Lessons on Leadership

As a campus youth pastor at a multi-site church, I get to interact with mulitiple teams and many kinds of leaders. As with every season in leadership, there have been challenges and struggles for sure, but also incredible opportunities for growth. Over this last season, I’ve been learning and growing in ways I never have before…

Leading isn’t about you or me, but is always about us and we.

The worst kind of leaders are those who remain untouched, invulnerable, and stubborn. Leadership requires you to steward the greatest treasure we have on this planet, our relationships. If my leadership is simply about me or what I think is best, it’s shallow and ineffective. The best teams work well together, know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and push each other to be better. There is a cohesive synergy that occurs when a team functions at a high level together. The part I play is simply just that, a part of something bigger than me. There is a bigger goal or mission at work here. An old African proverb states, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”

Don’t be afraid to speak up, just make sure you’re listening as well.

Some of the most divisive leaders are simply people who don’t take the time to listen. They are caught up with their ideas and can’t handle the attention being on anyone but themselves. The truth of leadership is that decisions don’t need to be made in a vacuum. There should be input from inside and outside the team, and from above and below a team. It’s easy to bulldoze your way to a decision if you haven’t taken the time to listen and research. Choose to listen to what the people around you are saying, and allow room for honest and vulnerable feedback.

Lift the lid off yourself, and you’ll lift the lid off those you lead.

It’s easy to blame the people around you, below you, or above you. It’s something else when you take responsibility for your attitudes, feelings, words, and actions. That kind of leader will always go far, because they’ll never stop growing. When I’m around world-class leaders, I notice that they never stop growing. As they personally grow, they cause the people they lead to grow with them. A team that is growing is often a result of a leader that is growing. Leaders who lift personal lids, will automatically lift team lids.

Influence is the result of fruitfulness, faithfulness, and humility.

Great leaders don’t necessarily have to be well-known. Some of the greatest leaders aren’t necessarily famous. But every great leader is fruitful, faithful, and humble. There is a groundedness to what they do, that is truly Jesus-like. There is a mission and purpose to their life that is infectious. Their roots go deep in the community they’re a part of. They aren’t in it for themselves, but for the greater good. They don’t build on their personality or gifting, but on what is necessary for the particular mission at hand. Watching their influence grow is incredible, because it is isn’t based on their impressiveness, giftedness, or bravado, but on the time-tested bedrock of fruitfulness, faithfulness, and humility.

Great leadership isn’t natural, it’s learned behaviors that become second-nature.

Whatever amount of leadership ability someone has, it is rarely enough to sustain long-term effectiveness. This is because leadership is a constant moving forward, where the leader is adapting to what’s ahead and growing as they respond as best they know. Leadership is hard because it requires wise decision-making. The daily practice of great leadership eventually leads to learned behaviors that becomes second-nature. We don’t naturally forgive or encourage or serve, but the countless hours of practicing forgiveness, encouragement, and servanthood become natural responses in leadership.