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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How I Use the 3 Questions for Student Leadership

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Today, I’m going to layout a little bit of the strategy of how I’m using the 3 questions to train and equip student leaders.

If you’re not familiar with what the three questions are, I would encourage you to go read this first.

Now that you’ve read it, here we go.

Teaching the 3 Questions

I first taught the three questions to student leaders in August of 2016. From there, we’ve been on a bit of a journey. When teaching the concept, it helps to give plenty of examples. For our context, the simplest examples we use are: setting out chairs, getting ice, filling cups with ice, setting out Bibles, sitting with students who are visiting or sitting by themselves, connecting with people outside of one’s circle, stacking chairs, clearing tables, etc.

I really think the 3 questions are a simple shift in perception. If I can get students to see the world around them through the lens of the 3 questions, then I’m equipping them 1) to see the world differently and 2) to change it.

Along the lines of this shift, one thing I’ve noticed is there are two kinds of people: those who naturally recognize opportunities, and those who don’t. I don’t think it’s a character flaw to be the latter, but it does make answering the questions more difficult. I also think this is true of adults. Some people are naturally wired to help and to serve, and for others, it’s a choice they make along the way.

Overcoming obstacles

After a few months of implementing the 3 questions, I noticed our student leaders were only asking other student leaders to help them accomplish tasks instead of leveraging their influence to include outsiders. We talked about it as a team, and I challenged them to include people who weren’t on leadership team, and they started doing so.

One of the coolest things for me to see was on a Wednesday night before anyone else showed up, a boy (who wasn’t on leadership team), walked in and unknowingly answered the 3 questions by putting chairs out. He didn’t know the framework, but he knew he had been included in putting chairs out enough times that he knew it needed to be done. This has happened several times.

There’s More

To this point, what I’m doing may not seem like much, but on Thursday I am going to unpack what I’ve learned a little more. For me, teaching students to answer the 3 questions has been a journey for everyone involved. I hope you’ll check back on Thursday.

 

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The Redundancy of Leadership

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Do you know the hardest part of writing a blog? The consistency of having to write another post. It comes up three times each week, like clockwork.

Ministry is the same. Sunday is always right around the bend (or Wednesday for many youth ministers).

Farming was the same. No matter how many years in a row you planted a seed, the next year it was time to plant it again.

I imagine CPAs have the same feeling. Regardless of how hard you work from January to April 15 one year, the next year you will have to work just as hard.

But in the midst of the mundane, there is beauty. In the midst of the repetition, there is opportunity.

Something a mentor pointed out to me not long ago is what he called the “redundancy of leadership.”

What does that mean? Simple: a major part of leadership is repetition.

Take, for instance, the three questions (you can read about them here). The three questions work great when you use them one time, but they find their greatest impact when they are asked and answered on a regular basis. The more frequently you answer them, the more integral they become to your leadership style and effectiveness.

The problem, however, is when redundancy carries a negative connotation. Who likes getting their teeth cleaned every six months? Or, who enjoys shooting hundreds of free throws? Or, what parent anticipates the excitement of yet another dirty diaper?

The redundancy of leadership means having the same conversation over and over. Sometimes the audience changes, but sometimes the message and audience remain the same.

The redundancy of leadership means yet again casting vision for your organization, even though you did it last week, or last month, or last year, or all of the above.

This week, embrace the redundancy. Find the beauty in the mundane. Excavate the excitement of the repetitive. And, above most other things, hang in there.

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Practicing the 3 Questions

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I had a humbling experience last week. One of my peers in youth ministry, who has been a big supporter of my blog to this point, posted a picture of his computer screen. What made it humbling was the side of his monitor where he had written the 3 questions on a sticky note and left it there as a reminder. (Click here if you’re not sure what the 3 Questions are.)

Then, another peer commented he had them written on his white board, and I was struck by something.

Perception makes all the difference.

I have been using these three questions as a way to equip and encourage student leaders for a little over a year, but how well do I apply them to my own life?

If I were going to be honest with you (and why wouldn’t I?), I wrestle with the exact same part of the three questions as most of my students: the third question.

I’m a wonderful analyzer, and I have a stubborn streak that tends to say “I’ll do this myself”, but I fail time and time again at asking and answering the third question.

But if I’m serious about growing my own leadership influence, I have to start somewhere.

And one thing I know, when I do ask and answer the third question, I love to watch what happens. I love seeing people find a spot to serve. I love equipping others to step up and meet needs.

Ultimately, the three questions are what we use them to be. We can train student leaders, or adults. But, most importantly, we can use them to grow as leaders ourselves.

Look for ways to answer the three questions in your personal life today.