4 Essential Elements of Leadership

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I am delivering this lesson tomorrow to a group of ministry leaders. Rather than limit it to one presentation, I thought it may be helpful to readers of this blog.

Leadership is a trust. I Corinthians 4:2 “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful.”

Like other spiritual gifts, leadership is a gift from the Holy Spirit. Romans 12:8 “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

The spiritual gift of leadership is closely related to the gift of administration and, interestingly, the spiritual gift of pastor/shepherd.  The Greek word for the spiritual gift of leadership is proistemi.  This word means to lead, to assist, to protect and to care for others. http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com/spiritual-gift-of-leadership

The gift of Leadership is the God given ability to lead people to accomplish God’s vision and goals. The biblical image used when describing leadership is “shepherd”. A Shepherd does not force his will upon the sheep, rather he tends and cares for them. The sheep instinctively follow a good shepherd. Jesus describes himself as the “Good Shepherd”, and calls Church leaders his “Under Shepherds”. The “Under Shepherds” must faithfully follow the example of the “Good Shepherd” and lay their lives down for the welfare of the sheep (John 10:14-18). The person gifted by God with Leadership abilities, will display the same servant leadership principles evidenced by Jesus and the Apostles. (http://www.assessme.org/about/spiritual-gifts/leadership.aspx)

Like with others gifts, God expects us to nurture, explore and utilize the gift of leadership for His glory.

We have become stewards of the gift of leadership. We must make the most of it, as ones who will give an account to God. See the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. (If you don’t use what you’ve been given you may lose what you’ve been given.)

Are leaders born or made? “Leaders are neither born nor made. Leaders are summoned. They are called into existence by circumstances, and those who rise to the occasion are leaders.” (Leonard Sweet – Summoned to Lead)

Let’s be the best leaders we can possibly be for God’s glory!

 4 Essential -(imperative, indispensable, necessary_- Elements of Leadership:

Note that the title is 4 Essential Elements – not THE 4 Essential Elements. There are many more! In his book, Spiritual Leadership: Principle of Excellence for Every Believer, J. Oswald Sanders lists: discipline, wisdom, decision, courage humility, integrity and sincerity, humor, anger, patience, friendship, tact and diplomacy, inspirational power, executive ability, etc.

  1. Authentic

(adjective: not false or copied; genuine; real.)

Synonyms: credible, real, genuine, legitimate, pure, reliable, trustworthy.

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Paul’s declaration of authenticity: “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” Philippians 4:9

“Followers trust leaders to lead. When leaders don’t lead, followers stop trusting their leaders.”

There is no leadership issue more important than trust. Without trust, we are not leaders.

Trust is fragile: it takes a lifetime to build trust and only a moment to lose it.

For discussion: Name some things that can compromise our authenticity:

  1. Visionary

The ability to look forward to God’s plan.

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Leaders must be solutions oriented; anyone can point out problems, it takes a leader to fix them.

“The term vision is a key buzzword in today’s ministry world.  I believe that vision is vital to your people seeing what “could be” – what our great God can accomplish through them (Eph. 3:20) in your ministry community.”  (Aubrey Malphurs –Advanced Strategic Planning)

Leaders must 1) accurately assess the current situation of the group they are leading, 2) discern where God wants to take the group and 3) implement the best plan in order to get the group there.

Vision is not just a pipe dream. Vision isn’t fantasy. Vision is not wishful thinking. Vision is hard work, directed by the Spirit, demands great sacrifice, requires faith and embraces risk.

Three of the most renowned Biblical visionaries: Moses, Nehemiah, Paul.  Study their leadership!

Visionary leaders must have foresight. “A mark of leaders, an attribute that puts them in a position to show the way for others, is that they are better than most at pointing the direction to go. Foresight is the “lead” that the leader has. Once leaders lose this lead and events start to force their hand, they are leaders in name only.” Robert K. Greenleaf

Leaders, ask of the group you lead…

  • What is?
  • What could and should be?
  • What will it take to make it happen?

