I fancy myself a runner. Well, at least I used to be. I’ve never been fast, but a few years back I trained for a half marathon, and found I really enjoy a nice run. I’m back in it now, but it’s been a slow process.
More than the training, however, I’m part of a group of people who run and share our run stats with each other. This is not a group where we brag about how fast we are, but we all encourage one another to keep up the good work.
And that encouragement means the world.
I’m also part of what I facetiously call a “brain trust” with two fellow ministers. We get together periodically for coffee and to talk about ministry. Our primary goal is to provide each other with a safe outlet for processing situations, and to sharpen one another.
The bottom line is this: we need people who will encourage us and help us become better.
We all need accountability and encouragement. This is especially true in leadership.
Something I have noticed, though, is not everyone leans toward surrounding themselves with a group like these. I don’t think it’s a introvert/extrovert thing, because I am an introvert who values a group meeting. And I don’t think it’s a time in ministry thing, either.
I think some people are wired to ask for advice and help, and others are not. The reality, however, is the challenges we face will be significantly more manageable when we have done the hard work of creating a network of people who will encourage, correct, advocate, and brainstorm with us.
Who gives you advice and perspective? Who gives you genuine affirmation? Who wants you to become a better leader? Give those people access to your life and watch the difference.
Proverbs 28:18 says “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Over the years I have been fortunate enough to build some key relationships with some great people. Many of those relationships are ones which I try to keep fresh on a regular basis. Some of them, however, go dormant for a season.
Last week I had the honor of reconnecting with some good friends. It was a joy to talk about faith, life, ministry, family, and several other things. We asked each other questions to help us understand situations and problems, and even shared some great dreams we have for our lives.
In the end, I’m so grateful for the men and women who surround me and whom I am able to engage in mind stretching conversations. I was challenged by the things we discussed (and hopefully did the same in return), and I believe we were better for the time we spent together.
What about you? Who are you engaging on a regular basis to make you a better leader? Is there someone you need to re-engage? It may not be someone locationally close, but with modern technology most people are only a text away.
If you cannot answer the question above, take some time today to write down a few names of people you can start trying to bounce ideas off. Then, over time, see what starts to develop. You might be surprised at what happens next.
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.
The church where I serve has been without a pastor since January, and I have had the privilege of serving alongside an incredibly wise, discerning, and experienced interim pastor over the past four months. As that time has drawn to an end and we have a new pastor coming next week, I thought I would spend some time reflecting on a few lessons I learned along the way.
I’ll never forget playing bass at a July 4th concert when I was in college. The band I was in had the opportunity to play as an opener for a Church organized July 4th event. The group playing after us featured an incredible guitar player.
Because he was friends with a couple of guys in our group, he decided to play one or two songs with us, having never played or practiced with us at all, and he nailed it.
I’ve never been the kind of musician who can play by ear, but this guy could. While he was playing some incredible licks, he was also listening to what was happening in the song, and could anticipate what came next. That was important.
So many times, we get too busy to listen.
And that was one of the most practical lessons I learned during our interim–sometimes the best thing to do is to stop and listen. People want to be heard, to know their voice matters.
Leadership is no different. Until we learn to take the time to listen to what is going on around us, to weigh the possibilities, and to evaluate the potential, it will be difficult to lead other people.
If someone suggests a change and I brush it off as unnecessary without full consideration, then my leadership influence takes a hit.
If someone offers a suggestion and I choose to not even consider it, my leadership influence suffers.
But most importantly, when I take the time to listen to someone’s story, I’m able to understand them better.
If you’re serious about increasing your leadership ability, take time today to listen.