A few weeks ago, I began sharing five concepts from my Price of Leadership seminar that are not in my book version. These five represent my latest thoughts on leadership, and we covered point one in the first post, which is 1) Leadership is a sacred trust. Now let's move on to point two:
2. Effective leaders are always developing themselves.
No one disagrees with this general principle, but as leaders get busier, usually the first things to disappear from their calendar are disciplines to help them develop and grow as individuals, which will increase their capacity to lead. What's more, there is a subtle attitude that assumes the wisdom and ability to lead will magically appear when leaders are promoted. Leaders may also think that what got them promoted to leadership is sufficient for them to lead. All these practices (the absence of training and the assumption that they are already smart and empowered enough to lead) are harmful to leadership effectiveness, and the church in particular is paying a price because its leaders have not grown in their capacity to manage and lead more.
The concept of "more" can be a controversial one in leadership circles. Some believe that more is not better, and at times they are correct. Business or church growth can become an end unto themselves, and increase can be pursued relentlessly or even held out as the one and only measure for success. At the same time, however, God's expectation for increase from his leaders is well documented throughout the Bible.
Proverbs 14:28 states, "A growing population is a king’s glory; a prince without subjects has nothing" (NLT). One other translation reads, "A king's greatness depends on how many people he rules; without them he is nothing" (GNT). The proverb does not condemn growth, increase, or size. In fact, it seems to endorse it, as does Paul when he wrote,
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:9-12, emphasis added).
Paul wanted the saints at Colossae to grow in the knowledge of God, which indicates their knowledge was to increase. By implication, the bearing fruit and being strengthened mentioned in that passage are in the context of growth or increase.
Jesus told a parable about talents (which was a measure for wealth, not natural gifts or abilities) in Matthew 25:14-30. The person who had five talents earned five more and the person with two also doubled his amount, but the one with one talent had no increase. It was this person who was condemned in the story as unworthy because he produced no increase. He did not desire more, and therefore did not grow to manage more.
A man named Lord Acton once said, "There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it." He summarized a problem I mentioned earlier, and that is the attitude that somehow when a person gains a leadership position, he or she will automatically, and somehow magically, be qualified and sufficient for the work at hand. Yet, if there is to be increase, which we have seen that God expects, then that leader must work to increase his or her ability to manage and lead more. That "more" is new territory for the leader, and will require greater skill and wisdom if they are to be effective.
What are you doing to develop yourself and your ability to handle more? Here are some things I do that may be of help:
- I read or listen to books almost every day. That also includes updates from my favorite authors in the form of their regular blogs and podcasts.
- Reading and listening are part of my written, daily to-do list. I do not leave it to chance.
- I don't watch much TV, but when I do, I try to include documentaries and other programs of interest that will stimulate my mind and add to my body of general knowledge.
- I attend at least one leadership seminar or workshop every year.
- I walk two miles to start each day.
- I play word games on my smart phone.
- I write daily and I teach university classes regularly, especially classes I have never taught before. That forces me into new areas of learning and growth.
- I have my favorite leaders who I study for clues and patterns of their success, and I teach or write about them as much as possible.
I am not suggesting that you do what I do, but if you don't know where or how to start, imitating some of my practices may not be a bad idea. The bottom line is, however, that growth must be an important value for you, or else you will coast through your leadership opportunities, relying on your power, title, or authority to get things done. All those will work in the short run, but none of them will help you grow and develop. Only concerted effort to do so will produce the necessary results, and that effort will need to be maintained for the rest of your life--if you want to be an effective leader and not simply one holding a title.