For discussion: What are some of the things that may prevent leaders from being visionary?

What are some Biblical responses to these things?

  1. Industrious

 design[29](Paul) II Thessalonians 3:7-8 “For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you.”

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” (Colin Powell)

It is reasonable to expect full time ministers to work 50 or more hours per week.

Make the distinction between selfish ambition and godly ambition.

“Pastors of 50 or fewer people – if you work and pray as though you have 100 people, you may soon have.”

We must guard against time wasters: (social media, non-essentially long meetings, extended lunch or coffee breaks).

It is necessary to not only work hard, but to also work smart. Learn to utilize tools and innovations such as the Internet, teams within the church, and resources from other pastors/leaders.

Be diligent in your work for the Lord. We cannot hide laziness!

 For discussion: What things might contribute to the reputation that pastors are not hard workers?

  1. Spiritually Deep

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I Corinthians 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (NIV)

“And you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.” (NLT)

 

One of the most sobering identities of a leader: Example. People actually follow!

 Remember: As goes the leader, so go the followers.

“If the preacher always preaches shallow messages, the church members will never learn how to swim in the deep waters.“

It has been said, “Whatever you see exemplified in church members can be traced back to the pastor.” While there are exceptions to this statement, there are elements of truth to it.

A few indicators of spiritual maturity:

  • Stability – we will not be wishy-washy in our spirituality.
  • Humility – we think of ourselves less and others more.
  • Practicing sound doctrine – Not prone to flaky theology or bandwagon gimmicks.
  • Thick skinned (Not easily offended) – it is hard to hurt our feelings.
  • Faith – God has proven Himself over and over, we do not doubt Him!
  • Persistence – we refuse to quit.

For discussion: What must we do in order to assure our spiritual stability?

Conclusion:

Are you as effective as a leader as you would like to be?

In what areas is God speaking to you about your personal leadership development?

What is your plan of action?

Relational Leadership: Growing Beyond our Organizational Bureaucracy

IMG_021450 years ago, people were perfectly happy being treated like a number. Employees were expendable and assembly line workers were interchangeable. If you expected to be affirmed by your employee, well, that’s what a paycheck was for.

Today’s team members want to be valued beyond their monetary compensation; they rightfully expect to be treated with respect. Leaders can no longer be perceived as dictators. The days of the intimidating boss are fading and employees will no longer tolerate a company that undervalues their workers. In fact, most people no longer want to be seen merely as a worker or a cog in a corporate machine; they prefer to think of themselves as team members, vital partners, an important piece of the larger mosaic. Leonard Sweet says that, “people possess a desire for a higher purpose – a mission that will change the world.” By connecting with your organization, they can participate as a key component in a bigger mission.

If you are a leader, you must connect in a relational way with your team members. If your organization is too large for you to offer hands-on care for everyone, you must structure so that someone is doing hands-on care for everyone. Individuals matter!

Allow me to clarify a few things that are often mistaken for relational leadership:

  • Telling you what you want to hear. We must care enough to challenge one another to grow. Stretching is uncomfortable but a necessary part of personal and organizational development.
  • Always agreeing. Just because I disagree with you does not mean that I am a “hater”. Sometimes my love for you compels me to disagree with you. Relational leaders care enough to lovingly confront when necessary.
  • Presuming your leader to be all things to all people. We must have reasonable expectations. If your leader has 10 or more direct reports, she may not be accessible every time you need her. An extremely high capacity leader may be able to effectively connect personally with 50 or more people but you must not place them under extreme performance expectations as they relate to accessibility.
  • One-sided relateability. Relational leadership is a two-sided coin. If you expect your leader or team member to initiate every conversation, you need to further study communication. Two-way care is required. (Part 2 of this post will address relational followership.)
  • Organizational acquiescence. While modern thinkers need to know they have influence, they cannot expect everyone to instantly comply and conform to their ideologies. Regardless of how impatient we may become, deep influence and trust takes a lifetime to earn.

However, any leader that plans to remain effective must assume responsibility for building authentic relationships with their associates. People must know that they matter more than the organization. Regarding connectivity: as goes the leader, so goes the team.

