What If Obedience Matters Most?

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God didn’t go looking for leaders. God looked for obedient people whom he then formed into leaders.

Gene Wilkes, Jesus on Leadership

As part of my daily startup routine when I get into the office, I read part of a book. For someone like me who is not a natural reader, it’s been a nice discipline to try to develop.

For a good portion of 2020, I spent time reading through Gene Wilkes’ book Jesus on Leadership. And it was a great read.

This morning I was going back over my notes (another discipline I’m trying to develop), and found the quote above.

I’ve written about obedience over skill before, but I think Wilkes’ quote here is what trips up so many people as they seek to develop leaders, or even to develop as a leader themselves.

We set an imaginary bar someone must reach, and until they do so, we decide they (or we) don’t qualify.

But what if we change the bar for leadership?

What if the most important trait to look for in a potential leader isn’t their charm or their ability to work the crowd? Not that this disqualifies anyone.

What if the most important trait to look for in a potential leader isn’t their ability to rally a group of people for a cause? Not that this disqualifies anyone.

What if the most important trait to look for in a potential leader isn’t even their ability to connect with people one on one? Not that this disqualifies anyone.

What if the most important trait to look for in a potential leader is obedience to God? Someone who is willing to be obedient to what God is calling them to do. Someone who isn’t looking for the next ladder to climb or spotlight to stand in, but instead someone in tune with how God is moving in their lives. (Sometimes that movement includes a ladder, or a spotlight, or a brook.)

What’s your criteria for developing leaders? What are you looking for in students as you try to decide who may be able to take the next step?

What’s your criteria for yourself as a leader? When you don’t see the results you want in your own life, what becomes your baseline?

Remember, throughout scripture, God uses ordinary people who practiced obedience. Let’s aim for that today.

Answering Why Me?

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Why Me? Twice in the past couple of months I’ve gotten asked this question.

The first was as I was beginning to work through a leadership growth plan with a couple people, and the second was after offering an invitation for someone to serve.

And both times, the question caught me off guard. For someone who puts a lot of thought into most things, my answer both times was not super plotted out. In fact, both “asks” were almost instinctual.

But as I’ve thought about it, my answer boiled down to four elements:

  1. Opportunity – In both cases, there was an opportunity. For one, I wanted to walk through a leadership growth course, but decided I didn’t want to do it alone. For the other, we had been discussing them helping with students and a limited time opportunity opened up–something in which they could “dip their toes”, so to speak.
  2. Availability – Opportunities abound in life, so the next element was their availability. I felt fairly certain the first one would have the freedom to carve out some time in their schedule, and the second was similar. I didn’t ask people who had known conflicts.
  3. Personality – Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t walk up to random people offering these opportunities. Both were people who I thought could contribute and benefit from the opportunity. This element is huge!
  4. Willingness – This was the wildcard. Would they be willing to say yes? Ultimately, as a leader, we get met with plenty of no’s. But when someone agrees, celebration follows.

Here’s my takeaway: people want to feel included and important. They don’t want to be a convenient excuse. They want a reason.

And I stink at articulating this. Both of these people are people with whom I enjoy spending time. Both are great people. And at the end of the day, both have responded extremely well, and I hope have benefitted.

But when we ask people to join us or to contribute, be ready to give a reason why. Don’t look for warm bodies: instead look for reasons. What do you see in them that they may not see in themselves? How can you affirm them when they are asking the “why me?” question?

Who do you need to ask to help carry the load today? What are you waiting for?

Can Dissatisfaction Be a Good Thing?

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I’ve been reading through a John Maxwell’s “5 Levels of Leadership” with a group of friends. In this week’s reading, we came across a line I thought was interesting.

“Dissatisfaction is a good one word definition for motivation.”

John Maxwell, 5 Levels of Leadership

Maxwell’s words resonated with me. I want to always be getting better. Last week I talked about Routines and Ruts. I think dissatisfaction provides the traction to get out of ruts in our lives. As we feel ourselves getting comfortable, often dissatisfaction proves to be the nudge we need to get out of a rut.

But, in our discussion yesterday, a friend asked a great question as a followup: how do you stay healthy in the midst of dissatisfaction? In other words, if we are dissatisfied all the time, don’t we eventually become someone people avoid?

I think, as leaders, we have to celebrate the wins. We have to learn to enjoy the moment. But in balance with a healthy sense of dissatisfaction.

A football team (do you remember football?) plays one game per week. A single win does not make a successful season, but can instead lay the foundation for growth and progress.

In High School, I never once had a coach come in the day after a win and say “good job guys, let’s take the week off after that one.” Instead, we celebrated the win in the moment, but remained focused to progress and grow.

The same is true for us as leaders, especially in ministry. We may remain dissatisfied, but until we learn to celebrate the victories along the way, growth will evade us. If we are always dissatisfied, though, we become jaded and our leadership influence takes a hit.

So where do you land on this spectrum? Is there something you need to celebrate? Is there some dissatisfaction that needs to start brewing? Take a leadership step this week.

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Embracing Solid Routines

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Do you ever get ideas in your head and they just don’t go away?

I’m in an interesting spot in my life at the moment. I feel like I’m spending more time trying to decide the kind of person I want to be when I grow up. More specifically, I want to be someone who is always learning, always stretching, and always progressing. Not for the sake of knowledge, but for the sake of growth.

I have a deep desire to develop leaders. But as I age, I never want to stop growing. I want leaders around me to be challenged and inspired because of their interactions with me.

So, how do I accomplish that? I don’t have a solid answer, other than knowing I need to build some routines into my life.

For example, at the beginning of 2019 I started something called The Miracle Morning. It has helped me add structure to the beginning of my day, and is possibly one of my favorite parts of my day. It’s become a solid routine.

In 2019, I also set a goal to finish 36 books, with a healthy mix of audio and physical. I was able to accomplish that goal, but I actually never established a routine. To this day (I’m about halfway to my goal this year), reading is still not part of my routine.

But there’s a danger to routine. Routine, when we allow it to be done mindlessly, quickly becomes a rut. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Routines allow us to grow. So, what three routines in your life help you grow? How are you intentionally building those routines to set you up for the future?

If you want a refresher, I actually wrote about Routines vs Ruts two years ago. You can read those posts here, here, and here.

Stick around for Thursday, and I’ll talk some more about the dangers of routines turning into ruts.

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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.

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