When Leaders Get It Right
by Dr. Bill Donahue
When leaders get it right (and many do!), a lot of amazing growth and change happens. Because when a leader gets it right…
Energy flows to creating solutions and rather than making accusations
Team members feel empowered rather than overpowered
A compelling shared vision replaces a crippling ego-driven “visionary”
Conversations are truthful and gracious, instead of ruthless and tasteless
Tough decisions are boldly faced and not cautiously feared
Movement is fostered by a mission, not forced through manipulation
Justice is rightly pursued, not wrongly ignored
People feel honored and valued, not shamed and used
Success measures how people are treated, not just how profits are made
Workers are promoted by quality performance, not a deal-making cronyism
We need real leaders whose performance “backstage” is congruent with what we see up front. Some are pressured to perform even though their souls are damaged, and they cover their broken parts. Others are just mean “Jekyll and Hyde” types, who exude joy publicly, but are awful to work with, toxic to their staff and self-centered, ego-driven tyrants.
No one really wants to be that kind of leader, or to be around that kind of leader. We want to be people who live well and lead well, and who change others’ lives in positive ways.
But, as one pastor said, “It takes a changing life to change a life!”
7 Keys to Life-Changing Leadership
I need a life that is growing and changing before I can guide others to do the same. Here are some areas to focus on.
- Connect with Christ (1 Tim. 6:11)
We lead best from an inner life that is growing and developing in intimacy with Christ. “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ,” said the apostle (1 Corinthians 11:1).
When I was a young leader in Philadelphia, I met a pastor who was in his 60s and had only been a pastor a few years. As a former Philadelphia police officer, he had seen the best and worst of humanity. For many years his heart had been hardened until Christ got ahold of him. When he retired, he headed into pastoral ministry. Here was a tough, rugged guy who bore the scars and carried the wounds of three decades of inner city police work.
But there was something about him that attracted me to him. It was his love for Christ. I remember him standing in our home, talking to my parents, and saying this phrase each time he referred to Jesus. “My Christ’” he would say…”My Christ.” I wanted that kind of relationship for my life as well.
- Guard Your Character (1 Tim. 4:12)
“Guard your heart with all diligence,” says the proverb, “Because from it flow the springs of life.” You and I must guard our hearts from deceptive thoughts, wayward actions and destructive attitudes.
We need to practice self-examination and peer examination. The first requires a look inside yourself to see where there is drift from God’s desires. When we find things that are destructive to the soul, we confess them and move on. The second, peer examination, requires us to trust others with our hearts, taking risks to say, “I will allow you to look into my life and tell me what you see.” That’s courage.
- Confirm Your Calling (2 Tim. 1:6-9)
In Jeremiah 20:9, the prophet feels compelled by God to continue preaching the difficult message he knew he had to bring to the people. Listen to his words:
“But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak anymore in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot.”
Check yourself regularly, and rekindle the flame of your calling. Whether it’s preaching, or teaching, or executive leadership, or the ministry of prayer, or bold evangelism, or the simple daily work of disciple-making, clarity about your calling is essential.
- Develop Your Competence (2 Tim. 2:15)
A person who lacks competence will make lots of mistakes…very costly mistakes.
What are you doing to grow in your leadership skills? Are you attending conferences, reading books, interacting with better leaders, analyzing the effectiveness of your leadership and identify areas for growth?
- Honor Your Compatibility (2 Tim. 4:5)
Have you ever copied the actions, words and style of another leader, in order to be like that leader? In this passage Paul says, “Fulfill your ministry.” Not someone else’s…
Align your gifts, experiences and skills with the most effective ministry that fits those abilities. God wants to use you in the way he made you. Are you wired to work with children, but keep trying to work with adults? Are you called to a ministry of prayer, but are trying to be an evangelist because “that’s where the action is.” Honor God by honoring your compatibility.
- Maintain Your Commitment (2 Tim. 4:2)
Jesus said to his followers, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).” Those were hard words about full devotion to an audience that did not understand the cost of following Christ. Leaders prove their love for Christ by their commitment to his followers (John 21:15-19).
We often give up just when the blessing of God is about to flow in a mighty way…but we lose heart. Be an example to others who want to quickly throw in the towel. Your perseverance is their motivation!
- Increase Your Capacity (1 Tim. 4:16)
Some leaders flame out; some wipe out; but all occasionally wear out. We lose our energy to continue the ministry. Our tanks are empty, our hearts are heavy and our souls are weary. Here are three ways to refuel and replenish, and to guard one of our most precious resources— US!
Create Margin: Put space in your calendar for silence, solitude, prayer, joy and rest. Guard these times as though you are overseas and unavailable.
Set Boundaries: Let your YES be yes and your NO be no. Determine what you will focus on and what you will say no to. God will use others to solve the problems and help the people that you cannot. Trust him.
Replenish Your Reserves:
Set time aside to do things that bring joy to you and ll you up. Try walking, reading, golf, a nice dinner, sitting by a fire, a ballgame with your kids, or just resting under a tree.
If we leaders have increased integrity and healthier souls, we will get it right. If we manage our own lives well and tend to our relationship with God, we will get it right.
And when we leaders get it right…great things happen. It truly is amazing. And the stories of transformation are incredible! They probably won’t make headlines on the evening news—but they’ll make headlines in heaven, and help change the world forever.
And that’s the real story.
Dr. Bill Donahue, Ph.D., is a popular conference speaker, prolific author and leadership consultant. He is an Associate Professor at Trinity International University in Deerfield where he develops emerging leaders. Bill has authored over a dozen books and resources including the best-selling ‘Leading Life-changing Small Groups’.