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10 Reasons Why Humility is Vital to Great Leadership

Humbled

Quickly think of five common traits of high-impact leaders… good time management, assertiveness, drive, energy, charisma, etc. Humility rarely lands in the list when it comes to our modern, top-down management systems. But Jesus (the greatest leader ever) and Moses (perhaps the second) had this one thought in mind – great leaders don’t have power over people, but power under people by way of humility.

Humility may be a forgotten virtue in conversations about leadership today, but I believe it’s absolutely essential to having long-term, broad-range impact. Here are some reasons why…

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Dump Your Doubt, Take the Risk, and Lead Forward

DiveNothing paralyzes good leadership like fear, and nothing fuels good leadership like taking risks in faith. Obviously, we must make decisions wisely, but when we know, it’s time to go. This is coming from a somewhat trigger-shy leader.

If you know what a DISC profile is, I’m a high “I” and a fairly low “D.” That simply means, I want everybody to be on board with a decision before I move forward as opposed to driving ahead on my own. So when I feel that people disapprove of my direction, I’m prone to want to plant my feet. Knowing this is half the battle, and dumping my fear and leading confidently anyway is the other half.

As leaders, we fight fear daily.

  • The fear of trying and failing.
  • The fear of criticism.
  • The fear of doing something dumb and getting everyone hurt.

Way back in 2000-ish, the church I was leading in Kentucky was averaging about 60 in weekly worship, so we set aside a Sunday as a big day and we set a goal of having 75. I announced it publicly. We prayed for it hard. When that Sunday finally arrived, we had a whopping 58 people present. (I later realized that while God indeed answers prayer, He also encourages us to have a plan for accomplishing our goals and to work hard at it.)

I stopped announcing big goals.

Fast-forward ten years and Angie and I are sitting in a worship service at Saddleback Church listening to Pastor Rick Warren teach part one of his message series, Decade of Destiny. Some of what Pastor Rick said that day re-shaped my thinking and has re-kindled a deep passion in me for dreaming and leading people. For example…

Your goals are only as big as your God. – Rick Warren

That’s not a theological statement about the size of God. It’s a statement about how we see and think about God. And the bigger He is in our eyes, the more we’re willing to trust Him to do.

We overestimate what we can do in a year but we underestimate what we can do in ten. – Rick Warren

That’s been true for me time and again.

But the real kicker was the part of the message where Rick asked us if we were currently doing and working on the one thing we wanted to be doing ten years from now. While I LOVED my spot on the Saddleback staff, I couldn’t honestly answer ‘yes’ because God was already stirring our hearts about church planting. So Saddleback wound up sending us with a blessing to start Grace Hills.

[bcoxlike]

Somewhere between there and here, Angie and I made some decisions about the rest of our lives. We were no longer going to settle for mediocrity, accept a mere facade of authenticity, and we would no longer lead in a way that was limited by our fear of the disapproval of others. That has been liberating, but it’s still a daily struggle.

And today, we have some BIG goals!

God loves faith, responds to faith, and always encourages us to act in faith rather than planting our feet and remaining frozen by fear.

My current challenge is charting a course for the future of Grace Hills Church, which involves getting better at what we do, possibly moving to a new location in the near future, raising up leaders, and making as many new disciples as possible.

Whatever your challenge is, decide that you won’t fail because of fear. You won’t look back and wish you’d given it a shot. Dump your doubt, take the risk, and lead forward.

So… what’s your challenge? What are you going to do next?

photo credit: juls10

If You Aspire to Lead, Start Leading Right Now

Step OneI’m afraid it’s all too common for people to have huge aspirations about who they want to become in the future, but almost no plan or willingness to get there. We love the idea of changing the world, but we fail to see that changing the world starts with making a difference in my own personal world – my own heart, the lives of those close to me, and then the lives of those with whom I find myself in close proximity.

When I started Bible college, I could only focus on two things. First, I wanted badly to marry the woman of my dreams, so I proposed to her about a month into our freshman year and she said yes. We were married the next summer. Second, I wanted to pastor a church. I didn’t care how big or small or how far I had to drive – I just wanted a pulpit of my own to preach from every week. That came true too. At the ripe old age of 19, I was married and serving as the pastor of a little church an hour from my home.

Both of those dreams came to pass after a series of steps. I first asked Angie out on a date. Repeatedly. And I learned how to take rejection when she said no about a hundred times. Finally her Mom convinced her to give me a shot and the rest is history. We dated. We got engaged. We planned a wedding and found an apartment. When I wanted to preach every weekend but didn’t have a church, I approached a professor about referring me for fill-in opportunities. I walked to a nursing home near campus each week and gathered a bunch of sweet older folks and would lead them in a Bible study. Eventually, I filled in at a church full of older people and they asked me to be their Pastor.

[bcoxlike]

Now, we’re planting a church, and it’s a big dream! We started with a vision and a name, “Grace Hills.” We knew we’d plant in northwest Arkansas but aside from one other family, we had no idea who would be part of it. We networked and spread the word and gathered 30 people in an office. We charted out a timeline for the first six months, serving the community on some Sundays and meeting for a Bible study on the others. Then we had some preview services and 70-ish of us launched publicly in a movie theater. We averaged 140 the first two years and this past year grew by almost 70 more, and we’ve baptized close to 100 people.

Baby steps.

Something is first. Then something is next. And the dream becomes reality a piece at a time. A life of influential leadership happens the same way Johnny Cash built his Cadillac – “one piece at a time.”

If you want to be a published author, start blogging.

