Spring Leadership Series: The One Essential Thing

urgentIntuitively, we seem to understand that for anything of value to happen – or last – we need great leaders.  Most of us (myself included) don’t feel all that great at it, but want to keep working toward that in the different spheres of life that God has called us to.

That begs, though, the million-dollar question: what makes a great leader in the first place?

Most magazines, TV segments and books answer the question by essentially providing a series of tips, habits and character traits we should aspire to.  ‘Great leaders… use their time well, are decisive, get things done’ and so on.

While all of that may be helpful and true, it’s not the one essential thing for us as Christian leaders.  It’s not how efficient we are, it’s not how type-A we are, and it’s not even how smart or talented we are.

In fact, it’s not really about us at all.

The Apostle Paul put it like this in 1 Corinthians 11:1 — ‘Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.’

That’s it?  Really?

Yup, that’s it.  Sure, there’s lots more to say, but this is the essential starting point.  As Christian leaders, our job description is to make sure we’re following Christ closely.  If that one thing is in place, others can follow us with confidence.  Without it, even our successes are just smoke and mirrors, an illusion that will only last so long.

Since I work with campus leaders, I want to address you guys directly.  I know that you already ‘know’ what I just said, but it’s so easy to forget this, isn’t it?  We get caught up in exams, rotations, studying for boards, relational issues, struggles with roommates.  We focus on planning the next event, leading the next bible study, reserving a room, coordinating community service, and… you get the idea.

In other words, busyness + self-reliance = demoting God to a place that is lethal to us and those who are following us.  The quality of our leadership is directly tied into the quality of our real-time, right-now relationship with Christ.

So, as the leadership year begins, I want to challenge you take some time and prayerfully ask yourself two questions:

– How close are you really connected to Christ right now?

– What will you specifically do to move – and stay – closer to him as the year progresses?

The good news is that God knows how hard it is to be in your situation, wherever you are.  He expects that we’ll fall down and need his help.  He wants us to ‘with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need’ (Hebrews 4:16).

Let’s start the year off by re-examining our relationship with God so that others can imitate us as we imitate Christ.

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What Kind Of A Leader Will You Be?

pegsThis is the season of leadership transitions on many of our area campuses.  As outgoing leaders move on, new leaders are taking their place, making this a season of change and re-evaluation.

Expectations and enthusiasm are (rightly) running high, but leading well isn’t always as simple as it seems.  How do you do it well?

(Footnote: these posts aren’t just for people in a formal, present-tense leadership position.  Reflecting about where you are in your leadership journey is an important part of improving and having more to give).

Over the next month or so, I’ll be exploring that question in my next series of posts.  I’d love to hear your feedback and comments along the way.

In this first post, we ask the question, ‘What kind of leader will you be?’  Everyone wants to lead well, but intentionally considering where you are – and, who you want to be – will help you follow through as exams and ‘life’ threaten to push your role as a leader to the back burner.

In my experience, every leader takes on one (or more) of these roles.

  • the no-show.  These leaders signs up with good intentions, but, at some point, stop showing up to events and responding to emails. They are leaders only in theory.
  • the wallflower.  Unlike the no-show, these leaders come out to many club activities and answers communications from the other leaders.  However, they rarely come up with their own ideas or provide leadership.
  • the misfit.  These leaders are faithful, active participants in the campus group.  At the same time, they don’t ‘fit in’ among the other leaders.  The reasons may vary – coming from a different faith tradition, having a personality that doesn’t ‘gel’, feeling that their ideas aren’t valued, not agreeing with key aspects of the group’s vision, or, being asked to serve in a way that doesn’t fit their gifting.  If this dynamic doesn’t change, they can become disruptive, or, more like the no-show or wallflower.
  • the savior.  These are the take-charge types, full of ideas and motivation.  They’re natural ‘presidents’ and talented, go-to people.  At the same time, they may not listen well or help others play the roles God has called them to.  As a result, their groups become overly dependent on them and reflect their interests rather than that of the entire leadership team.  When they move on, those that follow aren’t prepared, or, feel that they can’t live up to ‘the savior’ that went before them.
  • the biblical leader.  Biblical leaders know the role that God has called them to play on the leadership team, and, they exercise that role with a blend of confidence and humility.  They come in a million different ‘flavors’ – they may be ‘presidents’ or more suited to a supportive role – but, they’re all proactive yet recognize they’re part of a larger team.

Since you’ve lived with yourself for a while now(!), you probably know where your tendencies lie.  Your new leadership team may be just forming, but where do you think you’ll naturally ‘land’ among the team if you just let things unfold?

Take a few moments and reflect, praying through where you are and where you’d like to be.

In my next post, I’ll offer a few key thoughts on each leadership type that may help you move forward.

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