I like to read.
Which may be a bit of an understatement, but the statement is no less true. I’ll read almost anything I can get my hands on – as long as it’s not boring, I’ll read it. (I haven’t determined what classifies a book as boring yet). Fiction, faith, non-fiction, memoir, biography.. if it has words and looks interesting, sign me up. I like it better than writing – skimming over someone’s already polished words is a lot easier than hacking through the act of stringing words together. (But maybe the process of churning out words, deleting words, rewriting words are some of the many reasons not to quit.. but that’s a different topic altogether).
Recently, a few of us got together to study John Maxwell’s ’21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’. Which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like – 21 laws on how to become a better leader. Our instructions were simple. We would all read the designated chapter and then come together as a group to discuss that week’s principle.
It was really neat to sit and talk about what stood out for us, and what we liked and didn’t like. Mostly we were all on the same page, sometimes not. There were wonderfully wise insights from the group. I always find it hard to talk in group settings because a lot of the times I say things I wish I could take back a second later, but there was some contribution from my part.
Anyways, we’re wrapping up that book soon, and if you were to ask me what Law #5 was, I probably couldn’t tell you for a bag of jellybeans. This says nothing about Maxwell’s writing and a lot about how we retain information.
There are 21 laws that Maxwell has come up with, which are wise and should not be ignored, but there are probably things we know ourselves about what makes a good leader, if we really thought about it. And in my perspective, a key to a good leader is always the leader who is there not because of their own strength, but because they know that the cause they contribute to is more important than themselves.
The gospel exists outside of myself. This small principle is what allows me to put into focus a great leader. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying that our love in action because of Jesus doesn’t matter for advancing the gospel. Of course it does. It would be nonsense to say otherwise. What I am saying is that an understanding of an objective gospel; in turn an objective reality, sets the tone for a leader. Even if I ceased to exist, the gospel would still be true.
It can sound almost depressing – but it’s not. The reality is, the message of Christ is for you, but it’s about Jesus. It’s always about him. It’s always been about the work that He is accomplishing on earth, never the other way around. Good leaders know this. It gives them a healthy perspective on how to lead. They lead others not to themselves, but to Christ, knowing that they are the vessel through which the Message flows.
The other thing that I find to be admirable in a really good leader is an understanding that they are still learning.They usually have this mantra on their lips or displayed through their attitudes. They have a quiet strength about their convictions, not needing a megaphone to display them, while also acknowledging that they are still learning. They don’t force you to follow them, but you seem to want to anyways. Whether or not it comes naturally, it feels natural, when someone is a good leader.
Both point to one main point – a heart of service. When a healthy heart of service is established, both of these characteristics flow smoothly.
The second part of the makings of a good leader is one who has vision. There must be a place that a leader is headed, or a purpose to their footsteps. One can have characteristics of a good leader but have nowhere they are leading to. Simple, but effective.
Vision gives leaders a place that they are drawing others to. It gives them something to aim for; it doesn’t allow for mindless wandering in the desert. A leader who says, “I know where we’re going” will always win out over a leader who says, “I’ve got nothing to offer in the way of direction.” Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big believer in process, that we don’t have to have it all figured out before we begin (thank God). But there has to be a guiding feature; otherwise we’re running in circles.
The funny thing with leadership is that it’s often gone hand in hand with the corporate world; even in churches the formulas for leadership sound very business-minded. The funny thing about Jesus was that he was the greatest leader to ever walk the planet; and yet his attributes look astonishingly different than what you might expect from a leader.
But he had servant-heartedness in spades, and he had vision galore.
Anyway. I’m going to go re-read Law #5.