We must grow beyond our organizational bureaucracy. In order for institutions to continue to survive they must embrace a systemic relational ethos. If you find yourself in a leadership conundrum where morale is low but angst is high, try making more relational investments in the lives of team members. Strategically and intentionally provide emotional equity; let them know you care!

You are important far beyond what assets you bring to your organization. Your value as an individual and friend far exceeds the contributions you make to the institution as a colleague, associate or employee. Relational leadership will affirm this over time.

On a more personal note, the organization that I serve (the church) is experiencing great transformation in the area relational leadership. Much of our structure is being evaluated and adjusted. We have as our model, the Lord Jesus Christ. He always put people ahead of the institution. In fact, the purpose of His structure was to serve individuals. The church must lead the way in growing beyond our organizational bureaucracy and embracing relational leadership.

(Len Sweet, Summoned To Lead)

Resolutions that Actually Work

2014

Most people don’t stick with their New Year resolutions. Many people no longer bother making them. A few of the reasons that they’re not as effective as we would like are:
They can be emotions based and therefore difficult to sustain long term.
We lack the necessary tools needed for follow through.
We get discouraged when met with resistance.
The New Year isn’t new for long – a week or two in and it’s “business as usual.”

So this year, I’m going with a better plan:
100 Days Resolution.
100 days from January 1 is April 10. I plan to do a few new things for the first 100 days of 2014. I figure they will be solidly embedded into my life by then. Because the resolutions are made for 100 days, I am careful not to overcommit or set some grandiose or unattainable goals. I think this will work!

A few things I am committing to for the first 100 days of 2014:
Take better care of myself physically. I’ve been too hit and miss recently. There will be changes for the first 3 months of 2014.
Read the Bible through with an emphasis on digging deeper. I’ve read cover to cover for many years but, admittedly, there have been times when it has become a project. Not next year. Until at least April, I will slow down and absorb.
Have more fun. I am scheduling in more days off. We have a nice vacation planned in February. I enjoy working a lot of hours but all work and no play makes me dull. The first quarter of next year, I’m playing more.

How about you? Going to make a list of resolutions? I suggest you set a timeframe of 100 days. If April 10 comes and you’re still going strong, the rest of the year will be a no brainer!

FEAR (get over it)

Fear get over it

I want to address one of the more powerful forces in the universe – fear. Especially as it relates to how we process life and opportunities, fear can control, intimidate and dominate our lives.

The term “paralyzing fear” is legit – some fear is so powerful that it actually leaves us unable to move.

The biggest trouble with fear is, it controls our ability to dream. Some find it nearly impossible to visualize a positive outcome because their fear dominates any optimism. Like a playground bully, fear intimidates the vision right out of many leaders. Napoleon Hill said, “Fear is a darkroom where negatives develop.”

Don’t let your fear of the future control your future!

Don’t allow fear of repeated failures to dictate your future!

Don’t tolerate fear as an uncontrollable force!

It can be controlled.

Here are some insights on how to beat fear:

Identify your fear. Ignoring it or denying it won’t help. Label it by name. Fear is an enemy.

Face your fear. Unless your fear is based on some life-threatening danger, face it down. Stare at fear right in the face. You may find that fear itself is intimidated by courage. Fear is a liar.

Push back. A good old fashioned, “I’m not gonna take it any more” attitude can result in fear backing away from the fight. You might need some help with this one, enlist a friend or two to help you push back. Fear is a coward.

Move in for the kill. Once you detect that fear is backing up, don’t let up. Push it all the way to the hell from which it came. Fear can be defeated.

Apply God’s Word to your fear! The phrase “fear not” appears 365 times in the Bible (one for every day of the year). “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. “II Timothy 1:7 (NLT) God does not want you under the control of fear.  Rather, He wants us to live confident and powerful lives.

Get over your fear and live out your dreams!

