The Leadership X Factor

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They must be getting some bad advice.

Look at the people around them, no wonder they’re making the decisions they’re making.

They’ve surrounded themselves with a bunch of “yes-men”.

Have you ever made any of these statements? Have you ever thought about the implications for your own life?

I am wired to try to understand why someone is making the decisions their making. I want to know what information is informing their actions. So, years ago, I discovered something I would consider foundational to my growth: be careful who speaks into your life.

I think we’ve all seen it. A public figure making poor choices, and it seems obvious to us. Or maybe it’s someone we work with, obsessing over something we see as somewhat superfluous.

Or, in the youth ministry experience, it’s someone going to a conference (or reading a book, or listening to a podcast, or reading a blog post) and deciding to immediately implement a new strategy. The new strategy makes sense in the original context, but in another context (our context), it needs to be massaged and developed.

But it all boils down to that outside influence.

Be careful who speaks into your life.

I notice it in my language. The words I use are almost subconsciously influenced by the people I spend time with, or the tv shows I’ve been watching.

When I give my focus and attention to something, I’m not just receiving information, I’m being influenced.

The same goes for the people with whom I talk. So, am I talking to level headed people who are going to help me grow as a person, or am I talking to someone else? Am I surrounding myself with people who are working towards similar goals in a healthy way and facing similar problems, or am I isolating myself?

Today is all about you, on two fronts. First, are you surrounding yourself with the right kind of people–people who make you better, who help push you to more, who help you process what’s happening and how you can approach your role? Or are you surrounding yourself with people who don’t have your best interest at heart?

Second, are you that kind of person to the people around you? Is there someone with whom you need to initiate a conversation today? Not to tell them how to live their lives, but just to be an encouragement? What are you waiting for?

The truth of the matter is our leadership rises and falls partly based on the people who are talking to us. Surround yourself with wisdom, and watch what happens.

Will vs Skill

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When it comes to developing student leaders (or leaders in general), What’s more important: willingness or skill?

Put another way, would you rather have someone who is incredibly skilled and arrogant, or someone who is incredibly willing and less skilled.

In my experience, willingness wins.

I would love to have people who are the absolute best at what they do in every role. But the truth is, I would much rather have someone who is humble and willing to grow because when that person develops their skill, we will accomplish infinitely more.

I can help a willing person grow in skill. I’ve seen it over time, especially in the realm of student ministry. I’ve seen students with a heart to make an impact, discover and strengthen a gift they have.

Very rarely have I seen an arrogant person go the other way. I don’t remember seeing anyone who has shown up believing they have arrived become a positive influence. When the task becomes more important than the heart, we miss the point.

There is someone in your life at the moment who is willing and simply needs someone to invest in them. Take some time today to look around and evaluate how you can help them grow.

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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Increasing Awareness

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I’ve enjoyed getting to work with a new group of student leaders over the past couple of months, and I’ve been sharing my thoughts as I go along.

Last week I mentioned missing having a shared language (not in those words, but that’s the idea). So, I’ve slowly been trying to teach a few of these new students to look for opportunities. And it’s working.

Actually, what I’m doing, without them knowing, is teaching them the three questions. And we are starting at the beginning. I’m trying to teach them to walk into a room and ask themselves what needs to be done–simply increasing awareness.

Why? Because when a student can learn to ask (and answer) that question on their own, it empowers them to meet the need. Then, as they grow and mature, their awareness grows and matures with them.

Ultimately, if I (or we) can teach students to look for and meet needs, we are moving in the right direction.

Initially the needs being met may be as simple as arranging chairs or changing where they sit. But, over time, as those things become an intrinsic part of who they are, the growth that takes place is incredible.

I’m actually getting more and more excited as I think about how these students, over the course of about 5 weeks of 10 minute program follow up meetings, have already shown incredible signs of improvement.

And the sky is the limit. That’s why I love working with student leaders.

But it all starts with awareness.

Make the Room Better

Make the Room Better

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I generally rival elephants when it comes to my memory. Is that right? Do elephants have an incredible capability for memory? Okay, well, honestly, I generally forget most things. But there’s one Sunday in high school I still remember.

I went to a small church in a small town. The Sunday routine was well within my muscle memory, but this Sunday was different. There was a different spirit in the room. The music was great. The sermon was on point. I walked away truly refreshed, more so than usual.

I remember making a comment about it to my prayer grandmother, and her reply has still stuck with me: “It’s because (former missionary) was here. She’s an incredible prayer warrior.”

Think about that for a moment. This woman was such a prayer warrior that her being in the room meant she was actively inviting God to move, and He did. I still cannot fully fathom the weight of that concept.

But here’s what I know: I want to be that way. I want my presence in a room to be so influential that someone walks away having noticed a difference.

I don’t want to get into a spiritual diatribe at this point, but stick with me for a moment. I want my spiritual life to be so connected to God that people are drawn closer to Him because I’m around. I want to be the light of the world in such a way that darkness flees when I am nearby.

And I want the same to be true of leadership. I want to be such a servant leader that any room I walk into is better served because I’m there. I want any organization where I contribute to be stronger because of my involvement.

I want to make the room better.

But this doesn’t happen by accident. Intentionality is key. The choices I make determine the direction I move. The choices I don’t make determine the direction I can’t move.

I want students to practice the same concept (I mentioned this earlier this week). If I can teach a student to contribute and to equip others to do the same, then the ripple effects begin.

One way I do this is through teaching the three questions. As I begin to help students see the opportunities around them to not only step up, but to invite others to do the same, then growth begins to multiply.

So, into what rooms are you walking today? How can you make them better because of your presence? Are you willing to take the necessary steps to grow your leadership influence?

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