Overcoming the Reflex

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Leadership development is a discipline not a reflex.

This concept has been on my mind a lot over the past month. I’ve served in student ministry for somewhere around 17 or 18 summers, and I’ve never had a summer that felt like this. It seems everything is flipped upside down.

And when we park in chaos, our reflexes take over. We naturally default to the things that come easy to us, or the things in which we find comfort.

Planners find rest in planning.

Creative types find rest in creating.

Busy types find rest in busy-ness.

Very few people, however, default to developing leaders. It’s not natural to bring someone along and to empower them to serve. Capable people, especially, have a difficult time including others in their work.

Leadership development is a discipline, not a reflex.

Think of it like trying to lose weight. The only time in my life that I have lost weight without being highly intentional is when I have a stomach bug. When my body is rejecting the fuel I’m trying to give it, I can lose weight without much effort (but usually quite a bit of pain).

My natural reflex is to put my head down and accomplish. I fear rejection, so I default to not wanting to bother people for help. I justify it, and move forward alone.

But that’s not how I grow as a leader. I want to develop those around me. I want the people (young and old) around me to be grow because of the leadership influence I have on them.

But it takes discipline. It takes purpose. It takes intentionality.

Do you agree? Is developing leaders around you a discipline, or a reflex? What is one thing you need to do today to develop someone around you?

The Calm in the Storm

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I went on vacation last week. So, naturally, when I got back in the office yesterday, I was met with a whirlwind.

Things I should have finished before leaving were staring me in the face, as well as new “opportunities for leadership growth” (read:issues to be addressed). It was a full day.

But, the final 30 minutes proved to be the most productive. After spending the day checking things off my to do list, brainstorming, writing, catching up, fielding grounders, I was able to sit down at my desk for 30 minutes to wrap up the day, uninterrupted. Because everyone had gone home.

The calm in the storm provided some much needed clarity.

The same is likely true for you. You’re facing all sorts of challenges on a constant schedule. The COVID interruption (or disruption) has likely made you feel like you’re pedaling a 10 speed bicycle in 5th gear–coasting downhill is the same, but having to cover the same ground you covered pre-COVID is twice as much work.

Find the calm in the storm. Find the moments where you can take a breath. Maybe it’s early in the morning, or late at night after everyone has gone to bed. Maybe it’s the first 30 minutes in the office before everyone else shows up, or the final 30 minutes after everyone has left.

Maybe the calm in your storm isn’t about your schedule as much as your location. A sunset, sunrise, quiet lunch, or challenging podcast may be exactly what you need to feel refreshed.

Wherever (or whenever) your calm may be found, pursue it. You need time to catch your breath. You need a break from the chaos. You will be healthier for it. Your family will be healthier for it. Your leadership will be healthier for it. Trust me.

Have you subscribed to get 3QL in your inbox? It may just be the calm you need each Tuesday/Thursday!

Leaders Set the Pace

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I’m a thinker. I think about options constantly. It could be options for an event. Options for guitars. Options for meals, or grilling, or yard work, or house work. I’ve jokingly said in the past that I spend about 90% of the time thinking about things and only 10% doing.

One upside when I finally do something is I’ve thought through it and have a good idea of what I want to do, and usually trust that it’s going to be pretty good.

So years ago I had to learn a pretty hard lesson. Change stimulates grief. Even for me, as a leader. I grieve the loss of what was comfortable and normal. But by the time I’ve acted on it, I had already processed my grief and am ready to move forward. But, as a leader, I was wrong.

Leading organizational change isn’t like changing shampoo. If I switch to another shampoo, you have no emotional attachment to the level of hair care I provide myself, aside from excessive dandruff.

But if I am changing something that’s known and comfortable, the process gets sticky. There needs to be space for grief before we can move forward.

I realized it when I led a previous church to separate middle school and high school for a season.

It’s happening now with changes due to COVID.

Just because I’ve spent days and weeks thinking about the change and the implementation of the change, doesn’t mean everyone else has. And if people don’t get the benefit of grieving change, they are going to be more resistant (even hostile).

That’s why our job as a leader is to set the pace. If we get too far in front, we leave everyone behind. If we move too slow, no one stays with us.

As you lead change during this time (or any time), remember to set the pace. Just because you’ve spent countless hours thinking about it, do not assume the people you’re leading have. Help them process the grief of loss, but set a healthy forward pace.

Because at the end of the day, if we outrun the people running with us, we stop being a leader.

Multiplication vs Addition

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Open your text books chapter 2 section 1. Today we are going to talk about multiplication.

Just kidding, kind of. The math concepts that come to mind apply to leadership as well. Would you rather be given $100 plus $100 or be given $100 times 100?

As we seek to develop leaders, we’re not looking to just add leaders. We are looking to add leaders who add leaders. I want to develop students who in turn develop students.

If developing students who develop students is my goal, then my approach is different. My training doesn’t only center on the tasks of a leader, but on the tasks of a leader and how to train others to fulfill the tasks of a leader.

So how do we do this?

  1. Begin with multiplication in mind. Sure, some of the best development comes from places we never anticipated, but if we know we want to multiply in the end, how we begin changes. We don’t accept just anyone. We set a higher bar. We encourage commitment. We encourage but don’t coerce.
  2. Keep multiplication in mind. Relational investment plays such an integral part in multiplication. We cannot expect someone to grow if we do not understand where they need to grow. That’s where relationship comes in. Get to know those you lead.
  3. Model multiplication. Continue to invest in and grow leaders. Do not stop with one or two. When it gets difficult, push through. When it becomes a challenge, keep going. Model the behavior you want to see repeated, and it will be repeated.

I love investing in students. I love the conversations we get to have as a result of the time we spend together. But, at the end of the day, my influence is greater as I learn to multiply. Yours will be as well.

Set the Path

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When we go on vacation, I have to fight a battle in my head. Part of me wants to plan each day out so we know what we’re doing when. A plan helps me manage my expectations. I know when to save energy and when to expend it.

But something we’ve figured out over the years is even in the midst of the plan, we have to schedule a day that has no schedule.

Most vividly, I remember a couple years ago we were in the Historic Triangle in Virginia and decided one day was a day just to spend at our resort facility.

I finished a book I had been reading for over a year. We swam. We watched a movie. We just hit the brakes. And it was refreshing.

And then I realized that I need both a path and a pause.

I think the people we lead are no different. If we want to lead someone, by definition, we need to set a path. We are going to ask them to take a next step, but it cannot be any step. We need to clarify what that step may be.

Setting the path helps ensure everyone is moving in the same direction. When we all have a target to move towards, the journey becomes clear. I don’t set a destination to the south and start driving to the north for a prolonged period.

For whom do you need to set a path? The people you lead, students or adults, need direction. They may be wrestling with what comes next. Your next step may not be the only one, but if it helps them get going, it’s a win.

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