2 Ingredients for a Great Leader

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I’ve never done this before. What follows is a post I wrote in November of 2018. The last three weeks, these words have been on my mind almost continually, so I thought I would share them again. I hope they challenge you.

Have you ever noticed some people look at situations differently than you?

A few years ago, I heard a radio personality talk about how science has proven women and men look at cleanliness differently. Women actually see dirt more easily than men. It’s not that they have some sort of super vision, but their awareness of filth is higher. This means as a husband, I need to adjust my standards of clean in order to be a blessing to my wife.

This happens in developing student leaders as well. So many times, as youth ministers, we fall into the trap of thinking a student has to meet a certain level of leadership ability in order to take on the mantle. But I would disagree.

In fact, as I have been working with student leaders more intensely over the past 3 years, I have noticed 2 criteria which are critical to developing successful student leaders.

1. OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE

I cannot think of a single situation where anyone has led without first making the most of an opportunity. In fact, without opportunity, nothing happens. Where there is no opportunity, there is no movement.

Opportunities are simple, but it may require you changing how you view situations. The old saying goes “If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” While the intent behind the saying may be negative, the truth is opportunity opens up when we shift our perception.

Every time you meet with students, there is an opportunity for leadership. My question for you is: are you making the most of the opportunities around you to allow students to grow and develop as leaders.

2. WILLINGNESS TO SERVE

The other part of developing student leaders, and the most critical, is willingness. If a student is not willing to take intentional steps, any effort you exert will be diminished.

A student’s willingness to serve is imperative to their own development. But if you think about it, this concept is a no brainer.

As an adult, if you need to lose weight or cut back on salt, no one else can make that decision for you. It’s a decision you have to make. The people around you can provide opportunities, but it is up to you to make the most of the opportunities.

Students who are willing to serve, are more likely to grow as leaders. Students who are unwilling to serve will hit a ceiling of their own making.

The bottom line is this: if you can find a student who is willing to serve, give them an opportunity to serve and lead, and watch the impact they begin to make!

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You'll Figure it Out

You’ll Figure It Out

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Did you know I play bass guitar?

I got my first guitar in junior high and learned to play over the following few years. Who am I kidding, I’m still learning to play.

But for Christmas my senior year of high school, my dad bought me a bass guitar. Ever a pragmatist, he decided to buy me a “real” bass so that when/if/when I decided to give up on it, since I was a guitar player, the bass would have a good resale value. That meant my first bass was a Fender Jazz Bass.

But there was something he didn’t expect: I’m a pack rat, so I never get rid of anything. So I kept my bass. I learned one 8 bar blues bass line that made me sound like I knew what I was doing, but never really had occasion to play bass.

Fast forward a couple years. I was serving at my first church as the youth minister. Even though I was in charge of youth, I helped with music where I could. Then, with the arrival of a new music minister, something changed.

Our new music minister was incredibly gifted musically, but had cut his teeth playing bass guitar. So, he started teaching me how to play. But his approach was different.

I generally have a pretty poor memory, but I’m pretty certain we never sat down for a formal “lesson”. It was always learning “on the fly”.

I still have a picture in my head of one morning. He was on guitar. I was on bass. It was the opening song for the morning. Right before he started playing, I remember telling him I didn’t know the song. And his words continue to ring true: you’ll figure it out.

And that’s what I had to do. Sink or swim. And I sank, a lot. Until I learned to swim.

Playing with him I learned to anticipate the changes, to play with the rhythm, to find the groove, and so much more.

His leadership approach is something I occasionally employ today. Sometimes the best tool for growth is immersion.

Does that mean it’s going to be perfect? Nope.

Does that means it’s going to be flawless? Nope.

Does that mean it’s going to be memorable? Very likely, one way or the other.

There is someone in your sphere of influence who needs an opportunity to sink or swim. There is someone you are leading who needs a challenge they feel they cannot meet.

So I have two questions for you today: 1) who is it? and 2) are you willing to step back for the sake of their growth?

The Conductor

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I’m going to deviate today. Thank you for indulging me.

If you’ve been around here very long you know that I value very highly my farming heritage. I have shared close to 30 lessons from the farm along the way.

The reality is I was fortunate to not only have a father in the ag industry, but a heritage of it. Both sets of grandparents lived (and worked) agricultural lives.

That meant holidays were spent more often than not in the country. Summer trips at my grandparents were a staple of my childhood, and something that now I am incredibly grateful to have experienced.

