7 Qualities of Effective Leaders

I’ve been involved in leading people over the last 30 years. In business, in community organizations and in non-profit organizations. No matter where I was serving, the people I was trying to lead were asking, “why should I follow you?” Most people buy into the leader before the cause or vision. Even if they have bought into the vision, they will be either more or less committed because of the leader. People most often leave an organization because of the leader, not the vision.

Here are seven qualities that I believe are vital for leaders to effectively build a tribe and make a difference:

  1. Calling and Passion – A leader that is passionate about what he or she is doing, and feels called to it will attract people. Being passionate about something means you are willing to sacrifice for something. People can tell very quickly if you feel called to what you are doing or if it’s just a job. Leaders that are willing to sacrifice, suffer and endure hardship are worth following.
  2. Insight – Leaders that can see the real issues and know the real problems are respected.  Insight is developed over time and through evaluated experience.  Leaders that understand people, and why they do what they do, can make better decisions and motivate people more effectively.  It takes insight to know how to connect with different types of people.  Knowing when to listen and when to talk, when to push and when to back off, comes from insight and wisdom, and from failing and learning from it.
  3. Character – It takes character to win and maintain trust.  Doing the right thing even when it hurts and is difficult builds respect. Character is often exposed in difficult times, and character is developed in those quiet moments when no one will know and you still do it right and make it right. Without character leaders eventually fall. No one is perfect, yet the best leaders know that people are watching them and approach their leadership as a way to positively influence the people around them.
  4. Likability – People follow leaders that make them feel good about themselves.  People will follow you if they like you. Having an approachable demeanor and friendly personality are important. When you walk in the room do you bring energy to that room, or do you suck the life out of the room? The most likeable people I know are the ones that genuinely care about the people around them, and take time to listen and connect.
  5. Competence – You need to know what you are doing and talking about. People can tell quickly if you are just talking and dancing around the issues. People can smell fake pretty quickly. Leaders that know what they are doing, and that surround themselves with people even smarter than they are excel in leadership. The best leaders are constantly growing and learning and getting better at what they do. You don’t have to know everything, but you do need to be competent enough to know the right questions to ask and what decision need to be made to move things forward.
  6. Communication Skills – You don’t need to be a highly polished speaker, but you do need to be able to effectively communicate the vision and values that you are passionate about. It is also important to be able to communicate in a variety of ways. Both verbal and non-verbal communication is important.  The way in which you communicate is important, knowing when to call someone and when to email or when to go see them in person. Also the ability to communicate to a large group, small group or one-on-one is vital for great leaders.
  7. Courage – Courage is making the tough calls despite the fear. When people know that you are willing to take risks and lead in a bold courageous way they will follow you. It takes courage to lead and move ahead even when not many are choosing to follow. Knowing when to take a stand and fight a battle is an important attribute of a leader. It also takes great courage to humble yourself and serve other people and to be transparent with the people you lead.

These qualities should be something leaders are working on and developing as they lead. The moment you stop growing, you stop leading.

Lead On!

Summer Reading List 2019

One thing that I’ve learned as a leader, is that reading is vital to continue growing and to get better as a leader. It’s also healthy for our brains and mental health. In light of that, I thought I’d share some some of the books I have recently read, what I am currently reading, and what is on my list to read.

Books I recently Finished:

Books I am currently Reading or Plan on Reading this Summer:

I hope this inspires you to do some reading this summer as well. This is one way you can work on yourself and grow. In whatever area of your life you want to improve, find a good book and start reading.

Leadership Lessons I learned from Jesus

Effective Leadership Starts on the Inside – Before I can lead anyone else effectively I need to be able to lead myself. That means I need to know myself and who I am. Jesus talked about what is inside of us comes out of us. What is in the heart, will eventually come out. If we have darkness, hurts, and lies in our heart that will come out in our leadership and relationships. As a leader, it’s vital to know our wounds, and make sure we are allowing God to bring healing to those inner areas of our life. Understanding what our core fears are and what lies we might be believing is essential to becoming a healthy leader. This awareness brings the right perspective and helps us to be humble and allow God to do a transforming work inside of us.

Effective Leadership Builds a Culture of Trust – Without trust, no relationship can last. Without trust, no leader can last. Jesus spent the first three years of his ministry building trust with those closest to him. He did this by investing deeply into their lives. Jesus was vulnerable, caring and committed to those around him. Jesus was loving and truthful, he did not shy away from conflict, and was always teaching lessons and telling stories that built trust. Trust is built one brick at a time and is difficult to re-establish once it’s been broken. Trust is built one conversation at a time, it grows when we do what we say we will do. It builds when we admit our mistakes and own our failures. It multiplies when we extend trust to others, by allowing them to lead and then get out of the way.

