It's speed and pressure that can cause you to lose sight of some of the basics that are vital to the sustainability of your leadership. It might be in the church, in your home or maybe in a business venture.
As leaders, we usually talk about things like vision, strategy, staffing and so on, and they are incredibly important. But you and I can blow it, even with the best vision and strategy, if we mess up on the "simple" stuff—the things that are considered common sense.
It's not hard to do.
You're on the run, maybe take a few things for granted, tension hits the fan, and you compromise some of the basics that cause people to like you, and more importantly, trust you.
The smart question isn't, "Do I know the stuff on this list?" The smart question is, "How much of it do I practice consistently—like breathing?" In other words, you don't need to remind yourself; they just come naturally to you.
Now let me push just a little. How well do you stay consistent with these nine when you're under pressure? That's when it counts.
There are moments when relaxing in your favorite old T-shirt, jeans and wearing your new Happy Socks while watching TV is precisely what you should be doing. But let's be honest, there is no real pressure there.
So, how about the next day when you are back in the game? Are you ready for it?
Here's a quick list of nine practices that are common-sense; read the brief content for each one to see if you are consistent in your practice.
(If you have a minute, add a 10th in the comment section below.)
9 Common-Sense Practices:
1. Lead with sincerity.
Very few leaders drift from sincerity to hypocrisy overnight, it happens from a slow drift of compromise. Perhaps you back off of a tough Scripture in a sermon just a little, or hire someone for slightly political reasons or post your attendance with a creative flair (Hey, there are lots of ways to count, right?) There is no malice or sin, but a slow slide toward compromising what you really believe is the right thing.
To lead with sincerity is to lead from your values, focused on truth, always authentic and true to your heart. Sincerity doesn't make your leadership perfect, but it's trustworthy, and people can get behind that.
2. Possess a positive attitude.
Every time I read another negative headline, I'm more convinced than ever that a positive attitude is essential for successful leadership. Doom and gloom may garner website clicks all day, but hope and faith win the future.
A positive spirit doesn't deny reality; it attempts to improve it. Encouragement and the benefit of the doubt may be common sense but are practiced with surprising inconsistency. Your positive outlook in life will dramatically increase your influence, especially when the pressure is on.
3. Keep your promises.
Let's be candid here: promise-keeping is one of the first things to fly out the door when pressure is on.
You get pulled in another direction and decide that it's more important. It might be but consider the consequences.
The quickest way to break trust with those you lead is not to do what you said you'd do. They are not interested in the "other important thing" you're doing. They care about what you said you'd do.
It can be something as small as calling them back or answering an email you said you'd answer. But that call and email matter. When you do it, it means that person matters, and when you don't, you communicate that they're not important.
4. Give people your undivided attention.
Treat people the way you want them to treat you. Use their name, make eye contact and above all, don't look at your smartphone.
You may not have a lot of time for someone, but give them your full attention and love them sincerely for the minutes you have together.
Jesus didn't give everyone the same amount of time, but He loved everyone He came in contact with. That's our leadership responsibility, and Jesus modeled it well for us. That might mean for only two minutes in the lobby on Sunday morning with someone, then make that an extraordinary two minutes. Make them count.
5. Make Jesus part of your conversation.
As a spiritual leader, the practice that sets you apart from secular leadership is that you bring Jesus into the conversation.
I don't mean be weird by awkwardly forcing the name of Jesus numerous times in every conversation. And there are times when you don't need to mention His name to communicate a principle, truth or lifestyle decision that Jesus taught.
The point is that you make the person and principles of Jesus the core of your leadership and ministry.
6. Show up on time.
Some of us are not wired to show up 20 minutes early. I wish I were, but it's probably never going to happen. But I'm still responsible for being on time. I'll admit that I often cut it close, but I'm very aware and always apologize even if I'm only a few minutes late.
When it's just a few minutes and infrequent, most people will give you grace, but you should know they still don't like it any more than you do when you sit in a doctor's office waiting.
It communicates a lack of concern or maybe even a lack of respect. OK, perhaps you push back and say, "That's not true; I just get detained." Fair enough; I've been there too. But then it still reflects on you. Whether it's discipline or time management, you lose credibility.
7. Demonstrate a light-hearted spirit.
Your work is serious, but you don't have to always be serious about it. You live with some pressures, but they don't have to show. Leaders carry their own burden of pressure.
Leadership requires moments of intensity, but no one wants to be around an intense person for very long. Learn to throttle your intensity; give people a chance to breathe. Your passion is applaudable, but smile, laugh much and lighten up some; your leadership will go much further.
We often say here at 12Stone, "We take God seriously, but we don't take ourselves too seriously." That's a good cultural value.
8. Pour your energy into it.
I love leaders who bring energy when they show up. I'll bet you do too. I mean, isn't it great when someone else shows up in the room and helps (or takes point leadership) to make things happen?
This includes many things, from going the second mile to do something extra to putting your whole heart in whatever you do.
As leaders, each of us is expected to show up inspired, not wait for someone else to fire us up.
9. Take a minute to pray in the moment.
John Maxwell coached me in this practice decades ago.
He was standing near me one day in the worship auditorium and heard me say, "I'll pray for you," as the person was leaving. He called me aside and said, "I know you have lots to do, but you have one more minute. Next time, why not just pray right then and there?"
How could I miss something so basic, so common-sense? Now it's part of how I think; it's almost like breathing.
There is something powerful, significant and draws in the presence of the Holy Spirit when you pray in that moment. I've had many people come up to me years later and say, "You might not remember me, but you prayed for me one Sunday, and I've never forgotten it or what you prayed."
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