Lead: How and Why

Last Wednesday night last week we had another homework assignment.  This was after going through our MBTI profiles and after making a team contract with the folks I’ll be working with in particular on team assignments.  Another 3 minute presentation:  What’s my Philosophy of Leadership?

What’s your philosophy of leadership?  What do you believe in?  What do you value?  How will you lead because of those beliefs and values?  And what will be your biggest stretch goal in leading?

Yeah.  Nothing major.  Another 3 minute presentation.

So here’s what I put together:

I believe the Bible has a lot to teach us about leadership. I believe that leaders are honest. That they are to be self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, teachable, gentle, humble, patient, and generous. Slow to speak. slow to anger, quick to listen.

At the risk of being cliché, leaders should lead by the golden rule. Leaders must treat others as they would want to be treated. They should love others above themselves, and be willing to sacrifice personal gain for the good of their organization and their staff. In short, that leaders should strive to be like Jesus in every way, with one notable exception. The flawless One never had to admit fault or ask forgiveness, but a Godly leader must do so with regularity and alacrity, never minimizing sin in some futile attempt to make oneself look better.I believe God raises up leaders.

That He gives them differing gifts for differing purposes, and that He holds them more accountable for their actions than those who do not lead. And I belive that leadership is a wonderful gift, and an awesome responsibility: whether called to lead a home, a business, a ministry, a city or even a nation.

That’s how much I had done, at least, before I went to bed Wednesday night.  Wednesday was exhausting.  I’ve been getting up pretty consistently by 6 so I’d have time to polish in the morning before heading to class.

And then I overslept.  7:15am.  Barely enough time to get cleaned up and packed up and to school on time.  So despite putting some thought into it, I ended up winging part of it.

One of the points I made during discussion at the Leadership Challenge was the importance of surrounding oneself with people who are different.  People who disagree with you a lot.  People who will argue with you.  It keeps you honest…and it keeps you fresh.  It keeps you from making mistakes if you have people who don’t just tell you yes because it’s what you want to hear.

And Thursday morning it was important to me that the class knew that I learned to do this the hard way.   And so I told briefly the story of how one December several staff members sent letters to the board of directors asking for me to be removed.  I had brought it on myself for the most part, but I had to endure a really difficult year-end and an annual board meeting that I could have left unemployed.  It wasn’t pretty.  And so as with so many of the things I know about leadership:  I learned this lesson the hard way.  Listen to those who differ with you and take seriously what they say.  They may not be right, but you’ll be better for it even if the detractors are wrong.  And I began a habit of promoting those who had the courage to argue with me whenever possible.

So what does a leader need?   Here’s my outline, which I’m still striving to succeed at:

  1. A leader is Honest.  He tells the truth, even if it’s going to make life more difficult for himself or his team.
  2. A leader shows Respect.  He doesn’t belittle those around him and listens carefully and thoughtfully.  He looks for and lauds differences in a good team, and tries hard to understand those who differ with him.
  3. A leader takes Responsibility.  “The buck stops here!”  When something goes wrong, the blame needs to go up the chain as far as is practicable.  If some one who reports to me makes an error, even one I didn’t know about, I should take the blame for it.  A good leader takes the blame for something the team does, and makes sure that the credit travels downstream as much as possible.  Responsibility doesn’t mean taking credit for the good things, it means taking the blame for the bad.
  4. A leader shows Humility.  A leader needs to be quick to admit his weaknesses, and especially quick to admit once shown that he’s wrong.  It’s just fine to be long a lot, as long as I don’t try to pretend I’m not.  Having the humility to admit weakness and mistakes doesn’t ruin a leader’s reputation…it enhances it.
  5. And a leader has Balance.  This of course is one I’ve struggle a ton with (all of them to some degree).  A great leader doesn’t fragment his life into a “work me” and a “home me.”  There’s only one of me.  And I need to not get stretched so thin that everything suffers.  If I’m too worn out from the day’s work to play with the children when I get home…something’s wrong.

So that’s it.  Honesty, Respect, Responsibility, Humility, and Balance.  If you spend time praying for me, that’s a simple 5 word list of prayers.  No matter how much better I get at any of them, I can stand to improve.

Feel free to share any other characters of leadership that I or others should have in the comments!

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