Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Leader’s Foundation: Who will you intentionally influence?

How many people report to you as their supervisor?  There is usually a core group with whom you interact on some regular basis and these people you clearly influence with leadership (hopefully for good).  If there are others whom you technically supervise without much interaction (you are their supervisor in name only) they may not be led well.  Everyone deserves to have a leader who is committed to helping him or her succeed.

An old saying may apply to this topic—do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Are you being served well by your leader/supervisor?  If so, why; if not, why not?  Even if you cannot conclude that you are being led well you can break this pattern and serve well those you lead.

From a study of Jesus, a master leader-developer, we learn that He intentionally influenced 12 Disciples the most; and of the 12 there were three whom He especially influenced.  I suspect that it is not inappropriate to compare our scope of responsibility with that of Jesus—if we have more than 12 people looking to us as their primary leader we have chosen or allowed ourselves to be spread too thin.

A concept that is far easier to affirm than apply is leading with a developmental bias.  When a leader is committed to ensuring that all those she or he leads are growing into their fullest potential and aligned so to serve with both joy and competence, some hard choices must be made.  Having a manageable scope of responsibility should be a first priority.  Only then can we reflect on how to best serve the people entrusted to our stewardship.

Who are the few people whom you are responsible to lead?  Who is most eager to learn and grow where you can immediately bless?  Who will need more time to make their development a priority where you can wait?

In Philippians 3:13 we read: Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.  The context is all about living with focus: for followers of Jesus, knowing Christ is in a category all by itself but, every good leader is next of all known by the quality of those being led.  To say it another way, you show me a developing leader and I will show you a great supervisor.  So, who are you focusing on?

Leadership expert Robert (Bobby) Clinton defines a focused life this way: “A focused life is a life dedicated to exclusively carrying out God’s unique purposes through it, by identifying the focal issues, which then allows an increasing prioritization of life’s activities around the focal issues, and results in a satisfying life of being and doing.” (10.26.2006 Monday Morning Memo)  More on this important topic in a future blog.

In the last four blogs I have discussed a few foundational leadership issues of 1) self-awareness; 2) transitioning well; 3) how and where to focus your effort and 4) whom you should develop.  Certainly there are other important foundational issues to consider but these will enable us to make progress with fewer regrets.  If you were to select four key foundational leadership issues what would they include?

Next Blog: The essence of leading well.

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The Leader’s Foundation: How and where will you focus your effort?

Where a person chooses to invest time, energy and resources will be a reflection of what is thought to be most important.  Many Christians have distilled biblical teaching about what is important to the three arenas that are eternal in nature: God, His Word, and people.  Where a leader chooses to focus effort will be a reflection of what one thinks is most important about leadership.  The distillation process for leading is not so precise; in fact, the variety of definitions and core components about leadership are too many to count.  However, if I had to choose the most essential elements of leadership they would be in two arenas: relationship and influence.  Leadership is impossible without both.

Viewing leadership through widening circles of relationship with corresponding degrees of influence is consistent with any study of the life of Christ.  For Jesus, and I suspect all leaders, when the number of relationships increase, the depth of influence decreases.  Robert Coleman in his classic work, The Master Plan of Evangelism, succinctly notes: “Jesus ministered to the multitudes but gave Himself to the few.”  The Psalmist states this comparison slightly different for Moses in Psalms 103:7: “He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.”  One of Howard Hendricks’ pithy statements addressing this issue is: “You can influence at a distance but you can only impact up close.”

Deep influence and powerful impact requires the choice how and where.  So how and where should you focus your leadership to maximize you influence and impact?  Two principles come to my mind.

First how: spiritual leaders are those led by the Holy Spirit.  In order to be led by the Holy Spirit one must have developed a sensitivity to how the Holy Spirit communicates.  Of all the skills a leader needs, none—not one—is more important than sensitivity to the Spirit.  How is this skill taught?  Where is this skill learned?  For too many spiritual leaders it is just assumed that somehow you will learn this most important competency.  Again, we should turn to Jesus as the master teacher.  Jesus was intentional in nurturing this ability in His Disciples by modeling His sensitivity to God (frequent time alone with the Father and how He chose to go where He went), by teaching about the person and work of the Holy Spirit (especially John 14-16), and by dialogue with the Disciples on biblical truth as they journeyed together.

Second where: on a much more human and practical side, you should exert leadership to issues that are foundational for the ongoing development of people and advance of the Gospel.  Every leader is regularly confronted with urgent matters that cannot be avoided.  Far too many leaders live from one crisis to another; one urgent/important matter to the next.  This kind of leading cannot build a strong foundation.  Tough choices are needed to focus effort for the long term good over the short term crisis.  Such a leader will have to absorb some criticism.  But, when led by the Holy Spirit to choose the important over the urgent you have made the right choice.

How would you rate your sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit?  What can you learn from times when you were rightly sensitive to Him as well as times you were mistaken?  A daily prayer you can be assured God will answer is for increased sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

What are the foundational issues under your scope of leadership?  Who can you invite to help you make these tough calls?  What can you set in place today?

