What are some of the basic characteristics that make an effective and efficient leader within your church, organization, business or home? This blog piece is written with a couple of assumptions in mind. I am assuming you have a core vision for your organization. Where you want to end-up is clear. What you want to accomplish is clear. Secondly, I’m assuming that you have the will and desire to become the best leader you can be. I’m assuming you want this so bad that you lose sleep over your passion to be the very best leader you can be. I’m assuming you crave the idea that God could and would use you to lead others into a place unexplored with Him. If these two assumptions fit your heart and your vision, then this blog post can greatly benefit you. What I’m giving you are five basic characteristics and practices that make a leader worth following.
A leader worth following is a leader that continually asks one important question regarding his or her own behavior (mental and physical). The question is this: Is what I’m about to do, if adopted and practiced by everyone in my organization, make our organization better? Once the leader asks himself/herself this question, they then make the right choice every time. Is this a question you’re married to? Is this a question you’re willing to ask in every decision you make when faced with both small and critically big decisions? Do you practice what’s best for the organization…every…single…time? A leader worth following is a genuine leader who cares more about the organization than him/herself. A leader worth following will make greater sacrifices than he/she is asking those they are leading to make. Do you practice this?
2. Shared Ownership
As a leader you most likely have deep feelings of ownership with your vision because that vision most likely began within you. No one messes with your vision! Why? Because your vision for this organization is personal. It should be. But in order to be a leader that people not only want to follow, but a leader that people trust, you must have “shared ownership” of your vision. Do those leaders you lead take their role and performance personally? If not, it’s because they lack a sense of ownership. People tend to take careful care of that which they have invested in and have pride in. It’s very difficult to have a sense of ownership in a sentence written on a piece of paper called a “vision” without having invested anything into it. It’s not theirs…it’s yours. Leaders that people want to follow allow other leaders to be creative and to create within their role and within the scope of the vision. It’s taking the organization’s vision as the guideposts, or the fences of the field, and allowing the leader to create, re-create and innovate whatever is in the scope of their responsibilities. In allowing this, they are expressing freely from within. This is valuable and means a lot to that person and shared ownership is set in motion. Are you micromanaging? Do your leaders have the freedom to create, re-create and innovate?
In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than having a group of leaders that are “YES” men and women. It seems like a leader would want the most agreeable people in the room, but the most effective and efficient leaders surround themselves with some of the most intelligent and critical people in the organization. “Why?” I’m glad you asked. A leader must create a culture of unfiltered communication. A leader must give unfiltered feedback to his/her leaders or else that leader begins the process of deterioration of the leadership’s system of operation. Over time, all of the things you didn’t say or didn’t do for the sake of someone’s feelings will pile-up underneath the rug your leadership table (where you meet) sits and causes some serious problems. Beware: this mountainous growth underneath the boardroom table isn’t usually dealt with until it’s too late and the whole leadership system is garbage. Now it must be scrapped completely. Giving unfiltered feedback is very difficult, but must be done in love and care for not only the individual, but ultimately for the organization as a whole. You must be willing to disappoint or even hurt someone for the sake of the whole organization. Jesus modeled this by being hurt for the whole world. Same concept, much different ramifications. But a leader worth following will not only give unfiltered feedback, but receive it as well. Is your door open for leaders to be completely honest with you, holding nothing back? If not, you’re missing out on major opportunities for growth. People aren’t always correct in their unfiltered thinking, but at least you gain another perspective of how others may be seeing you and/or your leadership. You need this feedback! Can you take it though? Do you have thick skin? You do if this is in your leadership culture. You will if you begin encouraging unfiltered feedback. Allow it and ask for it. “If you stop listening to leaders you will soon be surrounded by leaders with nothing important or helpful to say“-Andy Stanley
4. Soul System
Leaders that people want to follow create a soul system within their organization. A soul system is a system of operation that creates freedom for leaders and motivates them to “push the envelope” in their respective roles and responsibilities. Most systems of operations I see in churches are designed to restrict leaders from exploring or innovating something new within their role. We tell them, “Just do what the staff handbook says. Don’t do anything outside of it and you’ll be fine.” I’m not a big fan of this approach, although I do understand why leaders implement it. It assists with control. My criticism with this approach is that if you have a leader that you don’t trust exploring, improving and innovating things within their responsibilities, why are they in leadership in the first place? Choosing the right leader is key to the soul system approach. Let’s assume you have chosen the right leader for the right role and responsibilities. Don’t micromanage them, but allow them to put their soul into the system. This not only helps with the shared ownership concept, but allows the depth of a person’s heart to impact the organization and make personal impressions upon it’s personality, if you will. Now that is an organization I want to be a part of and that is a leadership system that I want to live within. Further, that is the leader (the one who allows soul system) that I want to follow.
5. R & R
“Rest and relaxation”? No. Although rest and relaxation is important for everyone, that’s not the point here. A leader that people want to follow creates a culture of R&R-Recognition & Reward. An effective and efficient leader takes the time and money to recognize and reward his/her leaders for their performance and investment into the organization. These leaders recognize and reward leaders three important ways. First, they recognize and reward leaders privately. When leaders take the time to call a private meeting with a leader for the simple agenda of thanking, praising and honoring them, affection for the leader’s role and responsibilities is fueled because the destructive thoughts are exterminated. The destructive thoughts of “no one cares what I’m doing here” and “what I do isn’t that big of a deal” are continually seeking to become birthed into the minds of each and every leader and volunteer. A private recognition and reward eliminates destructive thoughts and births passion and pride in what they do and how they do it. Secondly, leaders recognize and reward leaders publicly. Some people don’t like this (or say they don’t), but it’s necessary. The rest of the organization needs to understand the importance of that leader’s roles, responsibilities and the organization’s thankfulness for their accomplishments. Additionally, it motivates other leaders to perform above and beyond their current standard. Everyone likes rewards. Lastly, I feel that it’s important to make sure you recognize and reward your leaders in the presence of their family, whomever they may be; aunts, uncles, children, spouse, extended family members, whomever. This creates an understanding in their family that my dad or my mom or my grandma is highly respected and honored for what he/she does. This is the most powerful form of recognition there is. No further explanation is needed here.
Take these five basic characteristics and practices that make a leader worth following, implement them and watch your organization turn inside-out for the better, as leaders flock to you and practically beg to be involved.