Discover Words That Inspire
Writing blogs on leadership always presents the challenge of articulating new ways and words to inspire and equip leaders. These blogs are meant to share unique angles on leadership practices that can inform and encourage our readers for today’s challenges. Recently, however, I’ve found myself reflecting on words of advice from my past that have proven to be instrumental in my leadership journey.
Where in your journey have you received a word of advice, a piece of counsel or a special instruction that has stuck with you throughout the entirety of your leadership work? Might we be wise to recall those truisms and let them inform and inspire us once again?
As you reflect on those in your past, here are three from my own journey.
If you think you’re leading, and no one is following, you’re just taking a walk.
This is more than just a clever phrase. A mentor of mine shared this with me to remind me early in my days as a leader that true leadership is all about your followers. Recently there have been an increasing number of studies on this issue of ‘followership’. Rightly so. As leaders our effectiveness is measured solely in terms of the outcomes achieved by those that follow us. If we become too focused on our work done our way, if we lose touch with those we are called to lead, and if we measure success in personal terms instead of corporate and community metrics, we may find ourselves taking a walk.
Look around you, if you measured your success as a leader solely in terms of the culture, morale, productivity and faithfulness of those you lead, would your leadership pass the test, or would you be mostly walking by yourself?
Don’t get so far ahead of your people that they mistake you for the enemy.
Leaders are usually great visionaries. We spend more time looking at the horizon then those on our team. That’s part of our job. We also generate new ideas and ways to achieve the greater vision God puts on our heart. As we lead our organizations into the future to which we believe God is calling us, it’s common that we will be a few steps ahead of those we lead. One of my board members shared this piece of advice with me after a particularly robust meeting regarding new possibilities for our organization. He could see the concern growing in the faces of my team as I waxed eloquently about all the possible directions we could go. To me, it was just thinking out loud. But his words reminded me about the importance of careful communication, gaining the participation and input of your team and walking together with them on the journey.
Are there places in your leadership where you have gotten so far ahead of your team that you are perceived as more of a problem than a problem solver? It takes skill and wisdom to lift up a bold vision and manage your organization through a season of change while not getting so far ahead of everyone that they mistake you for the enemy.
Be a leader that God can trust.
As a young leader I received this word of advice as both wise counsel and a deep, personal challenge. Throughout my walk with Jesus, I have always focused on trusting God. As a leader I feel it’s important that we help our entire organization operate with a profound sense of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness to the work he has called us. God is our great provider. God will always supply our needs if we are faithful. God is our source of strength and courage in difficult challenges. Even when we can’t always see his direct intervention, we trust that God is at our side.
I claim the promise in Proverbs 3:5-6 to
‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’
Trust God? Absolutely. But what does it mean to be trustworthy to God? The image this piece of wisdom left me with goes like this. God has a great work to accomplish. He looks throughout the earth for leaders with whom he can entrust this work; leaders who will remain faithful, who have a deep, intimate relationship with him, who will not be distracted by fear, pride, self-reliance or worldly praise. As God looks for leaders that he can trust, do his eyes rest on you? Does he stop and say of you, “this is a woman I can trust with this important work”? “This is a man who I can trust with this Kingdom project”?
These are three pieces of advice that have impacted me on my leadership journey. I pray they may speak to you as well, and I encourage you to think back to those voices in your past who have shared similar words of wisdom. May we be faithful in remembering them, letting them continue to shape us, and perhaps passing them on to the young leaders we steward on their leadership journeys.
This blog is excerpted from my new book, Set Free to Lead: Your Guide to Discovering the Abundant Life of the Steward Leader.
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