Friday, August 14, 2015

Develop the leader within you

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In my e-book Mistakes: Avoiding the Wrong Decisions that Will Close Your Small Business I discuss numerous mistakes I made running a small business our family owned.  Although I learned a lot from those mistakes, there were enough of them that they eventually proved fatal to the business.  I wrote the book to not only warn the reader to avoid those mistakes but to share the important lessons I learned along the way.

If someone was to sum up all the mistakes I made into one core mistake it would have to be the lack of leadership I provided the business.  When we got the business it had nearly thirty years of successful operation in our community, but with new ownership came new leadership needs which I failed to provide.  All of the various mistakes I cover in the book were merely symptoms of the core problem of a lack of leadership on my part.

John Maxwell insists that "The key to success in any endeavor is the ability to lead others successfully."  Furthermore, he teaches that everything rises and falls on leadership.  I believe he is right on target.  No organization will rise any higher than the lid of its leadership.  As the president of our company I put the lid on how effective our business could be with the leadership I provided, and that turned out to be a very low lid.

The same is true for churches. No church can rise any higher in its effectiveness than the lid of its leadership. This includes both pastoral and lay leadership. When a church stops growing or its ministry becomes less effective it's always tempting to blame the pastor, but it's also fair to look at the lay leadership as well. Sometimes the pastor may not be a good leader and is the reason the church is struggling. At other times, the pastor may be limited by the lid the lay leadership places upon him or her.

It's also important to note that even if your church (or business) is doing well, by raising your leadership lid it can become even more effective. There is always room for improvement. That's why leaders must be committed to life-long learning and growth.

Regardless of where your personal leadership lid is right now, it can be raised.  While I do believe some people are born to be leaders, I also believe that leadership can be learned, and that everyone can learn to be a better leader than he or she is right now.  The challenge is that leadership growth is hard work.  It requires much self-discipline.  It requires that one identifies a clear vision of where the organization is to go and the steps it will take to get there.  Priorities must be set that will enable that vision to be achieved.  A leader must learn how to solve problems, deal with constant change, work with people who can sometimes be difficult and help develop them into persons who believe in the vision you've set forth.  Everyday he or she must step away from the urgent in order to focus on the most important priorities of the day.  It can get overwhelming, especially when you realize that you will never reach the finish line as long as you are in the leadership role in your organization.  Achieving your vision only means you get to celebrate one day and then it is time to start over with a new vision if you want your organization to continue to move forward.

Leading a church or business is not easy, but the most difficult aspect of leadership is leading yourself.  A leader must always be in a learning mode.  He or she must keep up with the technical changes.  The leader must pay attention to changes in the culture.  You don't want to be the last company still making buggy whips.  Leaders must focus on the needs of the people they serve.  Leaders have to control their attitudes when things don't go the way they planned.  There are many things we cannot control, but we can always control our attitudes.  Staying focused and optimistic isn't easy, but it is necessary, and for some people with certain personalities (like me) it can be a real struggle.

As the head of your organization, you must always be growing in your leadership abilities.  That means you have to be a life-long learner of leadership, of people, and of culture.  You have no choice but to read the current journals, books, and articles relating to what you do.  You have to invest time and money in attending workshops and seminars that will help you grow.  The more you grow as a leader the more confidence you will have in leading, and the more willing others will be to follow your leadership.

For more on this vital subject I recommend you read John Maxwell's book Developing the Leader Within You.  As you apply the recommendations you'll find in this book you will find that you will grow as a leader and your organization will grow alongside you.

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