Someone once said, “If you want to know if you’re a leader, turn around and see if anyone’s following you.” This may be a simplistic statement, but it is nonetheless an accurate test. Many managers think of themselves as leaders because they have leadership positions. But position does not a leader make; followers make a leader.
A friend once asked me, “Do you think certain people are born leaders or can leadership be taught?” As I pondered the question thinking about some of the great leaders in world history, I came to the conclusion that leadership can only be taught. Leaders are made, not born. There has never been a newspaper headline that announced, “A 7-lb. 14-oz. leader was born today at St. Luke’s hospital.”
People with leadership skills had leaders as models when they were kids. Their parents taught them leadership skills. A teacher may have taught them, or perhaps the military, but someone, somewhere, sometime along the way helped that young child or young adult develop leadership skills.
Given that leadership is learned, not genetic behavior, there is a potential for leadership among all of us. The real issue is, “Do you want to be a leader?” and, “Will you make an effort necessary to develop your leadership skills?”
On the left side of your Bible, in what may be slightly dusty pages, are stories of some of the greatest leaders in the history of the world. Many of these great leaders were kings, judges, and prophets, but many were also common people placed in unusual circumstances and led in extra- ordinary ways by God. Studying the stories of these great leaders, one begins to see a profile of Biblical leadership emerge.
Solomon was the tenth son of David and second son of Bathsheba and became the third king of Israel reigning for 40 years. God provided him with many talents and great wisdom. His father, David left him great wealth and the throne of Israel.
Solomon was a prolific writer with over a thousand songs and three thousand proverbs to his credit. Much of his writing centered on the subject of wisdom and knowledge. It seems that he possessed the philosophical ability to discuss the subjects but sadly, lacked the ability to do many of the things he wrote about. Solomon had more money, more possessions, and more power than anyone else on earth, yet apart from God he found them all “vanity.”
Some people consider Solomon a poor leader, one who had many talents, yet squandered them on searches for the “meaning of life” in wine, women, and song. Others, looking at Solomon’s accomplishments, consider him a great leader. Regardless of which camp you fall into, Solomon’s writings contain much that is beneficial to someone hoping to define and develop strong leadership characteristics.
In this first issue, we will review twenty “Be’s,” and eight “Don’ts” as they pertain to leadership characteristics. Next month we’ll continue our study in “Lessons on Leadership, Part 2.”
Here are the 20 “Be’s for Leaders
Be diligent. Leaders are diligent in their work. Often they are described as having a passion for their work, or of even being driven. (Prov. 104, 13:4)
Be patient. A good leader understands actions taken in haste often lead to regrets. (Prov. 14.7, 14.29)
Be discrete. You’ve heard the expression, “Discretion is the better part of valor.” No leader can remain successful without maintaining discretion in sensitive issues. (Prov. 2:11)
Be truthful. Abraham Lincoln once said, “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” If you always tell the truth you will never have to remember what story you told who. (Prov. 12:17, 19, 22)
Be compassionate. If you want people to work at peak capacity, you must learn to lead with compassion. (Prov. 12:18. 25)
Be a peacemaker. People disagree. A leader must be able to bring peace to an issue so that both sides will work together for good. Further, a leader cannot stand by dividing the loyalties of his or her followers. (Prov. 12:20, 17:4)
Be kind-hearted. You can be a successful despot by being ruthless, but a leader with loyal followers has a kind heart. (Prov. 1:16-17)
Be generous. Whether with praise or with time, a leader learns to be generous with those that follow. (Prov. 11:24-25)
Be honest. An honest leader is easy to recognize. Many leaders try, to be honest, but they have different standards for different people, or they are outright liars. The dishonest leader is quickly found out. (Prov. 11:1, 21:6)
Be humble. A key to strong leadership is a humble nature. The greatest cause of the fall of leaders is pride. Leaders who begin to think that all the success they are experiencing is because of them alone usually find out quickly just how wrong they are. (Prov. 3:7-8, 11:2)
Be discerning. No leader ever survived without the ability to discern truth from superiors, peers, and followers. (Prov. 3:21-24, 15:14)
Be disciplined. An undisciplined leader’s career is short-lived. People won’t follow someone who is undisciplined, and an undisciplined leader is a target for anyone looking for power. (Prov. 5:22-23, 15:5)
