4 Surprising Insights for Growth

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Last week I was supposed to be gone, but my trip got cancelled. So, I was faced with a decision: do I pick up the things I handed off, or do I go about my day being present, but not filling my normal roles? I chose the latter, and learned a few things.

Before I share some of the insights I gleaned, I think it will be beneficial for you to know where my head’s at currently. I’ve been in ministry for coming up on 19 years. The last 5 or so have seen a significant shift in my approach to ministry. And it’s no coincidence that I’ve been blogging for 5 years!

The shift I’ve made is rather simple: how can I intentionally train and empower others to grow in their leadership influence.

I’ve done this a few ways. I’ve written 470+ blog posts over the past 5 years that served as real time reflections of issues I was facing, as well as observations of things I believe to be leadership principles. I’ve started intentionally meeting with people for the purpose of mutual growth–reading through books together, watching video series, covering leadership principles, etc. I’ve taught teenagers to ask and answer the 3 Questions, and held them accountable in the process.

All that to say, I’m trying to shift to more of an equipper of leaders around me.

So, the Sunday I was present but had planned to be gone, helped give me some perspective on four things:

  1. The things I think won’t get done without me, will actually get done without me. I’ll be considerable more specific than usual, but on a Sunday morning, I tend to stress out about setup. Our ministry is in a season where we are essentially a portable ministry, so setup is a major part of what we do, and we have very little time to do it (10-12 minutes, generally speaking). I made the hard decision not to help with setup (something I lead every week), and things still got set up. People knew the need and felt the responsibility to meet the need, so they met the need. Key takeaway: Be more intentional about encouraging others to take the lead in setup, freeing me up to focus more on connecting.
  2. We have a good flow. I’m a routine guy, so when I can have a routine and work the routine, I feel good. That also means when I’m not the one up front, the routine is still known and understood. I really like the way we’ve structured our teaching model, and think it helps others when they’ve seen the routine and understand the routine. Key takeaway: continue to maximize the routine, but be willing to change it up when necessary.
  3. We have incredible leaders. The adults who work with students are great. It was a low adult Sunday due to a holiday weekend, but the ones who showed up were fully engaged and ready to make a difference. More than that, our student leaders, for the most part, get it and are willing to step up when given the opportunity.
  4. There’s still room to grow. I don’t think I could miss a month without a hitch, and I don’t know if that should even be my goal. But, there’s still room to grow. There are still people to train, there are still people to empower, there are still needs to be met. We are not there. Key takeaway: keep pouring into those around me.

All in all, I was grateful for a day to reflect. I’ve not arrived as a leader, and I’m okay with that. But I’m trying to grow.

Now, think about your arena of influence. If you were scheduled to be gone and were able to be a fly on the wall, what might you learn? Do you think you’d be pleased or disappointed? Are you holding on to things because you think no one else will do them? Do you need to make adjustments so confusion is minimized? Take a minute to reflect on how you might grow as a leader, and how you can lead those around you to do the same.

Developing a Student Leadership Team: Know Your Who

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Welcome to a new series titled: Questions to help you start a student leadership team. My goal with these posts is to provide some thoughts and questions to work through as you start a student leadership team. Makes sense, right? You may not agree, and that’s okay! Leave a comment and let me know.

“I just don’t have any leader quality students.” 

“I don’t think they would get it.”

“I don’t have any seniors, how can I start a leadership team?”

At one point or another, all of these thoughts have crossed my mind when trying to decide whether or not to start a leadership team. Then I had a break through.

My job is not to build great leaders. My job is to maximize the leadership potential in front of me.

Do you see the difference?

If I think my job is to build great leaders, then I naturally want to start with highly capable students. Students who are leading already, or are popular, or mature. Eventually the checklist of what we’re looking for grows cumbersome.

If I think my job is to maximize the leadership potential of the students in front of me, then I want to start at a different place-with students who are willing.

Oops, spoiler alert. But let me say it again in a different way so you can catch it.

When it comes to developing leaders, willingness beats talent.