Effective Leadership Comes from a Heart to Serve Others – Selfishness will eventually destroy most relationships, and will take out most leaders. Jesus came to serve and give himself to others. He was always focused on how he could add value to the people around him. The greatest leaders are the ones that find ways to serve the people they lead. Great leaders provide the right environments and resources that allow people to thrive, grow and make a difference. It takes a mix of humility and self-confidence to be a servant leader. That only comes from a place of understand who you are, and whose you are.

Effective Leadership has a Compelling Vision – Nothing can grow without a vision. No relationship, organization, or person can grow without a vision for where they want to go. Having a purpose in life, for the organization or even our families is vital for health and growth. Jesus had a very clear purpose, and his vision was clear. All his work, actions and plans came from that purpose and vision. A compelling vision tells people who they are, where they are going, and what will guide their journey. Vision gets us through the difficult times, and gives us the grit to do the hard things. A clear vision helps us make difficult decisions, and to establish the right priorities.

Effective Leadership Understands the Power of Generosity – People love to be around generous people. Jesus was one of the most generous people ever to live. He gave his time, energy, resources and his life to the world. Leaders that are generous with their time, resources, skills and abilities add tremendous value to the world around them. Generosity is contagious, and also brings a sense of joy and fulfillment. Finding ways to be generous is a game-changing leadership principle that can transform and organization, family or person. Start giving, it’s better than receiving, and it frees us from selfishness.

Effective Leadership Establishes Great Habits – Jesus was disciplined, and developed some key habits that became a part of his day to day leadership. He made time for things like solitude, prayer, knowledge and application of Scripture, accepting and responding to God’s unconditional love, maintaining accountability relationships. These spiritual habits or disciplines, shaped Jesus into the greatest leader of all time. His example shows us the right way to lead ourselves, build a culture of trust, serve others, cast a compelling vision, and be generous.

There are so many more great leadership and life principles we can learn from Jesus. That’s why I love growing in my relationship with Jesus. There is always more to learn and apply. If you want to be a better leader, spouse, neighbor, or friend start reading and learning about Jesus and Lead On!

Trust God to Lead You Out of Tough Circumstances

Trust God to Lead You Out of Tough Circumstances!

Some circumstances in your life – such as financial problems, marital difficulties or serious illness – might leave you feeling trapped. But no matter how hopeless your situation might seem, God can and will lead you out of it if you trust Him.

Remember that nothing is impossible for God. He even parted the waters of the Red Sea so the Israelites trapped between the sea and a crowd of hostile Egyptians could emerge victorious from tough circumstances.

Here are some principles to keep in mind when you feel trapped:

  • “Realize that God means for you to be where you are.” Either God led you into your current circumstances, or He allowed them to occur as the result of some choices you made. Remember that His goal is a good one – to build your faith. Also remember that He promises to always be right beside you, no matter what your circumstances.
  • “Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief.” When you’re overwhelmed, stop asking how you can get out of your situation. Instead, ask how God can be glorified in it. This will change your perspective so you can see the potential in the situation. Consider what you can do in the midst of your particular situation to bring glory to God, in ways such as thanking Him for ways He has answered your prayers in the past, and praising Him for His character. Understand that God’s plan for how He will deliver you from tough circumstances may be different from what you expect, but that He will do so in the best way.
  • “Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.” Be aware that you will often have to contend with evil spiritual forces who would like to see you trapped forever, but that you can always overcome them by God’s power. Focus on God rather than worrying about evil. Choose to obey God in even the smallest decisions in your life, striving to be honest and faithful, rather than giving into deceitful temptations that will ultimately make things worse, not better.
  • “Pray!” Pray frequently and specifically about your circumstances, and expect God to answer your prayers.
  • “Stay calm and confident, and give God time to work.” Rather than wasting time and energy trying to solve a problem by yourself, be patient, and trust God to act in His timing. Know that He has a good reason for waiting whenever He chooses to do so.
  • “When unsure, just take the next logical step by faith.” Know that God often guides moment by moment, giving you just enough information to take only the next step forward. Then He often waits to see whether you will take that step before revealing more of what He wants you to do. So show God that you take His guidance seriously by acting on what you already know He wants you to do.
  • “Envision God’s enveloping presence.” Take comfort in the fact that God can transform your past, present, and future. He uses your past failures to help you grow, loves you in the present, and guides you wisely into the future. Visualize God with you right now, and remind yourself that He was with you yesterday and He’ll be with you tomorrow.
  • “Trust God to deliver in His own unique way.” Know that God will choose the best way to deliver you from your current circumstances. Expect Him to act powerfully, working as He often does through ordinary people and events, or even through a supernatural miracle.
  • “View your current crisis as a faith builder for the future.” Choose to believe that God will actually do what He has promised.  Ask God to use your current experiences to build a more mature faith in you, that will serve you well in the future.
  • “Don’t forget to praise Him.” Thank God for what He has already done for you, and demonstrate confidence that He will continue to act in love and wisdom.