Be prudent. A careful leader acts out of knowledge; focusing on the best, not necessarily the easiest, solution to problems. (Prov. 13:16, 14:8)
Be a thoughtful planner. Strong leaders plan their strategies long in advance. They plan for problems. They also develop plans that are honest and good based on strong moral principles. (Prov. 14:15, 14:22)
Be a doer, not just a talker. The expression, “Actions speak louder than words” applies to every leader. People evaluate not only what you say, but what you do. Followers have little respect for a leader who talks but never gets their hands dirty. (Prov. 14:23)
Be just. Followers can spot duplicity in a leader from a mile away. Leaders must make informed decisions that focus on solutions without favoritism to an individual or a cause. (Prov. 29:4, 16:10, 21:15)
Be guided by the Holy Spirit. Solomon’s greatest frustration as a leader came from neglecting his relationship with God. No matter what he did, no matter what he built, no matter what pleasure he indulged in, he found that apart from God they were all vanity. Your ability and strength as a leader come from the strength of your relationship with God. (Prov. 21:12, 30:5)
Be righteous. A righteous, ethical leader provides a guiding light to followers. Who among us wants to follow a wicked, unethical leader? (Prov. 4:18-19, 10:2)
Be concise. A verbose leader stands a better chance of creating confusion than clarity. Be as concise as possible while providing necessary direction. (Prov. 17:27)
Be fair and firm. Employees will make mistakes. When mistakes are made, fair, firm discipline will yield increased productivity in the future. (Prov. 13:24)
Here are the 8 “Don’ts” for Leaders
Don’t be complacent. Anyone who accepts the “status quo” won’t be in a leadership position for long. Edward Deming once said, “If it isn’t broken fix it anyway.” The point is, improvement is always possible, and leaders are always looking for new solutions. (Prov. 1:32)
Don’t be prideful. Pride does funny things to many leaders. They begin to think they alone have the right answers to every problem. More leaders have fallen from excess pride than anything else. (Prov. 13:10, 15:25, 17:18)
Don’t gossip. Leaders necessarily know things that most of the organization does not. Don’t be tempted to display your knowledge by talking out of school about anyone or anything. (Prov. 11:13, 21:23)
Don’t chase fantasies. Leaders focus on clearly established objectives. Fantasies waste precious resources and detract from the primary goals of the organization. Leaders know that the way to achieve results is to work toward them not “hope” that they will miraculously be achieved. (Prov. 12:11)
Don’t be greedy. A little success, a little prosperity often turns to a hunger for more. A good leader doesn’t let greed cloud his or her mind or affect the decisions they need to make. (Prov. 15:27, 29:4)
Don’t be hasty. “Haste makes waste.” Judgments made in haste are often regretted in the morning light. Strong leaders learn to get adequate information before making important decisions. (Prov. 19:2, 21:5, 29:20)
Don’t be vengeful. No leader exists for long without being wrongfully accused or mistreated in some way. Vengeance wastes time and distracts you from your primary mission as a leader. (Prov. 20:22)
Don’t be self-indulgent. There is a bumper sticker that reads, “The one with the most toys wins.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Whether wine, drugs, relationships, or toys self-indulgence leads quickly to self-destruction. (Prov. 23:20-21)
One Final Thought
Perhaps the reason we have so few really good leaders is that we accept poor leaders in the first place. Or perhaps it is because being a leader necessitates a certain amount of loneliness. Perhaps it is because leadership requires extra work, and carries with it, additional responsibility.
Whatever the reason, strong leaders have always been in great demand, and they continue to be today.
Developing your leadership skills will require a great deal of time and energy. If you are already a leader, you need to constantly hone your skills, and beware the pitfalls common to those in authority.
Remember that God puts leaders into positions of authority for a reason, and also remember that “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12).
Your contributions as a leader are essential to our society. Focus on God, and He will provide light to your path, and the strength to complete your task.
28 Lessons on Leadership is also available in the form of a bonus whitepaper. The bonus whitepaper includes all the scripture verses, some great quotes about leadership, some meeting notes to help you run a meeting with your team, and a summary of the 29 Lessons. You can download it here:
Join the Conversation
As always questions and comments are welcome. Which of these “Do’s” do you struggle with? Which of these “Don’ts” have you had to deal with as a leader?
Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications