#071: Lessons on Leadership — Part 2

Last month we began our look at leadership characteristics taken from the profiles of leaders in the Bible. All of the examples we looked at came from the pen of Solomon recorded in the book of Proverbs. This month we continue with an examination of 29 additional Biblical leadership characteristics.

Leadership, Leader

Accept correction. As imperfect vessels, we are all subject to the errors common to man. Regardless of how perfect you consider yourself there will be times when someone will have a better idea than you, or perhaps even catch you doing something wrong. Anyone who is truly successful will tell you that part of their success is due to their willingness to accept correction from others. (Prov. 13:18).

Accept instruction. Every heavy-weight boxing champion in the world has a trainer. Every professional golfer has a teaching pro they go to when they need help with their game. Every professional football, baseball and tennis player, no matter how great, improves their skill sets by using coaches. Leaders in business should be no different from professional athletes; we should never think that we have learned so much that we can’t learn from others.
(Prov. 10:8, Prov. 13:13, Prov. 19:20).

Wisdom. No doubt about it, wisdom is a critical characteristic for all leaders. But wisdom is not one of those things you can buy at the corner drugstore. Wisdom is elusive. Some people have it, some people don’t. According to Solomon, wisdom is more precious than jewels. The good news is that no one has a corner on the world’s supply of wisdom. It is attainable with a life focused on God. (Prov. 3:13-18).

Timing. Man’s timing is often not the same as God’s timing. As fast as the world is changing we keep going faster and faster trying to keep up. Remember the bumper sticker that read, “The hurrieder I go the behinder I get!” Sometimes we rush to get things done, and we fail because it isn’t God’s timing. On the other end of the spectrum, there may be things God has been trying to get you to do and you’ve been procrastinating. Maybe you think you don’t have the skills or the resources, but remember that where God leads He will provide. Sometimes the best answer is to step out in faith. (Prov. 3:1).

Avoid hot-tempered people. OK, truth time. How many of you like to associate with people who get angry all the time? Raise your hands. No one? The greatest risk of being around these kinds of people is that you will become just like them, and then no one will want to be around you either! (Prov. 22:23-24).

Set priorities. Given all I learned from my grandfather at his farm, I have a special affinity for proverbs that have their roots in farming. What good is a house if you have no crop in the ground to harvest? In Solomon’s day, there were no supermarkets. If you didn’t grow it, you didn’t eat. So they made sure to plant seed, tend crops, and harvest before they worried about building their house. We have so many opportunities in our lives, we have so many options of things to do. But many of these “fun to do’s,” or “nice to have’s” won’t help us accomplish what is really important to us. A good leader knows how to set and maintain priorities to stay focused on the work at hand. (Prov. 24:27).

Experience yields wisdom. The experiences of a righteous man or woman can provide much wisdom for those who are younger. A good leader knows better than to ignore the counsel of wise elders. Solomon recognized the wealth of experience gained by living a righteous life. (Prov. 16:31).

Never stop learning. Churchill’s shortest speech was, “Never, never, never give up.” He was right, but today you could also add, “Never, never, never quit learning.” (Prov. 18:15, Prov. 23:12).

Seek counsel from others. No one knows everything about every situation. A good leader seeks out the counsel of others before making important decisions. (Prov. 15:22).

Build others up. Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” hasn’t been living on this planet for long. Words do hurt. Ask anyone for an example of something said to them that hurt them when they were young. I’ll bet they can recall it instantly and provide details of the situation 10-40 years later. Leaders know that a key to developing strong, independent employees lies in building them up with words of encouragement.
(Prov. 12:18, Prov. 16:24).

Create a team. No one working in isolation will develop skills as well as a person working in a group. That includes leaders. People will rise to the standards that are held by their peers. By building one, you can effectively build the skills of the group. (Prov. 27:17).

Motivate with compassion. I get so sick at heart when I hear about managers who think it is leadership to award “boot” trophies and other similar negative awards for their employees. Threats, even if veiled, may motivate an employee to improve performance in the short run, but they do nothing to build the strength of character of the employee that will sustain them over time. (Prov. 16:21, 23).

Avoid jealousy. You know you shouldn’t worry about keeping up with the Jones’s at home, but what about the Smith’s at work? No strong leader has time to be jealous about the progress someone else is making in their career. Strong leaders focus on what is important in their jobs and encourage employees to do the same. Jealousy serves no other purpose than to build you up by tearing someone else down. (Prov. 27:4).

