“What sort of leader do I want to be led by?” is a very good question to ask ourselves. Asking this question should give some very insightful clues as to the type of leader we need to become for others.
I will explore some interesting outcomes to this question in my next blog post. However, let me give away one of the conclusions I have come to.Most of us want to be led by a strong leader.
When we initially here the words ‘strong leader’ our first reaction may not be endearing, depending on your experience. But think about it. If we are going to rise to greater levels of strength, gifting, and ambition, what we want is someone who will inspire that. Someone who doesn’t exude their insecurities to me, but there determination, their resolve, their faith, their belief in me when I have failed or are struggling to break through a ceiling.
Whilst we want a leader who is empathetic, we don’t want our leader to be so sympathetic they are failing to inspire us to move on, get over it, be challenged to embrace our future.
Whilst we want a leader who is authentic, we don’t want them spilling their weaknesses on us all the time, but rather through their vulnerability showing us pathways to a stronger life.
3 PREDOMINANT CHARACTERISTICS TO TRANSFORM
So it is important we ask ourselves the question – “Am I being that strong leader?” If there are moments you lack strength it will be due to 3 predominant characteristics that we can work on transforming. We find these 3 in Jesus’ parable of the sower.
Matthew 13:18-23 NLT
18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
There was a farmer, Jesus mused, who scattered seed to see a harvest. Some fell on the path where seed has no chance, there is no soil in which to take root. This is the ‘Shallow Leader’, there is no depth of understanding, little self-awareness or awareness of their surroundings or others.
Some seed fell on rocky soil, too shallow for the root to go down deep. This represents the ‘Insecure Leader’ – they have no root in themselves, nothing that anchors them strongly in who they believe they are.
Some seed grew well but got overtaken and choked by weeds. This is the ‘Weak Leader’. One who has not adequately protected themselves from their vulnerabilities and temptation.
Then there is the seed that grew and multiplied, bearing much fruit. We would call this the ‘Strong Leader’. Strength isn’t measured by bombastic personality but tenacity of fruit bearing.
THE SHALLOW LEADER
When we lack depth of character, or depth of knowledge or experience, we can make the mistake of being ‘all air’ – that is we speak more than we actually understand. We can sound a little shallow when we come out with statements like “It will all be okay”, “You’re awesome”, “Just do it” if we have no substance in our own lives that adds a sense of faith to these statements.
Without times of feedback, instruction and guidance people will be lacking strong leadership from you.
Many of us may have found ourselves leading out of our depth, being placed in leadership before we have the experience to do so. With good coaching and preparation this doesn’t have to be the case. However, if it does happen it doesn’t have to be a disaster.
The key to transforming yourself from a Shallow Leader to a Strong Leader is to learn self-awareness. Be clear what it is you do not know and be humble enough to spend more time listening and learning as you do trying to speak and instruct. The weakness of a Shallow Leader is often they don’t know what they don’t know, they are not self-aware. Their excitement for their responsibility far outstrips their capacity but they are not seeing that.
Patrick Lencioni in his book The Ideal Teamplayer outlines 3 characteristics of team players, in fact he would ensure everyone he recruits into his organisation display these 3 characteristics. These 3 I would like to suggest should be something a Shallow Leader works on developing.
The 3 are humility, hunger and smart.
Humility is the characteristic that is not too bothered by position or status,but is willing to connect at any level in the organisation.
In the case of a Shallow leader, humility will be about learning not to talk louder than their experience or credibility to do so. The ability to learn self awareness, and adopt a posture of seeking to understand.
Hunger is self-motivated, desiring to work hard and achieve goals, for the greater good of the organisation.
In the case of a Shallow Leader this will be about developing a self motivated attitude, if it is missing. Not driven by position alone or the excitement of the environment, but a depth of inner drive.
Smart is talking about emotional intelligence; the ability to be smart with people; you learn to read people dynamics well and become good at working and communicating with people.
In the case of a Shallow Leader, this will be about learning to deal maturely with people. To not gloss over situations but to address difficulties, to know when more than “It will be ok” is needed to be said and clear guidance or correction might be needed. The Shallow leader needs to add to their ability to be generally all positive about everything to think deeper and address real issues to lead people forward.
Transformation happens when a Shallow Leader submits themselves to the guidance of a Strong Leader. With healthy feedback, and a responsive and learning attitude a Shallow Leader can develop into a Strong Leader. It just needs the willingness to remove the blind spots.
