To say I’m in a new season of personal leadership development would be an understatement.
I stumbled onto the three questions almost by accident, but at my last church was able to establish a culture of leadership and service that fit really well with the mindset of the three questions.
But, ironically, I’m really weak at answering the third question.
If you haven’t already, or even in a while, click here to read about the three questions. But, as a reminder, they are:
I’ve written about this before, but a great tension exists when you feel competent and capable of accomplishing something but want to empower people around you. I find the tension is even greater when it’s something I thoroughly enjoy doing.
I am constantly amazed, however, at how something I may be able to do competently, someone else can do excellently. So, when push comes to shove, if I’m not asking people around me to help, I’m saying that I’m satisfied with mediocrity. Unfortunately, more times than I would care to admit, I am.
Back to personal leadership development. I find myself living in the tension of what is and what could be. Mediocrity or excellence. But the excellence comes at a price–my ego. If I’m not willing to ask the third question, then my leadership stalls.
True leadership is not about elevating ourselves. True leadership is about equipping those we lead to elevate above us. I want to equip people (students and adults, in my context) to excel at what they do, even if it’s something I enjoy doing. I’m not here to run a one man show, although that seems to be what my actions often communicate.
The same is true for you. There are people around you who are ready to step up and serve, but you have to put forth the effort of inviting them to the table, of building the relationship to know what they’re willing to do, and of asking them to help. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Do the difficult work of equipping those around you to elevate above you, and watch your leadership influence increase.
Monday night I attended a band concert for my oldest daughter. As I was sitting in a chair watching her band-mates leave in droves and wondering where she was, I realized what was happening through a conversation we had a week earlier.
“We show up early and stay late. That’s what we do.”
My sweet, servant minded pre-teen (I can’t help but think there’s going to be a slight “interruption” sooner rather than later) has been raised by parents who show up early and stay late. It’s been ingrained in her, unnaturally, because she’s been drug to events early and kept late for years.
Now, this isn’t intended to be a dad-brag. Instead, it’s a study of leadership osmosis. I find one of the ways I serve most effectively is by showing up early and staying late, and in spite of me never actually coming out and teaching my child this mindset, she learned it by virtue of being dragged to places.
So how do we teach students who don’t live under our roof the same mindset? By including them. Give them opportunities. Recognize when they see the bigger picture, and celebrate it. Invite them again. Help them see the need and help them see they can meet the need.
One method I use to help teenagers see the subtle shift is the three questions. If a student can begin to ask themselves “What’s the bigger picture? What needs to be done?”, then we begin to take steps to moving them into a realm of leveraging influence.
But it has to start somewhere. Let me say that again. It has to start somewhere. We have to have conversations with them to help them see the opportunity.
What are you doing to develop leaders around you? How are you developing them? What steps are you willing to take to develop them? What changes do you need to make?
What if you could implement a process to help students begin to look for opportunities to not only make an impact on the situations around them, but also to influence their peers?
It’s been a while since I’ve written solely about the three questions, so today I thought I would send you over to the foundation. I have been using these questions to help student leaders expand their leadership influence for the past four years, and the results have been remarkable.
So whether you’re relatively new to the site, or have been around for a while, go check out the foundation and start expanding your leadership influence!
Have you ever been asked to dig a hole and not been given the proper tool to accomplish the task?
A few years ago I took a group of kids on a mission trip. The group I had proved a little more efficient than the host anticipated, so we started working on random projects around the property. One of the projects was digging holes for a future gate.
Now, growing up on the farm, I’ve had my share of digging holes. We used tractors, post hole diggers, and shovels to accomplish the necessary task at hand. But, I had never experienced having to dig a hole like this.
The ground below the top soil was almost solid rock. So, for the first time in my life, I learned to use a digging bar.
A digging bar, to jazz it up, is a metal spear that chips rock away bit by bit. And it’s work.
Each person in our group would take turns, about 10-20 strikes per person, trying to chip away at the rock. Then, after we had made some progress, someone would swoop in and clean out as much debris as possible. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The funny thing is this: the owner of the property didn’t look at me and say “you have great hole digging potential” and walk away. Instead, he walked us out, gave us the tools we needed, demonstrated what it looked like, and let us get to work.
Developing student leaders is very similar. A lot of people will tell a student “you have leadership potential”, but are we walking away or putting a digging bar in their hands?
If we want to develop student leaders, then our job is not complete at recognizing ability. We need to equip them to step up and lead. We need to find the shovel, post hole diggers, and digging bars necessary to help them grow and accomplish the task.
How do we do that? I’m glad you asked. Go here to read about three questions I’ve developed to help put a shovel in the hands of a student. My desire is not to simply acknowledge someone’s potential, but to give them the opportunity to serve.
As we teach students to lead using the three questions, we are providing them with the opportunity to grow and to come to know understand leadership more clearly. The three questions are definitely not the end game, but they sure do open the door for further conversation.
And who knows, as we teach ourselves to pass the shovel, maybe we will grow as leaders along the way, too.
Leadership influence is a tricky concept. The reality about leadership influence is we all have influence, but so many people that I observe fail to realize the impact their influence is making.
Influence, unfortunately, does not always mean a positive outcome. Often times I see the result of influence being more negative than positive.
That’s why my heart beats for teenagers. They are exploring the realm of their influence, often missing the real impact they have.
Sometimes, teenagers get so tuned in to their own interests and preferences that they neglect the impact their decisions and actions are having on those around them.
Sometimes, adults get so tuned in to their own interests and preferences that they neglect the impact their decisions and actions are having on those around them.
That’s why I love the leadership conversation. If I can take a student (or adult) and help them begin to discover the potential and influence they have, then we can start to move forward together.
That’s also why I love the three questions. Teaching the three questions to students is a way for them to start to realize the impact they can and do have on a room. More than that, it helps them see the results of that impact. And that impact doesn’t come from being up front or in charge. It comes from serving and adding value.
I want any room I enter to be better because I’m there. Now, that may not mean that I’m the center of attention, and a lot of times that’s not the case at all. But wherever I am, I want to make an impact on those around me in some way. And I love helping others do the same thing.
What about you? Where are you in the process? What’s your passion for developing leaders? What are you doing to develop student leaders around you? What are you doing to develop your own leadership? What step do you need to take today to move forward either developing student leaders or developing your own leadership?
Here are two things I would suggest to help you move forward here:
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