must Keep A Level Head
As mentioned earlier, emotions cloud judgment. Because of this fact, I have the 24 hour rule in place in my life. When something slaps my emotions silly, whether it be something I’ve seen, heard or anticipate happening I won’t act on it (unless absolutely necessary) for at least 24 hours. This accomplishes a couple of things for me. One, it allows me the time I need to really think through the issue and how I’ll handle it. For the third time, I’ll mention that emotions cloud judgment…I need time to process those emotions so that I’ll be able to address things with a clear head. Two, it keeps me from trouble. If I’ve had time to chill I’m far less likely to say (or do) something out of line. Leaders must have a level head or they lose respect with those who’ve watched them act a fool because of wild emotions (lose respect in this way and it is awful tough to earn back).
Leaders Must KNOW People Are Watching (and be ok with it)
One thing I hear from leaders often is that they are tired of “living in a glass house”. Again, I sound harsh here but, “so what”?. If I’ve REALLY embraced leadership then I’ve also embraced the fact that being out in front necessitates that the people I lead are watching me. Every move. Every moment. They are watching me, watching my family, watching our lives. Leaders can see that as a pain in the backside or an opportunity to put their leadership on even greater display. The Apostle Paul didn’t say to those He was seeking to lead, “Hey! Listen to me preach but don’t watch me live!”. NO, He said, “Follow me as I follow Christ“. The quicker you understand that you’ll have to be ok with the fact that the people you lead are watching every move you make, the better leader you’ll be. Embrace that truth! Use it!
Soli Deo Gloria!