My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #10

Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Lesson #2: Be Last.

Lesson #3: Praise Publicly. Correct Privately. Encourage Consistently.

Lesson #4: Listen and allow input. Never let yours be the only voice you hear.

Lesson #5: Leaders move forward and grow by looking back and learning. Leaders who are successful consistently evaluate past decisions to ensure better future decisions.

Lesson #6: Followership is a prerequisite to leadership. If you have a difficult time following you will have an even more difficult time leading.

Lesson #7: Be patient. There are times when no action is the best action.

Lesson #8: It is okay to not be the smartest person in the room.

Lesson #9: Leaders are well prepared and think of needs in advance.

Lesson #10: Lead by example. 

Lead by example. It is likely the most important leadership principle. Leadership expert John Maxwell said it this way, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Why is this principle so important? People will follow someone whom they believe is worthy of being followed. The leader of an organization must set the standard and be a model for others. If he/she wants the people to be compassionate, compassion must be genuinely demonstrated by the leader. If he/she wants the people to be above reproach and steer clear of the gray areas of life, leaders will do the same before their people. It impossible to ask someone to do something you cannot, or are not willing to do yourself. To do so is hypocritical and destroys organizational cohesion and separates the leader from the organization.

Leadership means being in front. Think back to the movies that portrayed reenactments of major battles from the Civil War. As the massive opposing armies stood facing one another, there was a common element – a general leading the charge. This motivated the soldiers in the ranks. They knew their leader was willing to endure what they were being asked to endure. There was a confidence their leader was willing to risk being wounded or even killed, the same thing being asked of them. John Maxwell wrote, “”Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course. Leaders who are good navigators are capable of taking their people just about anywhere.”

If a leader wants his/her people to run into the storm for the good of the organization, they had better be close to the front so others will follow. The behaviors that leaders want the organization to adopt must first reside within the leader. It doesn’t mean a leader must be the best at everything. It does mean he/she must be willing to move first and take the same risks as everyone else. This cannot be done from the safety of the bunker.

My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #9

Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Lesson #2: Be Last.

Lesson #3: Praise Publicly. Correct Privately. Encourage Consistently.

Lesson #4: Listen and allow input. Never let yours be the only voice you hear.

Lesson #5: Leaders move forward and grow by looking back and learning. Leaders who are successful consistently evaluate past decisions to ensure better future decisions.

Lesson #6: Followership is a prerequisite to leadership. If you have a difficult time following you will have an even more difficult time leading.

Lesson #7: Be patient. There are times when no action is the best action.

Lesson #8: It is okay to not be the smartest person in the room.

Lesson #9: Leaders are well prepared and think of needs in advance.

Nehemiah 2 offers a fresh perspective on Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” His quote reminds us that planning is critical to success in any endeavor. Nehemiah’s heart was broken over the condition of the city and people of Jerusalem. God burdened his heart with a desire to rebuild the city walls. Nehemiah took leave of his duties at the king’s side to lead the rebuilding effort. Nehemiah made his needs to clear to the king:

“If it pleases the king, let letters be given to me for the governors of the region beyond the River, that they must permit me to pass through till I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.” (Nehemiah 2:17-18)

Nehemiah knew in advance what it would take to accomplish his God-given task. He then presented his needs to the king when he asked for leave to go to Jerusalem. His request was honored. Imagine Nehemiah arriving in Jerusalem, looking around and saying, “Okay, here we are, did anyone think to bring timber to repair the wall gates?” Imagine the awkwardness. Imagine the delay in the work. Imagine the disappointment of those who were trusting his leadership. It is crucial for leaders to be prepared. They owe such preparation to the people they are leading. They owe such preparation to themselves for the sake of credibility. Whether leading in the spiritual or secular arena, those who would consider themselves “leaders” must think in advance so they might combat fears, calm the anxieties, and elevate the confidence of those who are following. A leader must be prepared to answer questions such as “What is involved in this endeavor?” “What will be the benefit?” “What are the challenges and potential obstacles ahead?” “What can we do to support this?” “How will we be better off if we change what we are doing?” Because of Nehemiah’s forethought, God was honored and the people encouraged. His leadership style flies in the face of “off-the-cuff” leadership. This style of leadership is rarely effective and is almost always frustrating and discouraging.