Next Blog: Who will you intentionally influence?

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The Leader’s Foundation: Leadership Transitions

Whereas some people seem to enjoy and even thrive on change, most people prefer stability.  The unknown is both exciting and scary.  As we trust the Lord on our journey of life we can count on Him to make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).  Yet, it seems that the analogy of being thrown into the deep end of the pool and see who survives is still happening too frequently.  A good shepherd leader (and organization) can and must do better.

A study of leadership transitions in the Bible provides rich insights to guide the process.  In examples like Moses to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha, Jesus to His Disciples and many more we see that certain processes enhance a healthy transition.  Overlap time is important to build needed understanding and competence.  Platforming the new leader for potential success is critical.  Building confidence and providing resources makes a big difference.

If we are willing to turn to the business context for insight we can find helpful research, principles and practices.  None are more beneficial than those identified by author and consultant Ram Charan in two of his books, The Leadership Pipeline and Leaders at all Levels.  In The Leadership Pipeline we learn:

Three key components must be considered for each level of leadership: skill requirements—the new capabilities required to execute new responsibilities; time applications—new time frames that govern how one works; work values—what people believe is important and so becomes the focus of their effort.  The challenge for organizations is to make sure that people in leadership positions are assigned to the level appropriate to their skill, time applications, and values. (p. 8)

“To build effective leadership at all levels, organizations need to identify leadership candidates early, provide them with growth assignments, give them useful feedback, and coach them.” (p. 11)  “When organizations start to think in terms of pipeline requirements rather than job-title responsibilities, they are in a much better position to develop their leaders.” (p. 12)

Now, let me suggest that you think back on your most recent leadership transition.  How well were you transitioned for success?  How well are you now positioned for success?  Do you barely have your nose above water?  Are you tired of treading water?  Or have you found that place where you are making a growing contribution in such a way that is healthy and effective?  When others look at you and your role would they honestly say that you are thriving and that one day they might like a similar role?  If not, why not?

Coaching has become an exploding profession that helps leaders discern their own solutions to their most pressing challenges.  Mentors continue to resource leaders in new roles through the sharing of wisdom and experience.  From the time a leader anticipates a transition until he or she is six months or more into a new role, a coach and a mentor is invaluable.  A wise transitioning leader will not try to navigate such a passage alone.

Along with asking the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5), also look to leaders who have gone before you to learn from them (Hebrews 13:7).  Your health and success depends on this!

Next Blog: How and where will you focus your effort?

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The Leader’s Foundation: What do you bring that is uniquely you?

For the near future, the way that these blogs for leaders will be organized is in series of four articles under a major topic.  This first article under the topic of The Leader’s Foundation addresses that most important aspect of understanding what a leader brings to his or her leadership.

Concepts like who you are in Christ?  How has God designed you?  How do you leverage your personality?  What should you focus on being and doing at a given stage in your life to enhance your effective for your next stage?  How can you glorify God by enjoying both Him and life?

For instance, our American (and often Christian) culture tells us that our worth comes from what we do (work), how much we have (assets), and who we know (prestige).  Even those of us who know that in Christ we are children of God with immense value, we often find ourselves linking our worth to what is affirmed around us.

For instance, many Navigator staff have participated in the Personal Contribution Assessment seminar conducted by the People Resource Team.  During that experience participants learn about and reflect upon their personality/temperament profile, their preferred values, and their spiritual gifts, all of which give insight into one’s unique design.  However, how good are we at integrating what we learn into our leading of others and team building?  If what we learn about ourselves is kept to ourselves and we do not intentionally live our design with those we lead, we have not stewarded that learning experience well.

For instance, we glean from the social sciences as well as biblical studies that people grow through life stages.  Some learning is more foundational than another for lifelong health.  Growing deep roots of character is essential before assuming expanded leadership; otherwise one’s foundation will crack under the weight of responsibility.  Certain ministry skills, such as leading and building a team, are a pre-requisite to more complex leadership, otherwise one will not have the experiential credibility needed to lead others well.

The point I am trying to make is that God has designed each leader in a unique way.  Instead of trying to become someone we were never designed to be, we should focus personally and interpersonally on becoming all we were created to be.  The Apostle Paul seemed to have this truth in mind when he wrote: “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.  For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.” (Colossians 1:28-29)  And again Paul wrote: “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands…” (2 Timothy 1:6) The effectiveness of one’s leading will be linked to living out of one’s design.

The CORE Leadership model within The Navigator is based on the biblical understanding of a Shepherd Leader.  From Genesis to Revelation we find that a shepherd leader is one who assumes responsibility to lead, develop, AND care for those he or she supervises.  Moreover, every leader has a strength, a stretch, and a struggle in one of these three areas.  We are unique in our design and should leverage our strength so to lead out of our design.

How convinced are you of your unique design and how well aligned are you in your ministry?

Next Blog: How do you transition well to a new leadership role?

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