Have you ever seen The Matrix? You know, the Keanu Reeves movies from the late 90s and early 2000s where the world as we know it is all a computer program.
Over the course of the movie Neo (Reeves) discovers he’s been living a lie. Everything he thinks is real is only a computer generated illusion. Through a course of actions he “wakes up” in the real world–a place significantly more hopeless and destitute.
After “waking up”, Neo hacks back into the Matrix for some training. His clothes have changed, his hair has changed, even the ports that were present on his body are no longer there. This is called, if I remember correctly, his residual self image. It’s what he thinks he looks like, or what he chooses to look like.
We all have a similar problem. We have a residual self image we want others to see and believe about us. You have one. I have one.
As we seek to recognize leadership potential in students (or even adults), part of our task is to look past the residual self image a student projects, and discern what lies beneath.
It’s not cool to be a servant leader, but when you see that glimpse of humility, bells should be going off.
For me, those bells are a wonderful thing. I love seeing the potential in a student and learning to navigate the waters of what is currently and what could be in the future.
Are you looking past the residual self image of those around you? Are you starting to notice the potential? Do you know how to start developing that potential? (Click here to read the approach I take.)
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The genesis of my blogging adventure began with a simple concept: sharing three questions I started teaching students leaders to ask and answer in an attempt to expand their leadership influence.
If you’re new to 3QL, I would encourage you to go check out the Foundation to see a short summary of the namesake for this endeavor. Go ahead, this post will wait for you.
The abbreviated version boils down to this: When you walk into a room (or encounter a situation in general), ask yourself…
Lately I’ve been reflecting on the simplicity of the questions. Asking and answering the questions opens doors we could never imagine, but the three questions are also counter intuitive.
One of the easiest lies to buy into is that leadership belongs to those at the front (of the line, of the organization, of the room). But we all have seen the impact someone can have on a room from a seat that’s not the front.
So leadership is not limited to the front. John Maxwell’s second law of leadership is “The Law of Influence: The True Measure of Leadership is Influence – Nothing More, Nothing Less.” When we grow our influence, we grow our leadership.
The same is true in Youth Ministry (and life in general). When we teach students (or anyone) to ask and answer the three questions, what we are doing is preparing them to make an impact where they are.
If you’re reading this today, let me issue a challenge. A student doesn’t have to pay dues before having influence. Granted, there are benefits to life experience, but the gamble we take in Youth Ministry is waiting too long to provide leadership opportunities.
Don’t wait. Develop leaders regardless of their age. You never know what may happen. Pour into your older students, but also be willing to pour into and invest in your younger students as well. When you build a balance, you’ll be amazed at the difference you’ll begin to notice.
And if you’re not sure where to start, get a group of students with hearts of a servant, teach them the three questions, and ask them how they answered the questions. You’ll be amazed at what begins to happen.
I had a conversation with a student last night. It’s slowly becoming one of my favorite leadership conversations to have with teenagers.
There are some changes in the future (I’ll post more about that in a few weeks), but this student runs the computer on Wednesday nights at church. He loves running the computer at church, and I can identify with him.
We currently have a 2 person rotation on running computer at church, and every week when I see him his first question is always “can I run computer tonight?” When I have to say I’m going to ask the other one first, he is always disappointed.
So, last night, we had a little talk. I told him I love his enthusiasm (and can identify with it, we are kindred spirits), but I had a challenge for him: teach someone else what you know.
I told him if he could learn to teach someone else to do it, and subsequently not take over for them, he would become incredibly valuable.
The reality of the moment was I was having the discussion with him about what I wanted him to do while pointing out the very thing I had done with him. I taught him how to run the computer, and let him do it. Now, if he could do the same, maybe he could find someone who loves the sound booth as much as he does.
This is the challenge we all face in leadership. One of the most challenging things we face is letting go. That’s where the 3 questions come in. For some of us, we need a reminder to ask the 3rd question. We need a reminder that until we allow others to move forward we are not leading, we are simply working.
Who do you need to teach something today? Who do you need to ask for help? I’m not saying you fully surrender anything, but maybe you can find someone today who will find their passion because you asked for them to help. And if you can do that, everyone wins.
“I accidentally lost 50 pounds this year!”
“I accidentally read 20 books this month!”
“I accidentally lead our church to grow by 300%!”
There are some things we will never hear. Accidents happen, but rarely do accidents happen for the positive. People unknowingly gain weight, but only occassionally does anyone lose significant weight without any thought put into it (unless it’s a stomach bug, in which the thought is “I wish I were dead.”)
I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey lately. His realm of influence is money. He wants his listeners to get out of debt and to live lives of generosity. One of his keys pieces of advice is to stop wondering where your money went and tell it where to go with a zero sum budget. He encourages his listeners to be intentional with their money, and the stories of people whose lives are changed are remarkable.
Leadership is the same way. Leadership rarely happens by accident. Let me rephrase that. Great leadership rarely happens by accident.
In fact, if you were to truly study the most influential leaders you know (whether it be ministry, thought, electronics, etc.), I truly believe there will be one constant in each of their lives: intentionality.
Intentionality in leadership takes many shapes and many forms, but the simplest beginning is this: deciding how you are going to be intentional. We can all say we are going to do something, but until we decide how we are going to do it, it won’t happen.
Diets are the same. “I’m not going to each as much” pales in comparison to “I’m going to do the Keto diet.” When we give our intentions boundaries, we move in the direction of progress.
Today I want you to fill in the blanks for this statement: I am going to intentionally ___________ today by (doing) ____________.
Now, follow through with it!
We have all been there: we make a decision about someone (their willingness or unwillingness to do something), and then are surprised when they contradict our expectations. The surprise can be good or bad, but it is a surprise either way.
The reality is we can rarely know exactly how someone is going to respond, but for people with whom we have experience, we can anticipate a response. (Here’s a post about not letting someone’s character surprise you.)
Today, I want to go a little different route. Sometimes we compare ourselves to people around us as a way to denigrate our own creativity or ability. I have a youth minister friend who feels they are not as experienced or “good” as others in our circle, but the reality is their combination of experience, creativity, and passion makes them perfectly unique!
When we assume the people around us are doing the things we are doing, we are neglecting a simple truth: people are wired differently. What comes naturally to one, may not come naturally to another. But we will never know unless we ask.
There is something you do naturally that few people find easy, and there is something with which you struggle that other people may find easy. This is lived out in my children: one daughter loves to read and has to work in math, while the other has to work in reading and loves math.
I have two suggestions for you today: First, embrace your strength. What makes you, you? What comes naturally to you that other people have to struggle to accomplish?
Second, help someone else discover what they do naturally. There is someone in your list of contacts, who is walking through the day defeated because they do not realize they are naturally gifted at something. Take on a role to help them discover that today (or the rest of this week).
Make a difference in someone else’s life today.
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