THE INSECURE LEADER
The Insecure Leader may actually be an experienced leader, they may have a strong understanding of what they are doing; they may have spiritual depth, if they are a Church leader. However, there is dysfunction in them.
Now this is an interesting situation, because to some degree we are all dysfunctional, in that we all have areas of vulnerability, or cracks in our world. The question is more about how we handle this, are we are of this and what do we do with this?
Our vulnerabilities are our mindsets, our history and the condition of our hearts.
Our History : If we allow the disfunction of our history to go unattended it will at some point leak out or burst out at an inopportune moment. Such a leader begins to bare their vulnerabilities on a regular basis to those they are leading. Maybe through outbursts of frustration or anger. Maybe through a constant seeking of reassurance. Maybe through paralyses of decision making.
All of which may be products of things done to us or that have happened to us in our history.
We must confront these areas, and allow healing to come in, in order to send down our roots deeper into ourselves, being established as secure in who we are.
Our Mindsets : How we think and what we spend time thinking about will pervade our leadership. You can only lead from who you are. If we have allowed strongholds to form in our thinking, it is good for us to be aware of this and pull them down.
Being in a healthy leadership culture helps expose these mindsets to us. I recommend every Insecure Leader to surround themselves, not with other Insecure Leaders, but with Strong Leaders, in a culture that is healthy, and amongst people who will have your best interest at heart.
If our minds are plagued constantly with thoughts of what people are thinking of us, did we do the right thing, was that the right decision, holding back generosity or praise, or other forms of doubts, then these we can transform by working step by step on establishing new patterns of thinking.
No better place to start than what the Bible says about you, who you are, the confidence you can have, the courage to embrace failure without adopting the thought that you are a failure, boldness to take decisive action that without second guessing yourself, and much more.
Our Heart’s Condition : Everything flows out of the condition of our heart (Proverbs 4:23). We deal with the root of insecurity by looking after the condition of our hearts. When the weeds of insecurity surface, pull them out. When attitudes of jealousy appear, or moments you feel threatened by others, guard your heart, do not allow your heart to foster these emotions. The quicker you deal with it the harder it is for insecurity to take root.
A Leader who does not have a strong devotional life will be setting themselves up for failure in Church leadership. It is impossible to deal with your insecurities and grow strength outside of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Everyone of us will experience the potential for insecurity, or the reality of insecurity. But we don’t have to be crippled by this, if we commit to healing the cracks and moving toward strength we will become a Strong Leader.
THE WEAK LEADER
Let’s be honest. Everyone of us is vulnerable to temptation. To think that we are is a mistake in itself.
A Weak Leader thinks they are stronger than they actually are.
A Strong Leader knows that they are vulnerable in certain areas, but works to protect themselves. They send down their roots deeper in these areas,building strength of character and mindset to be able to resist temptation. They have decided simply not to do certain things or go to certain places or hang with certain people that may tempt their area of vulnerability.
Weak Leaders don’t.
A Strong Leader never puts themselves above the challenge of a person they trust. Strong Leaders have trusted confidents who are prepared to challenge them.
Weak Leaders often don’t.
A Weak Leader does not stop to think about the health of their behaviour, the environments they are in, or who they are sharing deeply with.
A Strong Leader deliberately works on their inner world and their outward actions to maximise the potential not to fall into the temptation of pride,greed for money, sexual temptation or other areas of vulnerability
Weak Leaders can become Strong Leaders by becoming conscious of their vulnerabilities and taking smart action to protect themselves.
THE STRONG LEADER
In the context of what we have said so far it becomes even more clear why it is that we all want to be led by a Strong Leader. Strong because they have substance and character, strong because they are faith-filled, determined, diligent in matters of heart and of action, strong in their courage to work through challenges, confront dysfunction in themselves and in their organisation.
Strong Leaders are prepared to deal with a defeated mindset and live from a victorious mindset; they do not transfer responsibility or blame elsewhere too quickly, before first owning challenges themselves.
A Strong Leader has developed therefore a self-awareness, but also an ‘others-awareness’. Not self consumed by their own world, but attentive to the world around them that needs their influence.
If you don’t think you are this Strong Leader right now, then you can be. Just make a decision today that your goal is not to settle where you are but to be transformed toward the goal of strength.
People want to you to be Strong for them.
Then you will bear fruit 30, 60 or even 100 times what you had planted.