5 Counterintuitive Thoughts on Leadership

Here are 5 surprising lessons I’ve learned about leadership.

  1. The best leaders are the best followers.  I think this is particularly true in Christian leadership.  The best leaders are the best followers of Christ.  Great leaders have great visions of the future and they pursue that vision with focus and clarity.  I think of it like a great movie director, say a steven Speeilberg, who has a vision of what the movie is about and directs everyone else, right down to the gaffer, to bring the vision of the story about.  Great leaders follow Christ.  Great leaders follow great visions.  Once the vision is birthed great leaders follow that vision of the future with accuracy and determination.
  2. I find success in other people’s success.  You see this in sports.  There are plenty of players who have all kinds of great individual stats.  They are incredible players, hall of fame players; but a question is always asked of great players: Can he/she make the players around them better?  I grew up playing a lot of playground basketball and I always liked being with the guy who gave a lot of assists and so did everyone else!  The same is true in leadership!  Great leaders assist others to success, and in so doing become even more successful.  John Maxwell said the key to leadership is to learn what everyone else wants and then lead them to it.
  3. Being humble doesn’t mean not acknowledging your influence.  I thought being humble meant that you shied away from any kind of recognition, and that’s true to a point.  There is a difference from ditching the spotlight and acknowledging the impact you might have.  When someone gave me a compliment in the past I would always deflect it.  I would say something like, “It wasn’t really nothing.”  I had just poured my heart and soul into that and I loved the compliment, but I wanted to be humble.  I now have learned to say “Thank you.”  If you don’t acknowledge the compliment then you ruin the joy of the person giving you the compliment and no one leaves happy.  Don’t rob them of thier joy because of your false sense of being humble.
  4. You have to believe in what you are doing, but if you don’t talk it up then people can’t believe in you.  When I first got involved in leadership I felt that if I did my job everyone else would catch onto the vision.  How wrong I was!  I have learned to talk up the vision.  For example, it doesn’t bother me to attach what might be a drudgery job, say setting up chairs, and transforming it into an opputunity to talk about the vision.  I used to just say, “Thanks for putting up the chiars.”  Now I like to attach everything to the vision, “Thanks for setting up the chairs for worship today.  You have helped create an environment where people can encounter God.  Thanks!”  I believe that and when I share what motivates me it can motivate others.  I don’t set up chairs becasue it’s fun.  I set up chairs so God can make a difference today!  If you don’t share that vision, if you don’t tell people why you do the drudgery assignments, then why should they do it?
  5. Don’t waste time on people who don’t want to be led by you.  This can come off as hateful, but I’ve learned that I get more accomplished by working with people that actually want to do this than people I have to pull along all the time, or even babysit.  I don’t have time to waste.  There are thousands of people who do not know Christ and it’s time to get the job done.  I learned this from Jesus himself.  He didn’t waste time with the Pharisees.  They didn’t want to follow him.  If one showed interest then he took the time (Nicodemus), but other than that he didn’t seek to lead them.  I see this in the parable of the ten virgins too.  The first five didn’t come so the party giver went out and invited people who really wanted to come and ditched the others.  When I first got in ministry I would be heartbroken by the people who resisted.  Today, I’ll listen to them, but I don’t bother recruiting them.  It’s just to much anguish to do so.  I just get diminishing returns.  Any farmer will tell you that you plant your seed in fertile ground if you want great returns. 
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