I don’t pretend to be an expert on leadership. In some ways, I don’t even like the use of leadership language.
However, over the past few weeks I have been asked several times about my own leadership development.
What did my personal rhythms of study look like?
What patterns of spiritual discipline did I follow?
What leadership lessons have I learned over the years?
And what advice would I give to a young “leader” today?
The following list is the result of my own reflection on each of these questions. I have thought about the activities and practices that have shaped me the most over the past three decades.
These lessons are simply descriptive of my own journey. While some of them may not fit who you are, I wish someone had shared each of these with me many years ago.
1. Focus less attention on being a great “leader” and more on being a great follower—especially of Jesus.
I wish I would have spent much less time reading the latest popular “leadership” book and spent more time discovering what it meant to be a follower of Jesus.
What does it really mean to become more and more like Jesus? What does it look like in your life to die to self? And what are the implications of being a true servant rather than a leader?
We need to admit that too much of church leadership culture is taken from the business world, and not from the Bible. Before you read another “leadership” book, read UnLeader by Lance Ford.
And in an overarching sense, be less “church-centric” and more “Christ-centric.” Focusing too much attention on the programs and activities of the church inevitably leads to pragmatism and reliance on human ingenuity, which unfortunately includes the misguided way we understand Christian leadership.
2. Focus on your spiritual formation.
Spend more time emphasizing the formation of your heart over the transfer of information to your head.
Be sure to carve out significant time for reflection. Create margin in your life where you can be alone and reflect on how God is shaping and forming you.
But also make certain that much of your reflection is done in the company of others. You must have intentional, yet informal, conversations with others whereby struggles and victories can be shared openly, especially around missional engagement. I am convinced that an often-missing piece of the discipling process is the lack of communal reflection.
We are “discipled” as we share with others how the Spirit is forming our hearts as we engage God’s mission. Discipleship is a relational, communal activity. But you must have margin in your life to allow that to take place.
3. Focus less time on cultivating your speaking skills and more time on becoming a great listener.
You will discover that many of the mistakes you make relationally will be because you didn’t listen well.
Listen to understand. Listen closely to God. Listen to your community. Listen to others.
Additionally, become a good networker with other kingdom-minded people, and listen well to what they are doing in your city.