Leadership is a mix of iron and water. One part never bends, the other part is fluid and adaptive. Effective leaders not only understand that relationship, but also the one between their motor and their motive – that it takes a combination of energy and humility to become great at what you do. Leadership has nothing to do with luck. A leader soars for a reason. So what exactly is it that makes them flourish? Here are 7 things that all great leaders seem to embrace, things the average leader often overlooks. It’s what makes them soar.
1) Great leaders pay attention. Poor leaders seek attention.
The fastest way to taste the contents of your heart is to hear your competition complimented. King Saul’s paranoia skyrocketed the moment he heard the women of Israel dancing and saying, “Saul has slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands” (I Samuel 18:7). The thought of someone else getting excessive attention drove Saul senseless. Swept out to sea by jealousy, Saul’s influence was over. Attention seekers have a short shelf life when it comes to leadership. Great leaders are different because they pay attention to themselves and to the world around them; not for the purpose of applause, but to acquire and absorb anything and everything that might help them transform into something new. Remember, the moment you brag you become less noticeable.
2) The secret to high capacity leadership is knowing how to turn personal criticism into personal improvement.
Criticism is different than accusation. There is zero truth in an accusation, so resist it … dismiss it … don’t park there. An accusation is demonic in nature. Criticism, however, is different because it usually contains some measure of truth. A mature leader listens for the smaller portions of the criticism that are actually factual instead of only hearing the larger portions that are usually exaggerated and unjust. It’s human nature to focus on the parts that are untrue and to miss out on the opportunity to grow past your blind spots. Never treat criticism like an accusation. You will be dismissing something the Lord wants you to hear.
3) It’s not what you achieve – it’s what you set in motion.
Great leaders have the same passion for planting as they do for reaping. Never connect your enthusiasm for leadership to what your natural eye can see. Great leaders know they will never see the full results of their efforts. To stay emotionally engaged, you have to practice “emotional patience” in leadership, knowing that some results are years in the making while other results will never arrive during your lifespan. Seeing another person come alive and soar forward in their life with the ideas you passed on to them is euphoric. As a matter of fact, it is the highest form of leadership satisfaction. Leadership outcomes do not return to you in a neatly wrapped package with a thank you note. If that’s your expectation, you will be sorely disappointed. So don’t crave the credit.
4) Insecurity will emotionally rearrange everything you see and hear as a leader.
Healthy leaders know how to give love and receive love. Insecurity sabotages that process. Everyone fears being insignificant. It’s when you allow those feelings to fester and dominate your emotions that your leadership becomes toxic. Everyone gets overlooked and forgotten, but not everyone self-destructs because of it. The insecure leader must manipulate people because the only thing they trust is themselves. Insecurity deceives by telling the person they must delve past the mistrusting words they are hearing and discern the darker agenda inside the person. This kind of constant guesswork makes day-to-day to leadership impossible. You cannot lead if you are insecure.
5) Leadership happens overtime – not overnight
For leaders, the conflict between seed and speed is relentless. Many leaders fail because they see leadership as a competition. They are desperate to be first to the marketplace with a product, or to be seen as the cultural thought leader on a certain subject. But great leadership is about anti-speed. The science of God’s kingdom is agriculture not technology. It takes the same amount of time to grow an apple today as it did in the days of Jesus. Great leaders pace themselves; not simply to avoid burnout, but because they understand that substance and wisdom grows like tree bark. No one can go deep in a day.
6) It’s the responsibility of leaders to make complex things simple – it’s never to make simple things complex.
There is a deceptive trend happening in leadership. In an era of competitive creativity, leaders believe they must impress their listeners with deeply intellectual sayings to prove they are a cut above their peers. The effect though, is that people are left confused about basic spiritual and life principles because their leaders and teachers are creating complexity out of simple truth. Life is tough and taxing for the average person. Your job is not to ‘wow’ them with pseudo intellectualism, your role as a leader is to bring clarity (not complexity). It’s to help them identify their next step and then encourage them to take it.
7) The attitude is always louder than the answer.
Nothing communicates more than your countenance. You cannot hide your heart – whatever fills spills. When people hear you speak, what they really want to know is, “What’s in your heart?” Everybody knows that words can be constructed, manipulated and controlled, but an attitude has a life of its own. It operates independently. A negative person can figure out a way to say positive words, but they will still come across as a negative person because you cannot mask an attitude. People hear words, but they feel attitudes. Attitudes are indelible. Presentations are quickly forgotten, but an attitude is remembered for a lifetime.