Collaborate or Die

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Collaborate: to work, one with another; cooperate. (dictionary.com)

1. God collaborates with leaders:

God has decided to reveal His plans to people. He usually selects a leader and fills his head with lots of ideas. But rarely do his plans involve only one person. God designed us to collaborate with others while we fulfill His plans.

About His plans, God says to us “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.” Habakkuk 2:2 (NIV)

We are supposed to communicate God’s plans with others. Then, other leaders can take up the vision and run with it (share it, help make it happen, pour it into the lives of followers).

2. Leaders collaborate with other leaders:

When Moses was about to burn out from doing all the work himself, his father-in-law Jethro gives some great advice:

Exodus 18:17, 21-24 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.

21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten. 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you. 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.”

I would suggest that we share the workload with others who can lead.

3. Other leaders collaborate with followers:

My favorite Bible story about collaboration is found in Nehemiah. Nehemiah got the bright idea to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Apparently, collaboration was the way to go:

Nehemiah 2:18 “They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.”

The insurmountable job was completed in 54 days!

4. Collaborative leadership results in a fulfilled vision!:

The only way you will accomplish all that God has put in your heart is to work in cooperation with other people. The vision you carry is too big and too important for you to try to do it alone. The only other option is failure, which means the death of your vision. Don’t let that happen – collaborate!

What’s Your Strategy?

When it comes to life and getting things done, progress and growth generally aren’t organic. By that, I mean that if we do not have a strategy for success (a plan that we work), success probably won’t come. This is true on a corporate level as well as on an individual level. Too many people just live a day at a time with no forethought about what it will take in order to make things turn out right. They have a desired future in mind but no idea how to actually arrive at that desired future.

Let me say this: If your goal is to simply maintain, you have made the decision to start dying. “Just getting by” is a strategy for failure. Life will not let us slide with that kind of a cop out. More is required if we hope to accomplish something of significance.

People are born with a desire to thrive. Babies want to eat. Little children strive to learn and do more. Sadly, sometimes things happen that cause people to quit reaching for something more. Once a person stops dreaming, things go down hill. The Bible relates it this way: ”Without a vision the people perish.” We are made with the need to dream. When the dream dies, we die with it. But dreaming is one thing. Being willing to work your tail off to make the dream come true is another thing. As Bob Goff says, “No one is remembered for what they just planned to do?” What is your plan to make your dream happen?

You need a plan of strategy! Whether you are considering your marriage/family, your career, or your ministry, you need a plan. It should be concrete, easily communicated and vision-driven. Regarding the coming New Year, let me ask you specifically:

~What is your strategy for growth and success for next year?

~What steps will you take to see your dreams fulfilled?

~Where do you want to be in 12 months, and how will you get there?

Now is the time to start answering these questions.

So, what’s your plan? If you don’t have one, you’d better get to work! And don’t bother with some little passionless, no-risk ideas. Let’s dream big dreams and get to work fulfilling them! Your ideas are too important to allow them to fail simply because you didn’t have a strategy.

Be Kind to Your Successors

Let’s talk about big decisions and long-term consequences.

I am going back to a discussion I had with a friend a couple of years ago. He serves as an Executive Financial Administrator at a large, well-known church in the south. He was telling me how, on a daily basis, he wrestles with decisions that leaders of the church made forty years ago. I was blown away by that idea. Specifically, he was trying to pay for and maintain buildings that never should have been built. It was currently hamstringing their ministry. They were having trouble fulfilling their God-given vision because they had to manage the choices made by guys who were no longer around.

Be reminded that, some of the things you decide today will be around for a long time. Long after you are dead and buried, some of your choices will still be going strong.  Before you decide to commit an organization to a long-term arrangement, consider those who will follow you. Before you jump on a bandwagon, before you follow a trend, before you do what other well-known leaders are doing, ask… how will this affect people who come along behind me in 10 or 20 or 30 years?

Go ahead and dream big, and act big. But do so with the knowledge that someone gets to deal with the residual of your decisions.

Be kind to your successors! They will love you for it.

(by the way, I took the picture above while on a bike ride in the swamp in South Florida)