 

My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #8

Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Lesson #2: Be Last.

Lesson #3: Praise Publicly. Correct Privately. Encourage Consistently.

Lesson #4: Listen and allow input. Never let yours be the only voice you hear.

Lesson #5: Leaders move forward and grow by looking back and learning. Leaders who are successful consistently evaluate past decisions to ensure better future decisions.

Lesson #6: Followership is a prerequisite to leadership. If you have a difficult time following you will have an even more difficult time leading.

Lesson #7: Be patient. There are times when no action is the best action.

Lesson #8: It is okay to not be the smartest person in the room.

Being a leader does not mean knowing more than anyone else. Leadership is not about education or intelligence. It is not merely an academic activity. Being a leader means knowing how to employ people in the right places to maximize their effectiveness for the greater good of the organization. This pulls from another lesson: a leader must know the strengths of his/her people. Recognizing these strengths, an effective leader gives his/her people the space, trust, and encouragement to do their work. It is here the effective leader sets aside the need to be in absolute control and instead offers direction and guidance which contributes to a shared organizational goal.

This is a lesson I have learned in my years of pastoral ministry.  When it comes to areas such as maintenance/construction, finances, and legal matters, I know I am not the smartest person in the room. That’s okay with me. I have been able to surround myself with those who are the experts in these areas, empowering them to lead in their area of gifting. An effective leader is willing and able to learn something from those who are the smartest people in the room. Organizations are teams.  At the end of the day, if the team wins, it does not matter who gets the credit.

My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #7

Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Lesson #2: Be Last.

Lesson #3: Praise Publicly. Correct Privately. Encourage Consistently.

Lesson #4: Listen and allow input. Never let yours be the only voice you hear.

Lesson #5: Leaders move forward and grow by looking back and learning. Leaders who are successful consistently evaluate past decisions to ensure better future decisions.

Lesson #6: Followership is a prerequisite to leadership. If you have a difficult time following you will have an even more difficult time leading.

Lesson #7: Be patient. There are times when no action is the best action.

Leaders are those within an organization who take responsibility for making decisions and bringing change. They empower people to discover and utilize their natural gifting, talents, and potential. Leaders are eager to move their organization forward and anticipate results. It is easy to act impatiently. There are times when no action is the best action. Effective leaders understand their people and develop a pace of movement that benefits the organization, even if that pace is too slow for him/her. The correct pace of movement comes from studying an organization’s past successes, failures, hurts, and assessing current strengths and capabilities. A leader’s impatience can harm an organization.

I have learned this lesson firsthand in my years of pastoral ministry. Not every organization moves at the same pace. There are those within the organization who want to see things move quickly. There are times when a leader’s patience will be misunderstood as a lack of confidence, fear, or uncertainty. It shouldn’t be. Many want the leader to just “do something.” Effective leaders know it is important to choose the best over just anything. When the times comes for a leader to decide, he/she must be decisive and take responsibility for their decision. Until that point, patience must be exercised so the best decision can be made and the correct vision cast. There are times when no action is the best action until the correct action can be taken.

My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #5

Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Lesson #2: Be Last.

Lesson #3: Praise Publicly. Correct Privately. Encourage Consistently.

Lesson #4: Listen and allow input. Never let yours be the only voice you hear.

Lesson #5: Leaders move forward and grow by looking back and learning. Leaders who are successful consistently evaluate past decisions to ensure better future decisions.

Leadership assumes movement in both leader and organization. An organization does not hire/call/secure a leader with the hope of standing still. The goal of any organization, whether secular or spiritual, is to move toward its decided upon purpose and mission. Leaders must also move forward in their personal growth. Leaders who become stale personally will quickly be leading stale organizations. It is important for leaders of organizations to be life-long learners. One way in which learning continues is by looking back to past decisions.

