The Foundation

Chairs
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Thanks for visiting my blog! This page is a long read, but what follows has really influenced much of my leadership, and I trust it will do the same for you. This is a longer read than most of my posts (actually, it’s three posts combined in this one page), but absolutely central to any leadership development I’ve experienced.

Learning servant leadership

On New Year’s Eve we had some friends over. We invited two couples and thought only one would come, so we set up for two families (ours and theirs). When the time rolled around to start, the second couple walked in the door. We talked for a moment and then I decided to go grab some chairs for our extra guests.

When I walked into the back room, I saw my daughter grabbing chairs. Neither my wife nor I asked her to grab the chairs, but she was able to see the need and decided to do something about it.

The foundation for the 3 questions is servant leadership. If we, as leaders, are unwilling to meet the need or work to solve a problem, then we stop being leaders and become bosses. If we are unwilling to grab chairs for extra guests, we miss the starting point.

When we decide, however, to make a difference by first making an effort, then we can lead others to do the same. When we lead others to do the same, our leadership grows.

So, before you read further, first ask yourself if you are willing to be a servant leader. Are you willing to put forth the effort it takes to accomplish tasks? Are you already exercising servant leadership? If not, start looking for ways to make a difference by serving.

The 3 Questions are all based around a single starting point: When you walk into a room, ask yourself these 3 questions.

As I mentioned already, the first two questions really have very little to do with actual hands on, forward moving leadership and immensely more to do with service. Every leader, though, has to start somewhere, so we first lay the foundation for strong servant leadership.

1. WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE? (AWARENESS)

The first question I want to ask when I walk into a room is “what needs to be done.” Before I move or even attempt to serve, I want to look for simple and complex tasks that need to be done. I want to sharpen my awareness before I do anything else.

For the sake of clarity, some exploration of the grander idea needs to take place. Walking into a room is not the steadfast starting point. Sometimes, the first question is asked when coaching a sports team, while sitting in a meeting, at a computer, or even at home. The first question does not have to happen upon an entrance, but it is a mindset.

I am not trying to establish a critical spirit or mindset, but instead trying to look for ways to help. The goal of the first question simply becomes creating an awareness of how things work and what needs to be done.

We cannot, however, move forward until we are able to determine what needs to happen.

2. WHAT CAN I DO? (WILLINGNESS)

The second question moves from a simple assessment into the realm of personal evaluation. After walking into a room and asking what needs to be done, the next question to ask is “What can I do to help?”

The journey to leadership involves self-awareness and a willingness to meet a need. We all know people who excel at pointing out faults or weaknesses in our personal lives or in the organizations we serve and lead. How many times would a conversation move away from criticism if it included the statement: “what can I do to help?”

The second question may be the most important in terms of establishing a relationship. If we are unwilling to put forth effort, how can we expect to see results?

Think about it like this: we cannot accomplish anything without a willingness to do something.

If we want to see results from our leadership, we need to understand the importance of being willing to step in and meet the need. We may not always be an expert in the area, but sticking our head in the sand will not help us make a difference in the lives of those around us.

Sound simple enough?  As I have explored the second question, and even taught it to others, I have realized some people do these things naturally, while others do not. Some people intrinsically look for ways to help.

So, once again, before moving forward, ask yourself honestly if you’re wired to answer the first two questions, or if it is an area in which you need to grow.

Please don’t think I have all of this figured out, because I don’t. But, we have to start somewhere. So why not start by asking what needs to be done and what can I do to help?

3. WHO CAN I GET TO HELP? (Leadership)

The third question focuses on including others in what has been a very personal and individual process. The difference between people who can answer the first two questions and the people who can answer all three often comes down to an ability to lead others. But leading others is not an art form that few can master. Everyone has the potential to lead.

Leadership takes place when you see a need and you invite other people to meet the need, preferably with you. A quick google search of “definitions of leadership” will return more results than you might care to peruse, but the simple idea boils down to seeing a better future and bringing people along to join in the better future and help it happen. Leaders have an ability to see the “horizon of possibility”.

If Leadership is rooted in the first two questions, then it blossoms in the third. It is not enough to simply be able to assess a need and meet the need, but a successful leader will be able to include others in meeting the need.

I have been teaching these questions to a group of junior high and high school students since August. One of the easiest ways the three questions have found expression has been through setting chairs up on Wednesday nights before our service starts.

A few weeks ago, before anyone else had arrived, an 8th grader, who has not been included in the teaching of the 3 Questions, walks into the youth room and begins to set up chairs. Completely unprompted by me (and like a bum, I didn’t even help).

This student had been included by the others so many times, that he unknowingly answered the first two questions that night.

LEADERSHIP LEADS TO MOVEMENT

Inviting others to help accomplish a task is good, but it is not the end goal. Ultimately, we want to move people in a common direction.

As a father, I want to lead my family to faithfully serve God.

As a leader, I want to lead others to impact lives for the sake of the Gospel.

As a Youth Pastor, I want to lead students into a growing relationship with Christ, and in turn I want to lead those students to lead their peers.

Ultimately, however, the goal of leadership is to leverage influence to create forward movement.

As we work through the 3 Questions, we have to come to terms with where we want people to move. Never be satisfied by simply answering the questions, but be willing to evaluate where you’re going.

So, there you go. These questions have slowly started shaping the way I lead, the way I teach others to lead, and the way I interact with people around me. I will continue to unpack what these mean and what they look like, but this is all for now. Thanks for reading!