So with the last post, I’ve decided to start a blog series on what I’ve learned. The last post talked about what I’ve learned as a Sunday school teacher. Today’s post will talk about what I’ve learned as a leader. I believe that leaders are both born and developed. To be honest, growing up I never really saw myself as a leader or a person that likes to be in the front. I’ve always been the type that just wants to do whatever is needed to accomplish whatever the goal is. However, since college (and arguably a couple of years before that) I’ve operated in several leadership roles. From being a minister of music to leading a part of the after school I work for, I’ve had the privilege of serving in several leadership capacities. Today I want to share with you some of my insights from being in a leadership role the past 10-12 years.
- Leadership is tough. Being in leadership is not a piece of cake. Leadership requires you to make tough decisions and take responsibility when things do not go right. The best leaders take little credit for the work of their organization but take huge responsibility when things are not going well. A lot of people want to be in leadership because they like bossing people around (more on this later). Friends, I’ve learned that leadership is a responsibility that requires having a mature mindset. A part of being mature is having thick skin. People will criticize your decisions and every move you make as a leader. If you get overly offended by criticism, leadership is not for you. Because I’ve served in various leadership roles, I have a lot of empathy for those who are especially in high pressure cooker situations. Leading on a small level is tough enough, but think about those who have to do it in the national/international public eye. The bottom line is that leadership is not easy and I think the best leaders understand this wholeheartedly.
- Leadership isn’t about being the boss. As I said previously, I think a lot of people want to be the leader because they want to boss people around. What a lot of people don’t understand is that the best leadership empowers those you serve to do their best. Your main job as a leader is to guide whatever organization you are a part of to its highest potential. I must admit that this has been a hard lesson for me to apply and I still struggle with it every now and then. I can be bossy and demanding of what I think is best, but I’ve also seen how much better things are when I empower the people I serve instead of bossing them around. Now please understand that there are times in which the leader must make a decision, but the leader must be smart to know when he/she needs to just make a decision or when he/she needs to collaboratively decide with those they serve. The boss mentality causes unnecessary conflict and really reflects on the insecurity of the leader. Be the leader that is known more for your empowerment than dictatorial attitude.
- The best leaders surround themselves with a great staff. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a leader is not embracing the idea of having great people surrounding me as a leader. By this, I mean that you should have people on your staff who may be smarter than you in a particular area, particularly one of your weaknesses. Leaders who are insecure want the weakest people on their staff so that they look like the smartest person in the room. Another reason some leaders want the weakest people on their staff is that they see having great/super-smart people as a threat to their job. I am convinced that some of the greatest accomplishments in organizations take place when the leadership wants to hire the best people to get the job done. We see this with the Golden State Warriors of the NBA. Head Coach Steve Kerr in his first year on the job hired 2 phenomenal assistants who could be head coaches anywhere else (one took a head coaching job this season) and that team went on to win the NBA championship. Within another part of the organization, they hired Jerry West who is one of the best GMs in NBA history to be in a consulting role. What this shows is that they want the best people because they want a great product. It’s not about who gets the credit, it’s about accomplishing the goals. Great leaders realize that they do not know it all!
- Leadership requires extreme humility. We’ve kind of talked about this already, but great leaders are not about ego and thinking they are all that and a bag of chips. Leaders understand that to get to where they are requires others. As we talked about earlier, humble leaders do not see having the best on their staff as a threat to their job, but as a key to accomplishing great things. Let’s also be clear that being nice is not equated to humility. Humble leaders still must exhibit assertiveness to make the tough calls. People have tried to tell me over the years that I’m humble, but as I’ve done some serious soul searching, I realize that I’m not as humble as people have given me credit for. I share this with you all because I firmly believe that we have to be self-aware regarding our strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses we have we need to work on consistently. In this current season of my life, I truly believe God has humbled me in various ways. As a result, I’m more open to feedback, constructive advice and learning whatever I need to learn.
- Leadership requires consistency. Your influence as a leader fails when people do not see consistency in you. This is one of the biggest areas that I continue to struggle with. Consistency says that we will not see one version of you today and another version of you tomorrow. Consistency tells people that they’re not going to get a bunch of surprises from you. This helps because as a whole, people have an issue with trusting others. Trust is one of the most important attributes you can have as a leader because it gives you more credibility in what you’re doing. When I talk about consistency, I’m focusing not just on who you are but what you do in the context of your leadership. I read somewhere that defined consistency as believing in what you do. When you practice consistency, you send a message that you believe in yourself and the work you are doing. Do you believe in what you’re doing? Your consistency or lack thereof will tell the story.
I’ve probably learned way more than this, but I just want to share with you all the thoughts that popped up in my head. I see myself as having leadership potential, but as I go further in my career and life, I will approach leadership opportunities with a spirit of humility. I will also take the lessons I’ve learned over the years and apply them. One aspect of all of this is that I’ve been in leadership as a very young person. This doesn’t justify the mistakes I’ve made, but this thought keeps me encouraged and humbled to know that the best days of my leadership haven’t even started yet. Therefore, instead of being down about the mistakes I’ve made, I am determined to rise above them and move forward. I encourage all of you to embrace being a leader, but also know that it comes with a cost. Be the best leader you can be!