Spring Clean Up in Amish Country

This past weekend I got outside for a run for the first time in many months. It was so nice to be outside in God’s creation running along a quiet country road.

I came across a group of Amish as I was running. An Amish man with about 10 children out picking up trash in the field and along the road. I’m sure they were part of the family that owns the farm, and clean up is a part of every Spring for them. They can’t use those fields if it’s full of trash.

It’s amazing to me how many people through bottles, cans and junk out their windows, and litter our neighborhoods, streets and roadways. I guess that’s part of living in this world,  if you’re a land owner part of what needs to happen is cleaning up your property, even if the mess was caused by someone else.

It’s like that in our spiritual and emotional lives as well. Sometimes people litter on us emotionally or spiritually. Maybe it’s saying something hurtful, or doing something abusive to us. Maybe it’s leading us away from our relationship with God, or getting distracted by other things. The reality is our lives are often quite messy, some of it we bring on ourselves, and some is thrown out the window by others, and it lands on us.

So how do we clean up and get rid of the litter? Well, let’s learn from this Amish family.

  1. Acknowledge that you have a mess to clean up – They saw the mess and decided to clean it up. This can be the hardest step because most of us want to bury the mess. The problem is, those buried things keep popping up in our lives. Sometimes it’s buried so deep we need some help uncovering it. Emotional and spiritual hurts that are buried can never heal properly unless they are picked up and thrown out. Pride is often the reason we don’t take this first step.
  2. Build a team – They knew it would go faster with more help. Life is hard, and it’s even harder when we do it alone. Find some people that care about you, and are willing to walk with you through whatever you need to clean up. This should be a small team and you need to be careful, because there are a lot of people that might mean well, but are not helpful. When adding to this team ask these questions. Does this person want what’s best for me? Does this person have a relationship with God that is growing? Will this person keep things confidential? Will this person lift me up or pull me down? Ask God to help you as you surround yourself with the right people.
  3. Get Started – They had to pick a day and just start cleaning.  At some point we have to start making some changes. We can get great counsel and have some great self-awareness, but if we never make any changes or try something new or different, nothing will change. Sometimes we need to just start picking up the trash and throwing it away. It’s in this process that a lot of the growth and healing will happen. It’s having that difficult conversation, asking for forgiveness, forgiving someone else, reading a book, seeing a counselor and doing the homework. If we just keep doing the same old thing, we just keep getting the same old result.
  4. Keep God in the center of it all – This is God’s creation, let’s keep it beautiful. Those first three steps are things we can do to start improving our lives, but this step is really the key to lasting life change. The spiritual side of our lives is the most important, and often the most neglected part of our lives. We try to fix all the junk and yet still feel empty and broken. When we plug into God He transforms, heals, buildings, shapes, restores and renews us. When we bring God into every part of our lives and fully surrender it all to Him it leads to freedom, fulfillment  and wholeness. When we trust God completely, He is faithful and brings the needed transformation in our lives. He is God and we are not.
  5. Once you’ve picked up the trash, choose to throw it away – Once they picked up all the trash it went to the dumpster.  We can actually get comfortable with our junk. Throwing something away can be hard, especially if we’ve been carrying it for years. That’s why having God involved helps so much. The more we trust God the less we rely the junk we’ve held onto, making it easier to pitch it in the trash and not pick it up again.
  6. Stick with it – I’m sure they have to do this once or twice a year. There will be more trash thrown at us, and we need to keep cleaning up every year. If our spiritual lives are thriving, most of the time there is less clean up to do. When we are healthy spiritually and emotionally we have better boundaries in our lives and are much more resilient when things go wrong or get hard.

It’s so helpful to remember that God is for us and He is in us. That combination is amazing, and it leads directly to less trash to pick up. So focus on God and build that level of trust and closeness to Him. Doing that will lead to breakthroughs in other areas of our lives.

If you are ready to start cleaning up, a good place to start is a growing, thriving local church. Find a place where you can connect with God, and other people. Step out of your comfort zone and take some risks to grow spiritually, that’s the best way to clean up the junk and change your life.