Leadership Learns

I have had the honor of serving at the same church for 26 years. I have had a variety of roles and held a variety of positions as a part of this amazing staff. Currently I am one of two Senior Associate Pastors on staff who serve on the coordinating team for the church. It is a privilege to serve in such a capacity surrounded by some truly incredible people. I am learning a lot everyday. Here is a little touch of something I have been considering of late about leadership, and what I am learning it means to me to lead.

One of the most important things a leader has to remember is that they did not land in a position of leadership on their own. Every leader has had and continues to have support networks around them that have encouraged, nurtured, and shaped them into the leader they are and the leader they are becoming. And perhaps that last part is a difficult thing to remember. We are all in the process of becoming, and that process is never completed. No leader has ever arrived. No leader has it all figured out. No leader intuitively knows how to lead in every circumstance. No leader is done learning how to lead. Once one finds themselves feeling as though they have it, that is the most dangerous place in which to stand. 

Effective leadership, on the other hand, is evidenced in the courage to continually learn from those most directly affected by the leadership offered. 
This means...
...the leader must listen, really listen. Listen to what is said. Listen to what is not being said. Listen to hopes, dreams, aggravations, celebrations, and honest critiques. This kind of listening is not passive. This kind of listening is active. This kind of listening is often difficult because it requires one to suspend reactionary judgment and evaluative comments. Hearing is the end goal of this kind of listening. And this takes time and intentionality.

...the leader must care. Care about people, their lives, the mission, the vision, the work, and did I say, the people? This kind of care is not about carrying other people's burdens for them or trying to solve other people's problems. This kind of care is about being present with people where they are and for who they are.

...the leader must give grace to others and to themselves. Space must be given to others so that they can succeed, and room must be given so they can fail. Grace is lived all along the way. This is not a method for finding perfection (as if that is something that can be attained). However, grace giving can be the breeding ground of healthy risk taking and innovation. And the grace given must also be extended to one's self. This is a big challenge for me. Yet I know that it is necessary. I have noticed that people who have learned how to offer grace to themselves are typically more patient with others and within the unforeseen circumstances that will inevitably come.

...the leader must nurture the gifts of others. Perhaps the greatest testimony to effective leadership is colleagues who embrace their own giftedness, continually work out of their areas of strength, and are challenged to grow in ways they would have never expected. The fruit of this is passionate people who feel cared for as individuals and as valuable pieces of the puzzle that make an effective whole.

...the leader must share the leadership. Leaders understand that leading is ultimately not about them alone. Leaders multiply leaders. Leaders don't cling to the leadership role or their identity as a leader as an end in and of itself. Being a leader is not a solitary experience. A person finds themselves in a position of leadership because others have entrusted them with the opportunity to lead. This must never be taken for granted. I have found that I am at my worst when I feel as though I deserve certain things or special treatment because I am in a position of leadership. No, I am here because of the people around me.

...the leader must share the vision. A shared vision is a sharper vision. A shared vision can become the corporate vision. Sharing the vision is not telling others what the vision is. Rather, sharing the vision brings people into the process of shaping and honing the vision toward which the team will work together. I love it when a team comes together, speaks openly and honestly about an opportunity or challenge that is before them, works through their disagreements, and creates something beautiful together that would have never existed without every voice present in the room. This is gold!

...the leader must launch people toward their areas of giftedness. This means letting go. This is deeper than simply letting go of tasks. Although that is critically important. This means having a willingness to let go of the people as they continue to develop into the uniquely gifted and beautiful people they are becoming. There are few things that give me more joy than witnessing someone step into a new leadership role or opportunity. If one clings to the people that surround them this growth can be stiffled and potential can be choked out. 

...the leader must show genuine gratitude to others. It may seem silly and rather simplistic, but this is potentially the most important thing that has been continually reinforced in my experience. People long to be noticed and valued. Taking time to thank someone for what they are doing and for the manner in which they are doing it is invaluable. I have learned that these simple words that we all learned when we were small have the greatest impact when they are least expected. I can't just sit around waiting for the magnificent performance or the moment when someone goes above and beyond expectations to thank them. 

There is much more for me to learn. I am certain that I have many blind spots and will continue to make many mistakes, but I am willing to learn. I am thankful that I am surrounded by such good teachers who have shown me patience as I learn what it means to lead.


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