One of my favorite memories, and one I couldn’t wait to share with my daughters as they grew older, was going to my paternal grandparents. Hot cocoa, grilling over charcoal, German shepherds, Louis L’Amour books, vintage couches, hot tubs, feeding cattle off the tailgates, and unwanted (and unwarranted) naps merely scratch the surface in summarizing my favorite memories at “the ranch”.

Except for the best memory. And that was the trains.

My granddad loved model trains. He loved them so much, in fact, that he had a “layout” that took up a two car garage. (Side note: I don’t know if “layout” is the right word, but it was basically the world created by his trains, complete with buildings, cars, mountains, carnivals, railyards, cattle, trucks, forrests, and rubber roads. This wasn’t a train running a circle around a tree. It was massive.)

And to any young boy growing up, trains are a magical experience. The roar of the engine running until the power stops. The aroma of electricity surging through the miniature machines (Yes, electricity has a smell, and it’s not toast). The sheer imagination of towns coming to life, and the hours on end that could be spent getting lost in a world so different from our own.

And there stood my granddad. The conductor. The orchestrator of it all. It never occurred to me that my granddad loved to play with trains. They were just there. He was the one in charge. But he was the one who loved to share the experience with me. It was a shared experience for us. It was one of the first things I showed my oldest the first time we visited his house. And something my girls still know about him.

The conductor passed away this week. As I sit and reflect on my memories of him, I’m humbled. I’m overcome with emotions. I’m heartbroken. I’m grateful.

He was not a perfect man. No one is. But he was my granddad. And he will be missed.

Happy 365

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This post is my 365th post on Three Question Leadership. I have written somewhere north of 120,000 words over the past 3+years.

Five years ago I never would have dreamed I would be someone who blogs. The concept in and of itself is so foreign to me. I’m a terribly private person, so the thought of putting my thoughts on the inter webs is actually terrifying. But I’ve done it. And I’m going to continue to do it.

And I want to share my secret recipe. The majority of what I write about can be boiled down to one simple thought. Are you ready?

What’s the leadership principle I can learn from this situation?

There you go. There’s my secret. Maybe I should trademark it.

From that thought, I have written a Day by Day in a Year calendar worths of posts. Some haven’t been so good. Some that I feel embarrassed to post, resonate the most.

But the question remains the same. I want to grow. I want to learn.

But more than that, I want YOU to grow. I want YOU to learn.

My greatest joy in writing here is not the way it helps me process past and present situations, but instead when I see how you interact with it. When you like, comment, share, reference it in a conversation, or shoot be a word of encouragement.

I cannot express how grateful I am for the time you give me to read my roughly 300 words twice a week. And my greatest desire is the time I spend will help you expand your leadership influence.

So if you’ve been with me for a while, thank you for sticking with me. If you’re new, consider subscribing to get this in your inbox, or liking the 3QL page on Facebook so you see posts as they arrive.

But at the end of the day, learn to ask yourself “what’s the leadership principle I can learn from this?” You never know what could happen as a result.

Houses But No Doors

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We moved into our house a little over a year ago. Before we moved in, we had some work done-a minor remodel. One change was replacing a bi-fold door into our bedroom with a regular door.

Not long after moving in, one of the hinges developed a creak. Being the farm boy that I am, I grabbed some WD-40 and fixed it right away.

Then, over time, the creak developed again. So I repeated my solution. And it worked, for a little while. But the creak seems to always return.

Then I came to a realization. Sometimes the squeaky door hinge is just a squeaky door hinge. It doesn’t matter how much you do to fix it, eventually you’ll hear it’s whine again.

Leadership is similar. Sometimes the people who complain the loudest about one issue are going to be the ones who complain the loudest about the next issue. We can bend over backwards to try to make them happy on one issue, but the issue isn’t the problem.

So we have to decide: do we live with the creak? Do we ignore the issue, or is there something else we can do?

I don’t have an answer today. I’m sorry. I’m still figuring this out.

But here’s what I know. I’m not going to burn my house down because a door creaks. I’ll address issues that need to be addressed. I’ll ask myself if there are changes I need to make. I’ll make changes I need to make, then I’ll move forward with confidence.

And guess what, the only house that doesn’t have door creaks is a house with no doors. And the only leader who doesn’t hear complaints is a leader who has no one to lead.

Welcome to leading people. You can do this.

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