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.

Clean Your Lenses

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Have you ever noticed that experts in a certain field seem to see things differently than you? Sometimes, it’s not even experts.

Hunters have a language that is all their own, as do mechanics, policemen, teachers, musicians, and every other interest, hobby, occupation, career, or calling.

Just the other day I was playing a Squier Classic Vibe 50’s telecaster in Butterscotch Blonde (you still with me so far?) and someone who doesn’t play guitar commented how it looked just like a very well-known artist’s guitar. I knew the difference (mainly a few zeroes on the price tag), but he did not.

Why is that? Because over time I have been able to develop a “lens” for viewing guitars. The way I look at guitars is influenced by my experience, opinions, and information gathering.

The same is true for your leadership. If you’re reading this, you have leadership influence in some realm of your life. More than that, you have developed some kind of “lens” to help you view situations around you pertaining to your leadership.

Your leadership style is influenced by your experience, opinions, and information gathering.

My question to you today is simply this: what is that lens in your life? Have you thought about what it is that shapes how you view the situations and the world around you? Have you considered the unhealthy influences? Have you weighed the positive influences?

For me, the 3 Questions (click here if you haven’t read about them yet) have become the lens through which I run my leadership. More specifically, the third question encourages me to equip and involve those around me.

So, once again, how are you viewing the leadership opportunities around you? Is there some kind of correction you need to make?

Maybe you could benefit from putting the 3 Questions into practice in your life.

Maybe, the application for you is to simply take some time to journal about the lens through which you are viewing things.

Whatever it is, take some time and grow your leadership by examining your lenses.

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Do Not Fear Criticism

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Happy Independence Day!

Last week I wrote a blog post, scheduled it, and published it, but I had one problem with it: I thought I could have done better. The title, in my opinion, was way better than the content. (You can read it here and judge for yourself)

The problem was not that I did not know how to match the title, I just didn’t have the time to do it. So, I published it.

“That wasn’t your best post” came the matter of fact statement from my wife Mica, while sitting beside me in a booth at Buffalo Wild Wings. A recently graduated student from our ministry sat across the table. Her eyes got wide when she heard the criticism, waiting for the fallout.

I nodded my head in agreement. I knew it. My wife knew it. The recent graduate knew it (she admitted having only skimmed the post earlier that day). It was perfectly okay for Mica to voice it, out loud, with me in range of hearing. Why?

I value constructive criticism. After being married for 13 years (my longest marriage to date), my wife and I know what’s safe. I lean on her to tell me the things other people will not. I value her opinions and loving correction.

As a leader, learn to listen to other voices. Learn to allow other people to say things to help you do better, to help you be better. When we allow pride to cover us so much that we depend on people around us to merely tickle our ears and say what we want to hear, we lose sight of our shortcomings.

When we lose sight of our shortcomings, we never have to wrestle with the things that will make us better: failure, struggle, and pain. When we believe we have it figured out, we stop growing as a leader.

My desire for you and for me is that we will never get to a place where we are satisfied with where we are as leaders. That’s why I write. That’s why I teach the three questions.

In the meantime, I will continue to write, to strive to get better, and to value the input and honest evaluation of the person I care for the most in this world.

Whom have you invited into your inner circle and given permission to be honest with you? Thank them this week.

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Encouraging Students to Experiment with Leadership

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On Tuesday I talked about the need to redefine leadership potential. If you missed it, click here to read it.

Today, let’s talk about how to provide a way for students to dip their toes into leadership.

Over the past year, I’ve been teaching a group of student leaders to ask themselves three questions when they walk into our youth room.

  1. What needs to be done? (Awareness)
  2. What can I do to help? (Willingness)
  3. Who can I get to help? (Leadership)

As they work to answer these questions, their outlook on what constitutes leadership has changed. Leadership isn’t something accomplished only from the stage. Leadership happens when one person is able to move another person (or a group of people) in a common direction for a common purpose.

If I can teach an 8th grader the basic principles of leadership, and give them opportunities to exercise leadership, then as they mature and progress through our ministry, they will lead more effectively at a later age.

More than anything else, as I have redefined leadership potential, my desire is to teach students an awareness of what’s going on around them, and a willingness to help.

If you want to read more about the 3 questions, check out the “Foundation” page, or search through the 3 Questions category here on the site.

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