Surround Yourself With…

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Once a month I go to a lunch with a group of youth ministers. I seldom miss, and it is one of my favorite regular meetings of a given month.

Honestly, I am probably a little abnormally committed to this lunch. Why? Because I love spending time with sharp youth ministers who are doing things well.

In fact, I would argue I am a better minister because of the time I spend with other ministers–they sharpen me and inspire me.

Today’s learning is pretty straightforward: surround yourself with people who make you better.

If I want to lose weight and get in shape, then it helps to have friends who are either on the journey with me, or who are further along the journey than I am.

If I want to become a better leader, then I surround myself with people who understand leadership and are growing everyday.

More recently, some of the people with whom I’ve surrounded myself have inspired me to become a more consistent reader (something I currently struggle at maintaining).

So, what about you? Where do you want to grow? Who can you find to spend time with that will make you better? How can you create opportunities for that time?

Take a leap today and see what happens!

Leadership Grows

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Our own personal leadership should always be growing and evolving.

On Tuesday I made the statement that we are not who we are today without who we were yesterday. I promise that’s not my attempt at philosophy.

Do you ever find yourself being content with where you are as a leader? I don’t think I’m alone in this. The struggle is always going to be “is this it, or can I grow some more?”

The answer, by the way, will always be yes, you CAN grow some more. But there’s comfort in what we know.

Don’t settle for comfort. Don’t settle for anything.

So, how can you grow in your leadership? Here are a few tips:

  1. Learn to ask good questions, and ask them a lot. I love being around people who can ask a question that inspires me. Find someone like that and learn to ask good questions.
  2. Find people who are doing something different, and learn. This is true of craftsmanship: if you want to learn how to sew, find someone who knows and learn. But it’s also true in leadership. You don’t have to lead like someone else does, but you can definitely learn from what they’re doing well and apply it to your life.
  3. Find the way you learn, and grow. I’ve blogged about this before, but find out what learning style you are, and get after it! Embrace your unique giftedness, and learn.

If you’re not growing as a leader, take some time to evaluate and ask the question “why”?

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Losing Teeth & Growing as a Leader

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Have you ever considered that you are not who you are today without who you were yesterday? Is that confusing enough for you?

Think about it like this: in the last few days, my youngest daughter has lost 2 teeth. This is a normal part of the growth process. Every adult has lost at least one tooth along the way. But, if we didn’t have our baby teeth come in first, those adult teeth would be a killer.

If you’re a parent, think about that for a little while. What if your baby never cut teeth? Then what do you blame the nasty diapers on? Oh, and there’s the whole chewing food thing that becomes essential for health.

So, in order to have our adult teeth come in, we have to have baby teeth come in first. This seems like a simple concept, and it is, but do you think about your leadership the same way?

If you’ve been leading for very long at all, I’m sure you can think of a time where you were cutting your baby teeth. It was undoubtedly a big deal at the time. Then, as you’ve grown, that baby tooth has fallen out and been replaced by another tooth, one that has stood the test of time.

One example would be the foolishness and arrogance of a minister in their early 20s. I knew everything at 23-24. Except, I didn’t. As that baby tooth of confidence (which was important at the time, but eventually taken too far) made the initial cut, it made the way for the adult tooth of realizing I don’t know everything and I need to ask more questions, and always be learning.

What’s your most recent tooth loss? How have you grown in the past few weeks as a leader? Are you willing to grow some more? What tooth do you need to pull?

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Today’s Decisions. Tomorrow’s Direction.

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Have you ever done something you never thought you would do?

For me, it’s running. I used to think people who ran 5K races were crazy. Now, I’m one of the crazies. I’ve run 5Ks (including one during a vacation), 5 mile races, 10Ks and even a half marathon.

Every time I’ve trained for and completed a race, I can look back and see decisions I made along the way that helped me achieve the goal. The most obvious was simply the choice to spend time running instead of doing something else.

Our leadership principle today is a simple one: Today’s decisions. Tomorrow’s direction.

The decisions we make today affect where we will end up tomorrow. For leadership, the implication is rather simple: are you making decisions today that will make you a better leader tomorrow?

Are you reading leadership blogs (like this one), books, and articles? Are you listening to leadership podcasts that will stretch your understanding of what it means to lead? Are you surrounding yourself with people who will help you grow as a leader?

What have you set up in your routine each day that will help you expand your leadership influence? It may be as simple as sending an encouraging text each day, or clicking over to Amazon to find a good book on leadership. Or, maybe it’s adopting the three questions and trying to answer them each day.

Remember: Today’s decisions. Tomorrow’s direction.

Structure vs Creativity

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Last week I talked about leading from creativity and leading from structure, using the backdrop of two recent woodworking projects. Today, I want to reflect a little more.

I truly believe that effective leadership calls for both creativity and structure. There are times where being creative is the only way to move forward, and there are times where maximizing from the steps, mistakes and successes of others has already paved the way.

So, today, my question for you is simply: do you find yourself more naturally leading from creativity or from structure?

I wrestle with a heavy tendency to want to lead from a position of creativity. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I am a thinker. I joke that I spend about 90% of my time thinking about what I could do, and only 10% of the time actually doing it. The byproduct of that much thinking: creativity.

I fight against structure. I would much rather write my own Bible study, create my own logo, plan my own trip, or create a new wood working project than try to follow a blueprint written by someone else.

But, if we are going to be honest with each (and why wouldn’t we be honest?), my leaning to creativity is often times my greatest weakness. I suffer when I refuse to ever walk the path someone cleared before me.

Truthfully, I grow as a leader as I wrestle with this tension. Too much creativity, and my mistakes swallow me whole. Too much structure, and I get crushed under the weight.

So, which way do you naturally lean? How do you find balance between creating new and learning from the old? Please share your experiences!