This week continues the theme of “everyday carry” If you read last week’s post, it is all about those things that we carry with us that we deem as essential and necessary to help us in our day.
In a twist of the term, I wanted to challenge us that there should be an “everyday carry” for us as leaders, those indispensable tangibles or intangibles that make us what we want and need to be as leaders.
In part 2 of my everyday carry for leadership, I want to list four characteristics that have served me well in my almost 30 years of being in various leadership positions.
These are both necessary and fundamental, relevant and useful. I would consider these the “must haves” of leadership for me. And in looking at each of these traits, I realize each of these are at different stages of maturity. God has grown them within using other people in my life as well as seeing the disastrous and negative consequences of my “well” being dry.
Sometimes I learn by using a hammer well; other times I learn by using a hammer poorly. But in each scenario, there is valuable learning that can occur.
An authentic life speaks volumes. And don’t get me wrong. I do not always model this as I ought, but God has given me some up-close views of how integrity can push me forward as a leader or topple me quickly with a lack thereof.
What is integrity? It is the state of “wholeness” in my character that flows from inside to outside. And by the way, it is critical to note that there is no outside without the inside. In other words, if I am trying to model integrity in my life and it is not the overflow of my life within, then really all I am modeling is hypocrisy.
My dad used to say, “Tell the truth and you will never have to remember what you said.” Integrity comes by guarding my heart – what goes in – because authenticity only comes about when there is a matching between how I live personally and how I live publicly.
Leadership has a crafty pull: if not cautious, it leads one to believe that because you are the leader, you must know more than others.
My biggest area that I have learned to value being teachable? My own marriage. There are times when my wife will say something to me, contrary to the way I spoke or acted, and my flesh wants to demand its right-ness, that I know what I am talking about, and that I do not need other’s ideas.
How wrong I have been.
If you want to snuff out leadership potential in your own life, just give the impression that you “already know that.”
How does this happen?
By defending yourself when you are critiqued. By cutting people off in their responses to you and not listening to the entire story because “you already know how this will end.” I cannot stress how far-reaching this has been in my own life.
3. Ability to identify
This may seem like an odd trait to add to my list, but allow me to explain myself. One of the most powerful influences I have can have as a leader is the ability to identify with those I lead.
I recall working a brief stint in a prior career with another guy who came in to “take charge.” He was arrogant and never really wanted to hear “my story.” He chose not to identify with those around him in a time that the business entity was in need of some “come along side” type of leadership.
I do not see this characteristic listed in very many leadership texts but, in my own experience, it allows relationships to move along quickly and it establishes trust in an amazing sort of way.
To identify means to listen and view people through their lens and not your own. To do this effectively implies an empathetic listening ear. I feel their disappointments, their pain, their joy. The most impactful leaders I have had have been those who have allowed me to be real with them and them to be real with me. They can identify with what I am feeling and saying. They have been there.
Though listed last, it is certainly not least. If pride is repulsive to God, then it is no wonder that it also is repulsive to us as His image bearers. One of my very best friends is that type of person. He is a leader to whom much responsibility has been given, but he interacts with grace and a humble spirit.
He wants feedback in his life, even if is a criticism. He gives input with the caveat “Now correct me if I am thinking wrong here,” and he speaks openly about his brokenness and dependance on God. And you know what? I am attracted to him and his style of leadership. It is inviting. It is refreshing. It is the type of leadership I want to model.
And in conclusion…
There are many other traits that could be listed but I have found over the years that these four have been foundational as to what God wants to sanctify in my own life.
It has not been an easy road for me and by no stretch have I “arrived.” It is a process. Some days I really feel His presence in these areas; other days I stumble and it seems like a one-step-forward-three-steps-back kind of day.
And the most important statement I can make is this: I CANNOT do it. These are not self-produced fruits but rather just being attached to the Vine.
God is faithful. And He is forgiving and kind and wants me to see that my greatest joy in leading is not in being at the “front of the pack.” It is in serving those who make up the pack.