If you want to be a CEO, get your MBA and a job and climb the ladder.

If you want to be the President of the United States, get involved in politics locally and then run for a state office or congressional seat.

You get the picture. We want to lead. We want a platform. We want influence. But often, we fail to figure out what the next best step is and go for it. I’m somewhere on the journey. I haven’t arrived and not all of my aspirations have come true yet, but I’m also determined to find the next step and to take it with bold faith.

And by the way, here’s an important warning: Never let your dream become an idol. We find our identity and our worth in how God created us, what Jesus did for us on the cross, and who we are as born again children of God. God Himself is the ultimate prize, not success. Nonetheless, leading and dreaming are still vital to the expansion of God’s Kingdom. So…

If you really aspire to lead, start leading right now. Lead those around you at work. Lead your kids and your family. Lead your fellow students. Get out of the box and get engaged. Something is bound to happen!

photo credit: t0msk

So tell me, what’s yo’ dream?? And where are you in the journey right now?

A Dozen Ways to Kill a Great Idea

Some committee's recording clerk, waiting for action to happen.

Some committee’s recording clerk,
waiting for action to happen.

Ever watched a really good idea crash and burn? Me too.

Here’s some brutal honesty… entire movements have gone down in flames because of boneheaded approaches to good ideas. This isn’t to say we can’t afford to make mistakes. In fact, the only way to know we’re taking risks is to make mistakes. We can’t afford not to make them. But we also can’t afford to ignore timeless principles of leadership effectiveness.

In honor of our most fatal leadership mistakes, here are my “from the hip” ways to kill great ideas (warning: sarcasm ahead)…

  • Form a committee. In this way, you’ll be able to devote more time to keeping minutes and electing officers and less time to solving problems. Also, we’ll be able to prevent a single great leader from running with the idea without feeling the need to check with several people with different opinions before proceeding.
  • Be sure to control it. Before you even start executing a good idea, be sure to write plenty of rules and parameters so that no one feels the freedom to run too fast with it. Freedom is the enemy when we’re trying to kill good ideas.
  • Devote a lot of time to calculating the costs. Be sure that everyone understands just how much failing can cost us so that we inch along, paralyzed by fear.
  • Assume it’s everyone’s responsibility. If we’re able to say, “our church should really be doing this,” it takes the pressure off of anyone in particular who might actually take ownership. In this way, no one gets blamed for the death of the idea… at least not individually.
  • Assume it’s your responsibility alone. If we get help, we’ll just saddle people with the burden of investing their time into meaningful pursuits rather than having more free time to not develop their gifts for kingdom influence.
  • Vote on it. This will give everyone a sense of power and let them decide that they’re “against” the idea even if it isn’t something they understand. After all, majorities of people are usually smart right? Besides, in the end, it’s really about keeping as many people as possible happy.
  • Avoid learning from others who have acted on similar ideas. Never ask people who have succeeded or failed before. It’s better to re-invent the wheel, take full credit (or blame) in the end, and brag on how much we’ve been able to do (or not do) all on our own.
  • Keep young people out of it. They’re all too inexperienced and unwise to lead anything. Besides, do the voices of the young really matter? I thought they were meant to be seen and not heard… or valued.
  • Keep old… advanced… experienced people out of it. After all, they’re just all grumpy, afraid of change, and set in their old-fashioned ways. Their years of wisdom and experience will just complicate matters.
  • Keep women out of it. …In all honesty, even in sarcasm, I’m too afraid to touch this one. I can just testify it’s boneheaded.
  • Execute the idea purely in our natural power. God’s power is just too much. The Holy Spirit can’t even be seen visibly, especially at committee meetings. Besides, we need to be busy executing, not wasting time in prayer.
  • Take a little more time to talk about your intentions for the good idea. As long as you’re intending to do something good, it’s as good as doing it, except that it never get’s done. But you will have meant well when it’s all said and not done.

I’m guilty of at least a majority of these at one time or another in my own leadership, so I’m not writing out of arrogance but in confession.

Three Prerequisites to Leading Others Well

Ninety and Nine

I have no idea who this is, but the dog looks nice.

Being loud doesn’t make you a leader. Neither does being popular. Leadership is influence, and influence means taking people in a direction they wouldn’t otherwise be going – hopefully forward. Ambition isn’t enough to qualify you to lead. There is more to the equation.

You need to be led before you can really lead. This one is tough for eager leaders, but in order to lead well, you must first be okay with being led. One of the greatest leaders I know who was in charge of 350+ staff in a well-known megachurch said, “I’m a man under authority.” If you don’t know what it’s like to follow or if you’re unwilling to learn from those ahead of you, you’re not quite ready to lead.

You need to love people before you can really lead. You can lead and love self, but the end result is pretty pitiful. Great leaders love those they are leading. Good shepherds have a tendency to lay down their lives for their sheep, and great leaders are always thinking about how to move their followers to the next level.

You need to become a servant before you become a leader. We know that servanthood is the prerequisite to kingdom influence based on Jesus’ example and His words, but we don’t like to let go of our identity as a leader to fully embrace it. We even like to call ourselves “servant-leaders” so we’re not leaving out the leadership part of the equation. But think differently for a moment. What if you saw yourself as a servant first and as a leader second? How would it change the way you lead people?

Can you lead and influence without being led, being a lover of people, and being a servant? Sure, but why would you want to? Your reward for such leadership is shallow and short-lived. Instead, choose the Jesus path – be a servant and a shepherd. Be led well, and then lead with confidence!


And here’s a follow-up thought…