When I worked for a printing company I was asked to learn a new part of the business–stripping. No, not that kind of stripping. This is the process of taking artwork, making a negative, and preparing it to be made into a metal plate for the printing press.
During my training period my supervisor would say, ‘Here Kellie, practice on this negative and I’ll check it.’ Slowly she gave me more and more work, but continued to use the word practice. As a result I did not see myself as having mastered the skill–I was in a perpetual state of learning. One day a frustrated co-worker (who wanted to relinquish this pre-press job to me) said, ‘Well when’s practice work going to be over?’ I was embarrassed and I think my supervisor was too. She had failed to move me from practicing to taking full
responsibility for the job.
In the arena of leadership it is easy to fall into a continual state of learning without fully stepping into the responsibility. There comes a time to close the leadership books and pull back on conference attendance to concentrate on actually leading. Whether it is ministry or marketplace endeavors, the key to leadership is leading.
Practice happens on the job with success and failure. It’s easy to depend too heavily on others or even put off taking the full reins of leadership when we are new and uncertain. A period of acclimating to a new position is understandable but as leaders our eyes must be on the big picture of full leadership. The longer a leader avoids full responsibility, the more discouraged and even frustrated those in our organization will become. Whether in the ministry or marketplace, the Lord has given us the power of His Holy Spirit to direct and lead us. All too often in the early days of leadership, it is easy to depend on the seminars and books for direction. The problem is the more we depend on learning about leadership in place of on-the-job training, we can easily replace the Lord’s voice with the drive to mimic others who have realized leadership success.
To avoid falling into the busyness trap of always learning and never leading, keep these points in mind.
Keep God first. God is our supreme authority. He has given us His Word to guide us daily. Prayer is the most important thing a leader can do. If God is not directing, then do not do it. And do not move until He does. Study the life of Daniel who would serve no other God.
Despise God’s Word and find yourself in trouble. Obey it and succeed. Proverbs 13:13 (NLB)
Be humble. Probably the number one stumbling block for leaders is pride. It is deadly in leadership. The godly characteristic to have is humbleness. True leaders are those who do not trumpet themselves. Study the life of Joseph. As a young man he was a prideful tattle-tell. Start out with humbleness!
Pride leads to arguments; be humble, take advice and become wise. Proverbs 13:10 (NLB)
Work. Nehemiah is an excellent example of godly leadership. Not only did God give him the strategy for rebuilding the wall, but Nehemiah rolled up his sleeves and worked along-side the people. In the marketplace or church ministry, people will only follow leaders who lead by example. Setting yourself apart from the people you lead will cause them to remove you as their leader emotionally or physically in the long run.
Do you know a hard-working man? He shall be successful and stand before kings!
Proverbs 22:29 (NLB)
Avoid yes people. The natural inclination is to surround ourselves with those who will cheer us on at all costs. There is a place for those people in our lives, but when it comes to leadership the qualifications for an inner circle must be honesty and accountability. I learned this the hard way early on when I overheard a team member say they could get me to do what they wanted in a situation because I always listened to them. Yes people have underlying motives such as pride, control issues, deception, flattery, or maybe their own agenda. If you only get high fives and pats-on-the-back, it’s probably time to find a new inner circle. Seek the wisdom of those who are older, wiser, and have already walked the road you are on. If you are married, listen to your spouse. Our spouses will tell us the truth–whether we like it or not–that can protect us and help us to avoid problems.
If you profit from constructive criticism you will be elected to the wise men’s hall of fame. But to reject criticism is to harm yourself and your own best interests. Humility and reverence for the Lord will make you both wise and honored. Proverbs 15:31-33 (NLB)
Know who you are leading. Pretending your group is a different set of people does not work. The Lord placed those we lead with us for a reason. Get to know them and petition the Lord on their behalf. As leaders we should be their biggest cheerleader and intercessor. In the marketplace this could be a sales team of 10 to 12, in the ministry it could be a women’s group of several hundred. Get to know them all. The old adage is true: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
A true friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need. Proverbs 17:17 (NLB)
Kind words are like honey–enjoyable and healthful. Proverbs 16:24 (NLB)
Leadership is both a marvelous gift and awesome responsibility. As leaders our focus must be on doing God’s work and not dragging ourselves or our organization down by not stepping fully into our role as leaders.