For the last 15 years I’ve been working on living out my life purpose statement of “Growing myself and others in Faith, Character and Leadership.” This has been the driving force for me getting into full time ministry and the reason I get up every morning. I’ve studied, written about and spoken about those three topics a lot over those 15 years. Today I want to share why this is so important to me.
I grew up in a religious, conservative community. We went to church, prayed and talked about the Bible. I got a good dose of that as I grew up and it influenced me greatly. I remember praying together as a family, kneeling at our couch praying for people in our extended family. I remember coming home from High School or seeing my girlfriend and kneeling by my bed and praying before I went to bed.
I remember making a personal commitment to Christ with a friend at his church and then going through a discipleship class with my pastor before being baptized. I remember having to give my testimony in front of the entire church before my baptism, talk about nervous.
As I got older I continued to follow and believe in God, but I also did a lot of my own thing and many things I should not have been doing. I drifted away from God, but never gave up on God. Church became more of an obligation and a social thing for me and I stopped growing spiritually in my mid to late 20’s. I remember being involved in leadership at the church my wife and I attended, trying to lead change, search for a new pastor and then renovate a house for the new pastor. I remember being confused about some of the teaching I was hearing and frustrated with the lack of leadership within the church. I remember having conflict with the pastor and his wife and wondering why do I even try? So when my term was up as Deacon, we stopped going to church.
For over a year we did not go to church and just did whatever we wanted without thinking much about church or religious stuff. The church was not relevant to me, but I still believed in God and had a relationship with Jesus even though it was weak. I was growing as leader in the business community and was getting recognition for that. So that is where I was getting my purpose and meaning and not my identity as a Christian.
Then things changed, God never gave up on me and kept slowly drawing me back to him. It started with people that had a relationship with me inviting me to church. We finally gave in and went and it really jolted us. I remember saying to my wife, are they allowed to do that in church? The music was upbeat and louder than I was used to. They had fun and the message really made sense. We weren’t sure about everything but we decided to come back again.
Then the pastor contacted me and we met for lunch. That led to more lunches and breakfast meetings and then to one-on-one discipleship. I remember meeting with the pastor early before I went to work at the bank. I started volunteering and we got into a group. My wife and I started growing spiritually again and I quickly got involved in leadership. I ended up on the leadership team and was leading a group and involved in other ministry activities.
As I grew in my faith, my character also started growing and I got better as a leader. Then God rocked my world by calling me to be in ministry. I remember the moment at a leadership conference at Willow Creek Church in Chicago. I surrendered every part of my life and clearly heard God telling me to pursue full time ministry.
That pursuit took over two years, lots of prayer, journaling, studying and conversations with mentors and friends. It was during that time of self-discovering, searching and seeking God with my whole heart that I found my purpose statement and wrote a description of the man I want to be. This is what I wrote and this is what drives me to help other people experience what I have experienced in faith, character and leadership. This is why I love to develop, coach, encourage and challenge other people in those areas as well. I believe a lot of people are on a similar journey, looking for purpose and meaning and wanting to make a difference in the world. I want to help people avoid some of the mistakes I made and starting growing.
Growing myself & others in Faith, Character & Leadership:
A man devoted to improving his personal relationship with God through consistent prayer and study. A faithful, loving husband. A leader in the community, the church and the workplace. A man of good character and integrity. A life long learner. A servant to God and others. A loyal, caring friend and confidant. A positive proactive person that is willing to learn and grow. A man concerned about having a heart more like Jesus. A life that reflects the fruits of the spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-control. A man above reproach, who is respectable, hospitable, sincere and honest. A good steward of what God has entrusted him. A mentor and a protege. A teacher and a student. An encourager and a builder. A speaker and a writer. Dependent on God Inspired to serve Devoted to glorifying Jesus Christ.
I am not perfect and I still am working on areas of my life that are not good. I still have bad days, make mistakes and bad decisions. But even with all those blemishes in my life I know that I am a child of God that is deeply loved and accepted. It allows me to lead with my heart, love others, forgive people and press on.
A lot has been written about leadership, I’ve read books, articles and listened to speakers. There is not one thing that makes a great leader, each person is a bit different in personality, style, gifting and drive. Some leaders are bold and charismatic while others are quiet and reserved. I’ve seen great leaders with each of those traits. So what’s important to know in leadership? As a young person what can be done to grow as a leader?
Here are some things I’ve learned over the years in my experience leading in the banking/accounting world and also in full time ministry:
Learning to lead is really learning about yourself, knowing your blind spots and barriers. Knowing your core fears, weaknesses and scars. When you raise your level of self-awareness you raise your level of leadership. Then if you can surround yourself with people that will be honest with you and are gifted in areas you are not, incredible synergy can start to happen.
Living an emotionally healthy life is incredibly freeing. Yet it is very difficult to do because we all grow up learning unhealthy behaviors and unhealthy emotions. Think of it like pieces of armor that we put on growing up, defense mechanisms, ways of handling conflict, how to treat other people, what we think about ourselves, others and God.
In order to get healthy here are a six guideposts that can help us all get healthier emotionally and live with freedom and joy. Many of these guideposts come from researcher, author and speaker Brene’ Brown.
Start pursuing an emotionally healthy life by cultivating the good and letting go of the bad.
Recently I challenged a group of guys I meet with to read through the book of Proverbs and identify their top ten. We all found that very challenging as there are so many great Proverbs. So here are my top ten:
If you can’t read through all the Proverbs take some time over the next several days and read these 10 and ask God to help you understand how they apply to you personally.
Reading is one of the most important things you can do to learn, grow and improve yourself. I love to read and I try to read one or two books a month. I also listen to pod casts, and audio books to keep feeding my mind good stuff. As a leader this is vital to keep stretching and pushing yourself to get better.