If a student has a natural inclination towards leadership but is unwilling to grow, guess what? You’re going to beat your head against the wall trying to help them grow. You can provide opportunities, but at the end of the day, we do not get to make decisions for those around us. We are not puppet masters. 

If a student, however, is willing to grow as a leader, then the game changes. Their willing desire to grow and to make the most of a situation will repeatedly result in progress you cannot imagine. With a willing student, you can provide opportunities and watch them respond in ways you cannot imagine. 

I cannot overstate this enough. If you’re looking to start a leadership team, or even help a few students grow in their understanding of leadership, look for willingness to make a difference (not willingness to have a title).

There’s an implied understanding here: everyone can be a leader. The degree of influence we have on people around us will vary from person to person, but everyone has the potential.

One last word: of course, a student who has both willingness and a natural inclination to leadership is the ideal. I would never argue against talent, but I will always argue against talent alone. 

My name is Wes, and this is my leadership hot take.

Is This the Most Exhausting Part of Leadership?

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I hate to be a broken record, but today I want to remind you of what may very well be the most exhausting and least flashy part of leadership.

The Redundancy of Leadership. I’ve written about it before (fitting, right?). You can read about it here, here, here, and even here.

Redundancy is not what they put in the brochure to recruit you to be a leader.

Redundancy is not flashy.

Redundancy is not exhilarating.

But redundancy is necessary. In fact, learning to master the art of redundancy may very well be the key to unlocking your leadership.

If you’re too flaky, moving from one point to another, then it’s difficult for someone to follow your leadership. Have you ever tried to chase a fly? Following a leader without redundancy is very similar to that–you can try to guess their next move, but there’s no real way to know.

If you’re too redundant, the people with you feel like they’re staring at pot of water waiting to boil.

Your role as a leader, is to find the magic mix of redundancy that keeps the vision alive and keeps the mission moving forward.

Redundancy is not flashy, but it’s absolutely necessary. Hang in there, and keep reminding the people you lead of the mission you’re working towards. You can do this!

You Can Do This

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Leadership can be difficult.

Knowing what to say and when to say it.

Knowing what to do and when to do it.

Knowing who to recruit and how to ask.

Knowing when to speak and when to stay silent.

Knowing when to correct and when to encourage.

Knowing when to navigate a season and when to change.

If you’re trying to expand your leadership influence, you likely resonate with at least one of these. And that’s perfectly natural.

Regardless of the tension you’re navigating, or the season you’re walking through, let me offer this: hang in there. You can do this.

The call to leadership is a call to growth-both of ourselves and of those we lead.

But growth takes time.

Be intentional. Be faithful. Move forward at a steady pace and you’ll be amazed at how you can grow.

Lessons from the Court: Know What You Know

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“You might need marriage counseling after this game.”

Little did our friends know the truth of a sentence spoken in jest.

For the past couple years, playing pickup basketball has been one of my more consistent events week in, week out. Recently I spent some time reflecting on the leadership lessons I can share from my time on the court.

Recently my wife has been playing with us. I love my wife, she’s amazing, but we were fortunate enough to have not been paired up to that point, until this fateful day.

We had a few tense moments, and frustrations never got the best of us. But, it was still an experience. And here’s what I realized: she doesn’t know what I know about basketball. She has her own instincts. She doesn’t know my hand signals or head nods. She doesn’t know to anticipate which cut I’m going to make (or usually not make).

So who am I to get frustrated at her for knowing what she knows and not what I know?

The same is true in leadership. How can we honestly get frustrated at someone for not knowing what they’ve never been taught?

What if we shifted our mindset? What if, instead of lamenting what someone may not know, we take on the role of guide and teach them? How would our leadership change if we created a shared language?

Basically, we have two choices: 1) we can expect people to “get with the program” and catch up to where we are, or 2) we can understand what someone may not know and help them grow. One of these requires a decent amount of self awareness. The other is poor leadership.

Take a minute to evaluate some of the people you lead. What do they not know? How can you help them grow?

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