Is This What’s Missing In Your Leadership?

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Is leadership that is not expanding truly leadership?

Bear with me for a minute.

If I’m teaching students to ask and answer the three questions but it stops there, is my leadership influence growing? Even more pointedly, if the students I’m leading are stopping short of answering the third question, aren’t we missing the point completely?

Leadership influence expands when more people fall into that influence. That means I can teach 10 people to grow their influence, or I can teach 10 people to grow their influence who in turn grow their influence by teaching 10 people each. At that point influence isn’t growing, it is multiplying. Like chills in the movie Grease.

Let’s get specific: if I pour into a leader who never into another leader around them, am I really pouring into a leader? Leadership influence is most efficient when we first lead ourselves and then lead others. And leadership influences multiplies when the people I have led begin to lead others.

But secret expectations are rarely met and almost never healthy. You know this. I know this.

How are you equipping those you lead to truly lead others? How are you inviting them to repeat the process?

Let me challenge you today. If you are a regular reader, find one person this week in whom you can start investing. It could be a student. It could be an adult. It could be your child, your spouse, or your neighbor. Teach them the three questions, and then add a fourth: who can I teach the three questions?

Don’t settle for addition. Aim for multiplication.

The Pain of Letting Go

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One of the most difficult things to do in leadership is to watch something grow, and then to let it go.

If you’ve been in a leadership role for very long, you have had the opportunity to oversee something. Maybe a project, or a program, or even a person. You pour time, resources, and emotions into making your something the best it can be.

But, inevitably, if you’re going to grow as a leader, there comes a point where you have to step back and let it go.

Letting it go could mean inviting someone else to play a key and critical role, thus begging the question, “Will they do it as good as me”?

Letting it go could mean launch day, thus begging the question, “Did I cover my bases”?

Letting it go could mean releasing a leader (or student leader) to oversee a project or program, thus begging the question, “Did I train them well enough”?

All of these things are painful. But that does not mean they’re not the right move. Simply put, if we never let go, we will never grow.

If we want our own leadership to grow, we have to let go.

If we want the people around us to grow, we have to let go.

No one has learned to sustain themselves by being spoon fed all along the way.

What are you holding onto today? What can you let go? Who can you invite to step up as you let go?

Our leadership influence grows as those around us grow. Push through the pain today. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Permission to Multiply

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Today, instead of sharing an old post, here’s a fresh one.

Each week, following our Wednesday night program, I sit down with our student leadership team to evaluate the night. My wife usually hangs around until we finish to make sure kids are getting picked up and other assorted duties.

We’ve recently added a new volunteer, a young man who is excited to help where he can. In addition, I have our summer intern who lives in town and helps on Wednesdays nights as well, and someone I’ve been meeting with weekly for the past year.

A few weeks back, while I was meeting with student leaders, my wife shared this observation. My former intern was putting things up, making trips to and from our “base of operations” (we are essentially a portable ministry within our building for this current season). After he finished about two of the steps, he realized our new volunteer was nearby, and a light bulb went off. He showed the new guy how to do what he was doing, so the next time either of them would be equipped to do the job.

Actually, the conversation was more like this: “Shoot, has Wes taught you the three questions yet? No? Okay, he will, but until then, let me show you what I’m doing.”

And that’s the power of the third question. It’s an excuse to invite someone to join you. If you (or the people you lead) are not naturally gifted at asking for help, the three questions give a framework for expanding leadership influence.

That influence expansion begins with cleanup after a program, but very quickly, as the muscle is developed, it grows into leveraging influence to lead others in accomplishing a goal.

Someone around you needs permission to ask others for help. Teach them the three questions and see what happens!

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How to Develop Leaders

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I started the Three Question Leadership Blog 4 years ago. I thought I would spend the next few weeks sharing some of my first posts, in their entirety, here. Whether you’re new or have been with me all along, I hope you find these concepts applicable.

Over the past few years I have noticed a shift in my focus on leadership. As my own leadership has grown, I find myself looking for ways to help others.

This does not mean that everything I do has provided excellent results. Nor have my efforts been error free. But, as I have learned to start developing young leaders around me, and as leaders around me have done the same, I have noticed one thing.

Leadership education happens in a classroom. Leadership development happens through experience.

Educating leaders is not an unworthy task. In fact, as I talked about here, I believe leaders should develop a habit of consistent learning. So, there is a definite place for the classroom in leadership development.

However, knowledge of a subject does not lead to experience in the subject. We cannot neglect real world leading as a teaching tool if we desire to develop leaders.

Each summer over the past four years I have taken a group of students on a leadership trip. The trip is very education focused, and it serves a great purpose. But only recently have I started understanding the importance of giving these student leaders opportunities to lead.

Then, when students (or adults), have an opportunity to lead, they grow. And that’s my goal–to develop leaders.

Develop leaders, don’t just educate them. Find the balance.

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How Do Leaders Grow?

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Surprise! Here’s a bonus (real time) post for this week! (And the crowd goes wild!!! Okay, maybe not.)

Yesterday’s post had the following line: Leaders who never grow, never last.

The irony of that sentence, written four years ago, is my journey over the past four years has validated that statement. I have grown so much from writing and reflecting on the real-time leadership principles I’ve been walking through, but that hasn’t been enough.

Growth occasionally happens by accident. But exponential growth happens when we are intentional. That means if I truly believe leaders who never grow, never last, then I have to make an intentional effort to grow, or I can already predict my longevity.

So, how do you grow intentionally? Here are three things I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. Dream Big. Where do I want to be 5, 10, 20 years from now? Or, maybe even more importantly, who do I want to be moving forward? Jot down a few thoughts and ideas.
  2. Write It Out. Raise your hand if you have ever walked into the kitchen and forgot why you’re there. Your memory isn’t quite the lock box that you think it is. So, write out your dreams. Don’t trap them in the spaghetti strainer of your mind. Plus, writing them out gives definition and clarity to your dreams.
  3. Act On It. Last year I read through a leadership book with a few friends. Next week, I’m starting the process over again. Additionally, I’m pouring into and investing in people around me. I’m setting goals for the information I want to consume. I’m moving and working and trying to make sure I’m developing a habit of growth. Your actions may look different, and that’s okay. But the key factor is this: don’t just dream, act.

If you want to last as a leader, you have to grow. Period. You have no other choice.

So, what actions are you taking to grow?

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