Avoid easy solutions. A quick easy solution may be just that but beware the long-term consequences. Sometimes expedient solutions become the most expensive. Do you stuff more grease into a worn-out bearing and hope for the best, or do you shut the machine down to repair it properly? (Prov. 20:17)

Pick your battles. There are times to do battle. There are times to stand your ground unyielding. But make sure that the situation really calls for battle, and make sure that the decision is reached with the benefit of a cool head. (Prov. 29:11).

Have faith. The greatest attribute for a leader is to have faith. God does not lead where He does not provide. He will give you the strength and the wisdom to fulfill any task He asks you if you will maintain your faith in Him.
(Prov. 3:3-6).

Control your emotions. Don’t you just love bosses that yell at you when you make a mistake? My favorite is the boss who not only yells at you but does it in front of others! Strong leaders know that the best decisions are made by cool, rationally thinking minds. Set an example as a leader, don’t tolerate destructive tempers in your group, and you will be amazed at the improvement in your decision-making process. (Prov. 15:1, Prov. 15:18).

Choose friends with care. Sad to say but most anyone who has any business experience at all can tell you a story about someone they knew and trusted as a friend who turned out to be a back-stabbing traitor. Sometimes these folks are hard to spot, but the Bible tells us to be cautious in our friendships because the wicked people will eventually show themselves for what they are. (Prov. 12:26, Prov. 14:7).

Choose advisors carefully. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became king, ignored the advice of his father’s wise counselors in favor of the advice of his young friends. He put such a heavy burden on the Israelites that they tried to stone him. Eventually, the Israelites rebelled and appointed Jeroboam king (I Kings 12). (Prov. 12:5, Prov. 19:20, Prov. 20:18).

Listen to advisors. Once you choose advisors, a wise leader listens to their advice. This doesn’t mean you always take it, any advisor can be wrong, but at least you listen and consider carefully their words. (Prov. 1:8, Prov. 11:14).

Strive for excellence. Lots of people are mediocre or good at their work, but none of them will be standouts in their professions or great leaders. A good leader knows the value of excellent work and models it in the work he or she does, and in the standards they hold up for their employees. (Prov. 22:29).

Listen for Understanding. Listening is an altogether undeveloped art form. It seems most of us are so interested in talking that we don’t listen to the people we should. Practice the art of being quiet long enough to really listen to others. (Prov. 18:13).

Lead people’s strengths. God gives every one of us gifts and talents. A good leader develops people by utilizing their gifts in their work. People who are doing work that they have a passion for will work longer hours, more productively, with more loyalty than anyone else. (Prov. 22:6).

Maintain your standards. In today’s economy, there is a lot of pressure to reduce costs, to cut corners, to give a job only partial effort. Sometimes it takes great courage to stay the course and insist on high standards rather than following those who compromise. (Prov. 25:26).

Don’t overestimate your own importance. Get a small bowl and fill it with water. Now stick your finger in the bowl and then take it out. See the hole? As important as you may be at work if you quit or get fired tomorrow they will find someone to take your place. The Bible is filled with example after example of leaders who relied on God and accomplished great things. Then they started thinking they had done it all on their own and they didn’t need other people or God. Their downfall or death was the usual next step. (Prov. 3:7).

Don’t be envious of others. Solomon had tremendous wealth yet with all his money he found no satisfaction outside his relationship with God. Don’t let envy for what someone else has, drive your decisions about what is needed in your organization. (Prov. 14:30, Prov. 23:17, Prov. 24.1).

Don’t dwell in the past. While it is important to learn from past mistakes it is more important to learn to move on. No one ever became a great leader by wallowing in the discouragement of a past failure. Rather, the strong leader learns whatever he or she can from every situation and then applies the learning to the future. (Isaiah 43:18).

Reward loyalty. Few things in business are as important as loyal employees. I don’t mean just the ones that work for one company their whole lives. Loyalty is important regardless of whether the employee is a lifetime employee or a consultant for a week. Strong leaders recognize loyalty and find ways to reward it. Strong leaders never, ever shoot the messenger, they thank them for having the courage to bring even bad news. (Prov. 25:13).

Respect others. There are many standards of respect to be seen around the world. In some cultures, it is acceptable to spit on someone in the heat of negotiating a deal. In other cultures, a loud burp at the end of a meal is a compliment to the chef. Whatever the signs of respect important in your culture, be respectful of employees, peers, bosses, and customers. (Lev. 19:32).

