All leadership needs to be based on experience

All leadership needs to be based on experience

Wow, hang on.. my dear colleagues will say. I have led a Youth with a Mission centre and build it up to be the largest in Central Europe with lots of young people without much leadership experience, how can you say something like that?

All leadership needs to be based on experience, that’s why leaders are learners. We listen to feedback, we evaluate constantly and we love those who see things from a different angle. Based on that we build our experience. We have teams around us that shape and stretch us daily. That’s why one of the criteria I set for mentors of mine is that they have led people locally. If not, they only come with empty, but nice words. Give me leaders that have walked the walk, not talked themselves into the position.

Too many people are hurt by immature leadership. I have hurt people too. As a young leader, 25 years old, I took on the leadership of the centre here in Constanta and I can guarantee you that some people found that hard and that I made mistakes.
Hopefully I have learned, gone through difficult processes and been shaped to be a better leader.
I believe I have, since there has been a good team around. Often I think we underestimate the power of a team. Not just what can be done in ministry and work, but in who is shaping us as leaders. The conflicts that we go through, the times when people move on and you grieve, those are the times where I learned that people are not objects. I will never find it normal, neither in YWAM or in church, that people just move on. When people do, it’s always a double-edged sword for me. I love seeing them released into new things: studies, families, other YWAM centers, you name it…but there is always the pain of losing friends and colleagues. Over time I have grown to value every person that comes to the team as unique and special.

We build our experience. Today I have great experience because of those many years I have carried out leadership in a cross cultural setting. Add to that a multi cultural team and I am still learning, still evaluating and still posing questions to myself and others. If we stop doing that, we become anything but a leader. We are finished, flat out done as leaders.

Release people that are willing to learn, that are willing hear feedback, asking questions and are not afraid of a bit of a rough road ahead

Release people that are willing to learn, that are willing hear feedback, asking questions and are not afraid of a bit of a rough road ahead. All good leaders go through that when staff disagree, when feedback is not amazing and cozy, but rather for your growth and development. That’s when true leadership arises. A learning heart is a humble heart and, when we are humble, we surround ourselves with other leaders. We know it’s not all about me, my image, career or position, but rather about serving the people I lead.

Too often we make leadership spiritual in my settings, (mission and Church) with words like ‘appointed by God’, titles like ‘pastor’ and ‘elder’ and even in YWAM ‘base leader’ or ‘convener’ becoming a spiritual title, and a role of importance. I want to warn against title-based leadership and those who gain more power because of an added spiritual title. If a leader doesn’t do his work, or is abusing his leadership, he should find something else to do.

I have for many years been a firm believer that leaders doesn’t have the privilege to be hurt by feedback. It’s something we have to live with and meet with humility, asking forgiveness for short-comings and wrongdoings. If we go into defence, letting ourself become a victim, then we are in the wrong shoes and need to find something else to do. Our people are the best reference of our leadership. If there are no followers, that is enough feedback in itself.

I don’t say that leaders who aren’t leading people are not good people, or amazing in what they are doing, but they miss the experience of leading. Leadership always starts with yourself. First yourself and then the one that comes with you. As it grows to a team, minimum 3 people, you will find out that the interaction is way more complicated than when you only were two. Interaction increases with the number of people in your team. For me it was totally different to lead a team of ten than to lead a team of thirty.
This experience is one of growth and stone-by-stone building. Some of those stones have been heavier than others and some of those stones have hurt my hands but, at the end of the day, when I look back on YWAM Constanta history, I rejoice for the experience it added to my life and leadership.

I cannot lead in a wider range if I have not led locally. It never works to put leadership in a christian setting without first having led people in a local church, mission or ministry. Without that experience, we cannot lead on a national or regional level. It all starts small, adding people into something called team.

Leadership is always based on experience.

Until next time, all the best to those pioneering and leading local teams! That is what’s powerful. That’s what builds thorough experience.

Rune Saether

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