Over the years I have heard many definitions of good leadership and what good leaderships looks like. I think we live in a time where leadership is a bit messy and confusing. Those who were meant to be leaders of nations and elected by and for the people, have led great nations into chaos, and presidents that we would love to see have moral standards are talking about women as toys and objects. We see politicians from the right-wing come to power based on policies motivated by fear and hatred. I believe this is somehow also reflecting on leadership in its overall perspective. What happened to a great but simple model of servant leadership?
Serve the people you are meant to lead.
I have some thoughts about what matters when we appoint leaders but it all starts with three simple things: they have led a local work, they can lead with confidence out of experience and their vision is big enough to include and invite others into it.
Are you leading a local work? Good, that is your accountability, your test lab and your learning for great leadership. This matters the most. Good leadership brings an amount of growth. Not just for the sake of numbers but for the growth of the impact of your work. If you started with two people and now you are 10, that is great growth. I love to make statistics because you can measure what you have done. In my mission we even have it in our values that we are to function in teams, that means that there is always more than three people in a project. I love how we value this point as it creates room for more people to join.
A major point for me is leading out of confidence and experience. Great leaders lead out of confidence and experience and are constantly learning and adding to their experiences. Our organization has a value of do firsts and then teach. This is a principal of leading out of experience. Do first, then teach, then lead, then speak. Too often I meet people speaking and giving advice who just don’t have the relevant, on the field experience they speak about. I am sorry to step on toes, but that advice is really just hot air and good for little to nothing.
At the same time, experience and confidence can be a trap if we don’t stay learners. After building up the community in Constanta to be the largest in Central Europe, I knew what to do and the in and outs of leading our community. But handing over the leadership and leading myself into a new season was interesting, and I found myself leaving with uncertainty. I couldn’t do things the same way anymore and this stretched me to grow and seek out new ways to lead. I think we need to always bring innovative ideas into our ministries and into our lives, continuing to learn and to grow and even to innovate ourselves.
It is important that those we appoint to leadership have experience in taking risks and learning from them. What was the risk you took as a leader? What was the cutting-edge thing that you did or brought your organization into? When we know how to take risks and meet needs at the right time, leadership starts to become relevant and forward leading.
Great leaders always have a habit of creating more room for more people. Great leaders are so full of vision that they challenge you to come along and to do more than they can. They see the people around them and are always looking for potential and those who are willing to go. They challenge people to come along and be a part of the bigger vision while listening to the individual’s vision and showing them how the visions can come together. Great leaders see vision and facilitate for other visions to be a part of it. This kind of leadership stands out in contrast to a manager or pastoral leader who only asks people to volunteer to serve someone else’s vision or encourages people to do their own things. The best leaders challenge people to step into the overall vision, making space for the individual to find themselves within it. Nothing is more powerful than having leaders asking and challenging you to be a part of something bigger than yourself and finding your unique role there.
My team and I are asking ourselves what the future will look like if we grow to six times the number of staff that we are today. To answer this we have to start with the simple but powerful question: WHY? Why should we grow that big? And for what purpose? Our vision needs to big enough to give a good explanation. From there we need to talk about what needs to change to see that growth. That is where it can get painful because we are all a bit comfortable and for most people we like what we have and don’t want to risk loosing it. After we have worked through these things it’s down to planning and mapping out different strategies and key people needed to make changes happen. Making room for staff growth takes a lot of love for people and leadership that is similar to father and motherhood (see last month’s blog about that).
When appointing leaders and developing ourselves as leaders, lets remember these three simple things that matter so much: to have experience leading on a local level, to be able to lead out of the confidence that comes from experience, and to have vision that is big enough to make space for people to come in with their own visions and callings, making a compounding impact in the mission.
Until next time,