One Final Thought

The lessons on leadership in this issue point out some of the complexities of the leader’s job: beware advisors, yet listen to advisors; be strong and demand high standards, yet be compassionate. Yikes! There are no easy answers!

Perhaps this is why it is so hard to find really good leaders. We tend to do only certain things very well, and when they work for us we repeat the action. So we develop into people who are demanding yet compassionless, strong and decisive yet unable to listen to others.

Leadership has always been a two-sided coin, with any given characteristic either a strength or a weakness depending on how it is applied in a given situation. This is where true leaders display excellence. They know when and how to apply themselves in any given situation. If these are things you want in your life then focus your business on God. Only He can provide you with the insight and guidance to lead you through any situation.

Bonus Whitepaper

Lessons on Leadership–Part 2 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 Leadership Lessons. You can download it here:

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome.  Which of these leadership characteristics do you value the most? Are there any that you struggle with?

Category: Personal Development | Leader Qualifications

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#070: The Importance of a Personal Leadership Philosophy

In the last week, I’ve had two people (one younger, and one more seasoned) ask me for advice on how to maintain Christian values in a secular marketplace. The answer to both was exactly the same: begin by establishing a personal leadership philosophy.

Philosophy

A leadership philosophy consists of a set of beliefs that describe: what you believe about people, what you believe about life, and what you believe makes people and organizations most effective.

There are at least four reasons why establishing a personal leadership philosophy is important for every Christian leader:

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#069: Two Kinds of Bosses You Don’t Want to Work For!

I consider myself to be truly fortunate in that during my career that has spanned 40+ years (so far) I have only had two bosses that I considered being ‘bad.’ The grand total amount of time I worked for these two was about 4 years, less than 10% of my working career. Yet, both left me confused, discouraged and stressed out.

Bad Boss

The two bad bosses I worked for had some striking outward differences, yet inwardly had some interesting similarities.

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#068: Leadership Lessons from a SEAL

Admiral McRaven’s commencement address: “Find Courage to Change the World.”

 

Admiral McRaven

Admiral William McRaven is a four-star admiral and commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SEALS). He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 1977 and immediately reported for SEAL training. A 36-year veteran of the Navy, Admiral McRaven knows a thing or two about leadership. His commencement speech to the graduating class at UT, entitled “Find Courage to Change the World,” delivered on May 17, 2014, provides ten important lessons for every leader, regardless of their position.

His speech is well worth the few minutes it will take to read in its entirety.

Here are Admiral McRaven’s ten leadership points (underlined), along with my interpretation:

  1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. Little things in life matter. Starting each day with a successfully completed task sets you up for success during the day. “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NIV) 
  2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle. Find someone to help you through life. Life is hard enough as is, but it is always made easier when you share the load with someone you trust. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) 
  3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. Respect everyone. Don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge people based on their outward appearance. “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” 1 Peter 2:17 (NIV) 
  4. If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. The key to success is to keep trying, to keep moving forward. I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11
  5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses. You will face trials in life. Sometimes they will test you to your very core, but by persevering, by working through the trials you will become stronger. “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”  James 1:12 (NIV) 
  6. If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first. Sometimes the greatest breakthroughs in life will come when you step-up and risk doing something differently than conventional wisdom dictates. “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away.” Luke 19:26 (NIV) 
  7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks. There are ‘sharks’ in this world, and sooner or later you are likely to be confronted by one. Victory over the sharks can come only if you are willing to stand your ground, to not back down. “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.” Ephesians 6:14 (NIV) 
  8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment. When all seems lost, remember that the night is darkest just before the dawn. It is during the toughest moments in life that maintaining a calm head and summoning all your inner strength will make the difference between success and failure. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 (NIV) 
  9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. A positive attitude can make the difference between success and failure. Sometimes your positive attitude will lift someone else up to achieve success. “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV) 
  10. If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell. Don’t ever give up. Success does not come to those who give up. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

Admiral McRaven concludes saying, “If you do these things, then next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and—what started here will indeed have changed the world—for the better.”

The world is in desperate need of better leaders. I think the Admiral is right. If we had a world of leaders that had the courage to apply these ten points throughout their lives we could indeed make the world a better place.

Join the Conversation

As always questions and comments are welcome. Do you agree with the Admiral’s points? Which do you think most leaders struggle with the most?

Category: Skills | Leadership Development

#067: 28 Lessons on Leadership

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.

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.”

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