So over the next several months I plan on doing a lot of reading. I have carved out some extra time to allow for this by taking some vacation time and incorporating it into my regular work schedule.
Here are the books I am currently reading and several I plan on reading later:
Spiritual and Personal Growth:
Just for Fun:
I’ve been studying the idea of vulnerability and how that plays out in our relationships. Brene Brown has some incredible insights on this tough topic. Much of this post is based on her research.
One of the things that keeps us from being vulnerable is shame. Shame thrives in secrecy, silence and judgement. However when we introduce empathy, shame cannot grow. So in order to be open and vulnerable we need to be around people that are great at empathizing and we need to learn how to be empathetic with others. Learning how to be empathetic is one of the most powerful ways to improve your relationships.
In order to be empathetic we need to be able to see the world as others see it. This is all about perspective, being able to take the perspective of another person and not our own. It’s being able to listen to someone and not interject our own experience but to really what to hear it from them. It’s not one upping the person by sharing what you did or how you messed up. It’s being able to realize that our lens of life and our experiences are different than others and being OK with that.
Empathy also requires that we are nonjudgmental. Most of us are judgmental and we are usually judgmental in areas where we are vulnerable to shame. We tend to judge people that are worse than we are so that we feel better about ourselves. We do that because we are looking for validation that at least I’m not as bad as so and so.
Empathy is not our default or natural mode, it’s a skill that must be worked on and developed in order for this to happen naturally. Empathy is usually very subtle, it can be just a knowing look or going to be with someone in a time of crisis instead of calling to express sympathy.
When we empathize with someone, we go to that dark place with them, we don’t flip on the lights and try to cheer them up and fix the problem or make light of the situation. It’s like walking up to your friend that is in a hole and going down into the hole with them, but knowing how to get back out of the hole because it’s not your hole. Sympathy is walking up to the hole and asking what happened. When they tell you, you express that your sorry to hear that, that’s a terrible thing. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. There is a big difference.
When we empathize with someone, we are creating a safe environment for people to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is one of the most accurate measures of a persons courage. To be vulnerable takes bravery, because it is walking into uncertainty, it’s taking a risk and it’s exposing your emotions. It takes courage because the reality is you can get hurt when you do this with someone that is not able to empathize or keep things confidential.
However if you live in secrecy, and silence you might feel safe, but are most likely miserable. When we are vulnerable we are our true self. We are showing that we are imperfect, messed up, awkward and goofy. The greatest relationships are the ones where you can be all of that and the person loves you even more.
So if your looking to improve your relationships, first learn how to empathize better with the people around you. Work on those skills of listening and trying to understand their perspective. Don’t try to fix them or the situation, but let them know we can do this together. Then work at being vulnerable with the people in your life. Expose yourself emotionally by being honest about your struggles and your shame. When we do that there is incredible freedom and life when we push past our fear.
One of the questions that runs through our minds is; am I good enough? Am I good enough feeds our need to perform, please and pretend. Am I good enough pushes us to prove ourselves and show people that we matter. This can be very dangerous to our emotional and mental health. It also damages our spiritual lives.
We all grow up with dysfunction. There are certain values that you grew up observing and statements that were made to you that have affected your life. If you only got attention or approval if you did something good or achieved something then you will continue to think your only worthy if you perform and are productive.
When we experience conditional love it feeds this question of am I good enough?
The truth is in God’s eyes we are good enough. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more and there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. His love for us in truly unconditional. We are good enough. When we can step away from this question and say yes I am good enough our focus can be on the right things. We know we can improve, but that does not make us more worthy or valuable as human beings. Our worth is not found in our achievements, its found in our character.
Being good enough is the wrong question because it causes us to question our value and worth. We all have stories that are undesirable, painful and shameful or embarrassing. When we can walk into those stories and accept them as part of us, we can experience the power of our worthiness. Those stories don’t define us but we can use them for good. That’s what God does every day, brings good out of the bad. When we can love ourselves despite those stories and see our worth as a human being then we can love others and encourage others along the way.
God says that we are good enough just as we are, dysfunction and all. He loves us unconditionally and desires for us to grow and connect with Him every day. So stop asking yourself if your good enough, God created you and planned for you to be a part of this world at this particular time in history. You are enough simply because you are you.
I found this in my leadership files and wanted to share this. Not sure where I got it, but some great reminders for everyone that has influence and is leading other people.
15 Leadership Tips:
There has been a lot written about teams and team work. Yet many companies struggle to have healthy, high functioning teams. Most often that is the result of an unhealthy culture or misguided leadership. There are some fundamental elements of great teams that allow organizations to get things done quickly with excellence.
Teams are only as great as the leader. Leaders that try to control and direct instead of casting vision and empowering tend to have average teams. As a leader don’t get caught up in telling your team what to do. Instead make sure they know their purpose and what the wins are. Establish clear goals or outcomes and then allow your team to figure out how to get there. If you can’t trust your team then you have the wrong team and need to find people you can trust.
As the leader you are there to coach along the way and not get involved in the how. This means encouraging people, redirecting people, refocusing people and backing your team up even if they make some mistakes. Building a great team takes great leadership. If you have a very new team or inexperienced team you may have to spend more time with them and give them some of the how. Getting your teams to great is a process, there is an ideal yet you need to work with reality. Start with yourself as the leader and then your team members. The better you lead the better your team becomes.
The greatest leaders in history are the ones that had a mindset to serve others. There has been a lot written about servant leadership and many today try to practice being a servant leader. But just how practical is that in the real world. When you have to get things done, ship your product or close the sale, how can you serve?
It can be hard when the heat is on to be thinking about serving others. Yet if you want to be great you must learn the fine art of serving others as a leader. Here are just a few things I believe are important in having a servant leader mindset.