It is counter-intuitive to believe you move forward by looking backwards. I am not advocating living in the past. I am not talking about insisting the former ways are the best. I am talking about an honest assessment of past decisions. Leader don’t always get it right. For many, what seemed to be the right decision at the time turned out to be a costly mistake. An elementary life lesson is that we learn from our mistakes. The same is true in leadership. To ensure the same mistakes are not made in the future, leaders should often evaluate how their past decisions were made. Questions like, “Did I have enough information to make a good decision?”, “Did I make this decision based solely on emotion?”, “Did I seek the necessary counsel before making this decision?”, and “Did I consider how my decision would affect the organization in the future?” are all appropriate. Looking back over 18 years of pastoral ministry there are many bad decisions. I wish it were possible to have a “do-over.” There are no “do-overs” in life. We can only learn from the mistake and be better prepared for the future. Leaders owe their organization a commitment to learning from past mistakes. For a leader to assume they have made no mistakes is a mistake itself.

My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #3


Leadership Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Leadership Lesson #2: Be Last.

Leadership Lesson #3: Praise Publicly. Correct Privately. Encourage Consistently.

People are the critical component within any organization. Budgets, visions, capital, product, and sales have their place, but it’s people who move the organization forward. Knowing how to manage the different personalities, temperaments, gifts, strengths, and weaknesses of the people within the organization is paramount to its success. Leaders understand the constant and often stressful need for balance where people are concerned. The balance is two-fold. First, there is a balance between the people of an organization and the mission of the organization. Second, there is a balance between the praise, correction, and encouragement offered to the people of an organization. Effective leadership within an organization is like a tight-rope act.  Leaning too far to either side can have disastrous consequences. How does a leader strike the appropriate balance?

Praise Publicly. People need to be recognized for their accomplishments. Their successes deserve to be celebrated. In their minds, praise from the organization affirms their worth, value, and contribution to the organization. Public praise also fosters a better work environment. If the people of an organization know their efforts and hard work will be applauded publicly, they are likely to be more productive and satisfied.

Correct privately. At times, it becomes necessary to offer correction to a member of an organization for such things as poor job performance, refusal to work as part of a team, and divisive attitudes, to name a few. The faults and shortcoming of an individual should never be the subject of public discussion. The correction of these faults and shortcomings should never be witnessed by other co-workers and team members. Correcting privately boosts morale, provides motivation, and limits resentment between coworkers/co-laborers.

Encourage consistently. Leaders understand the success of their organization is directly linked to the people who serve the organization. An atmosphere of encouragement is key to productivity. People become discouraged, disheartened, and disappointed easily. Leaders must – day in and day out – encourage their people by letting them know that what they do matters. Leaders must consistently encourage their people to push themselves further, to follow their calling, pursue their hopes and dreams, and to never give up.

My Top Ten Leadership Lessons: Part #2

Leadership Lesson #1: If you feel it is necessary to continually remind people you are the leader, there is a real possibility you are not.

Leadership Lesson #2: Be Last.

This is counterintuitive. We are taught by the world to look for our best interests.  We are taught to get all we can. We are taught the end justifies the means. We are taught the only person you can trust is you. In the context of leadership, “be last” is perplexing as well. After all, aren’t leaders supposed to be out front, you know, leading? Aren’t leaders to supposed to lead from the front, be visible, chart the path of an organization? Absolutely. This principle has less to do with a leader’s physical position within an organization and more to with his/her heart position before the organization.

There is an unwritten rule in the Marine Corps – officers eat last. An interesting phenomenon occurs when Marines gather to eat – junior Marines go to the front of the line while senior Marines go to the back. No orders are given. It just happens. This practice is symbolic of a critical battlefield truth – leaders sacrifice their own comfort – even their own survival – for the good of those in their care. I learned this lesson during my years in the Marine Corps and it is one I still practice today. In his book, Leaders Eat Last; Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Simon Sinek quotes retired Marine Lieutenant General George Flynn who explains this principle further:

“Leaders are expected to eat last because the true price of leadership is the willingness to place the needs of others above your own. Great leaders truly care about those they are privileged to lead and understand that the true cost of leadership privilege comes at the expense of self-interest.”

Effective leaders ensure their people have everything they need to be successful. Effective leaders display a willingness to sacrifice what they want so others may have what they need. When leaders inspire those under their care, they will in turn dream bigger dreams, invest precious time and energy in their organization, and will be far more productive and satisfied.