I suppose I’ve always been a leader, although many times a poor one. Intentionally thinking of myself as a leader, however, is a relatively new concept for me. When God called me to preach, I quickly recognized it was something I was going to have to learn how to do. I thought I needed to spend hours reading and listening to other leaders tell me how to lead. As I resisted stepping into leadership out of fear, a wise friend pointed out that sometimes the best way to learn isn’t through knowledge alone but through experience.
There are countless leadership styles and methods and hundreds of articles on “How to Lead Well” or asking “What Makes a Great Leader?” but I felt God leading me to step out in faith and lead a women’s group at my church. Still terrified, I questioned my ability to lead others, and this same wise friend pointed out that the only real difference was a shift in perspective, that instead of it being about me getting something out of it, it was about serving those women.
God reminded me that it’s not about me and my abilities – it’s about him! My goal then shifted from trying to be “a good leader” by my own efforts, to getting my pride out of the way and leading like Jesus. Through experience and wisdom from some of the amazing people who have poured into me, here are some things I’m learning about true leadership:
- Leadership is not lordship over someone; it is SERVING someone. There is a serious difference between a leader and a dictator. A dictator says, “Do this, this way, because I said so and I’m the boss.” Leadership says, “I’m here to help YOU. To help pull out your best qualities and help you improve upon your skills.” Great leaders are team players and don’t ask, “What’s in it for me?” The goal is not motivated by self interest. It’s about seeing the best in others and helping them become all God has created them to be.
- Leadership is not a position; it’s a lifestyle. Whether we intend to or not, we have been given many leadership opportunities in our daily relationships with people. Leadership knows no age limit, race, gender, education level, or economic status. Whether in the workplace, in friendships, at church or in your own home, you have the ability to influence the lives of those you interact with. You may have many different roles and responsibilities in your life, but “Leader” is not a position or a role. It is how we are to fulfill those responsibilities. Recognizing you were created to interact with and essentially lead others can be scary and seem overwhelming because we tend focus on our needs, our abilities, and our weaknesses. It’s vital to remember that it’s not about us. It’s all about Jesus. As the saying goes, “God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called.”
- Great leaders always remain teachable. They never think they have arrived. Ask yourself in every situation, “What can I learn from this? What is God trying to teach me?” The person who thinks they know it all will be limited by that knowledge, and they will eventually reach a place of stagnancy. The person who recognizes that wisdom comes from God and who remains teachable will never stop learning, and therefore never stop growing. I don’t ever want to limit what he wants to teach me.
- Leadership is really about relationships. It’s not looking at a list of a person’s skills or achievements and checking a box indicating whether or not they meet what you are looking for. It’s about getting to know that person, who they are – not what they do – and helping to encourage them and teach them how to build on those strengths and apply them. It is also about authenticity within those relationships. You cannot effectively lead someone if you yourself are not living what you are teaching.
- Leadership reinvests. It is taking what you have been given and passing it along. Levi Lusko says, “Reinvest your miracles, or you’ll reach the end of them.” The excitement from knowledge or experience can dwindle with time, or we may lose it altogether. But if we are passing it along and pouring into others what we have received, then not only does it never end, it keeps spreading and it will change the world. Recognize that investment usually comes at a cost. Prayerfully count the cost and be willing to pay the price. Whatever resources God has given you – whether those resources come in the form of finances, wisdom, or good old-fashioned time, love, and care, they are most powerful when reinvested. They are resources God has generously given to us, but they cost him something. We need to recognize that to lead like Jesus, it may cost us something too. Don’t look at this from the perspective of having to give something up but as an opportunity to give something away and make a difference. If giving someone a portion of your time and love leads to them having a personal, life-changing relationship with Jesus, is it worth it to you? For God, it cost him the life of his son, but he deemed that we are worth the investment. Matthew 20:28 says “…Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
I was afraid to lead others because I had the wrong idea about what leadership actually meant. As God reveals to me what leadership actually means, I get increasingly excited. I am learning first hand that when you step out in faith and trust God, for God, he always exceeds your expectations.
Are you willing to step out in faith and lead like Jesus?