Here We Go Again

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I am once again leading a leadership track at camp this week. I love having the opportunity to pour into students and connect with other youth workers.

So much of what I’m sharing with the students this week comes from ideas I have written about already, but some are lessons I’ve learned along the way that haven’t made an appearance here yet.

Last night, I shared a simple thought: Leaders Learn.

There are a few sides to this thought. First, in order to learn, it helps for a leader to discover things about herself. This may mean discovering gifts, strengths, abilities, passions, or any number of positive attribute. But part of discovery also bleeds into the area of things we would not like to admit.

A leader who cannot find a weakness in himself need only ask those around him for a full report. We all have weaknesses, but we choose whether or not we are open to learning what they are.

So, are you, as a leader, taking time to learn things about yourself? When was the last time you took some time to evaluate?

Second, in order fulfill the Leaders Learn mantra, a leader needs to learn to be honest with himself. Honesty may be one of the most crucial and beneficial pieces of learning. If someone is unwilling to be honest, then everyone around him or her fails.

Honesty, however, comes at a price. We will be unable to be honest with ourselves if we are unwilling to pay the high price of growth.

Are you growing? When was the last time you took time to be honest with yourself?

Influential Leadership

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As I’ve studied leadership more and more, and as I have tried to become a student of leadership, a few things have stuck with me.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is the foundational definition of leadership comes from John Maxwell: Leadership is Influence. (here’s a blog post from 2005 written by Maxwell that starts with this idea)

In my job, I get to watch as students display influence and leadership over those around them. Many of them do not realize what’s happening, but some of them do.

One of the things I enjoy doing is finding someone who is exhibiting excitement, point in them in the right direction, and let them lead.

One example comes from our Vacation Bible School this week. During the music rotation I noticed a lack of energy coming from my group of students, and the lack of energy negatively influenced the younger kids in the room.

But there was one boy, in particular, who was displaying some excitement. So, I pulled him aside, pointed this older student in the direction of some younger students, and watched as he walked over, stood by, danced by, and after a short while, influenced these younger kids to join him.

Leadership doesn’t always have to be leading organizational change or altering the course of mankind. Sometimes, leadership happens by encouraging the person next to you to dance a little.

We all influence someone. How can you maximize your influence today?

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Ask Questions No One Else is Asking

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I tend to work better on a team. One of the reasons why is because I value being able to discuss a situation–it helps me process better.

Have you ever been in a planning meeting with a group of people about a project, asked a question, and watched as the expressions in the room turn to “why would you ask that?”

Over the past few years, I have found myself in that situation more than I can imagine, but for a good reason: I want to be able to say we thought about that scenario/outcome/solution/possibility.

Asking the question the group assumes has an agreed upon answer, on occasion, will provide some necessary insight and clarity.

For ministry, have we considered the impact this decision will mean for _____?

For business, what happens after we reach our goal of _____?

For entreprenuers, what happens after _____?

I can think of a few times where I have been glad to be the one to ask the silly question, because sometimes the silly question is the very question no one else is willing to ask.

Why are we doing this?

Do we still need this?

What do we hope to achieve or accomplish?

Are we ready for the possible fall out of this particular decision?

Learn to ask questions no one else is asking, and you will start to see your leadership influence shift. If people can count on you to bring value to the table, then they will count on you.

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A Lesson from a Busy Street

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Yesterday, after making a hospital visit, I sat in my suburban and watched as a student driver tried to parallel park two spots in front of me. (If it had been the spot directly in front of me, I may not have been as patient.)

The car pulled up, waited for a while, then slowly started backing up. Every passing car on the busy street caused greater hesitation, and I could sense the anxiety of the driver from where I sat.

The car ever so slowly inched into the parking spot, except the driver had turned too much and was almost perpendicular with the curb instead of parallel. After waiting for a moment, the car pulled forward and moved on like nothing had happened.

The driving instructor in that car could very likely parallel park with the best. All he would have to do is get out, and switch sides with the driver. But that’s not why the instructor rides in the car. The instructor guides the driver.

Often times, leading others unfolds in a similar way. We ride with them as they attempt something that seems completely foreign and unnatural. We talk them through the strategy, the thought process, and the mechanics. Then, in the moment of truth, they over correct and cannot pull it off. So, we move forward with them, taking the opportunity to help them learn from the experience.

More than likely, we are asking someone else to accomplish something we could accomplish on our own, and often times more efficiently. But if we buy into leadership development as a calling and a responsibility, then very rarely does anyone benefit from our sitting in the driver’s seat.

Instead, if you want to help others grow as leaders, learn to ride in the instructor’s seat. Instruct, guide, advise, but avoid kicking them out of the car because you can do better.

So, do you buy into leadership development as something you are called to do? Are you capable of letting go to see someone develop? Are you willing to let go?

Click here to see how I’m training student leaders to expand their leadership influence.

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