The subject of leadership is something I think of often. We are all impacted by our leaders, be it for good or bad, from the President of the United States to our immediate supervisor and parents. Soon, I’ll be teaching a class at our church on how to lead like Jesus. The idea behind the class is to make our church a “leadership factory”, teaching how to be a Christ-centered leader no matter where you lead – business, church, sports, non-profit or the home. What better place to learn how to lead like Jesus than the church?
As I prepared to teach the class, I once again gave thought to what the essential qualities of a great leader are. These are qualities that apply to all leaders, wherever they serve. We could name any number of qualities that would be desirable for a leader to have. For example, John Maxwell is known to say that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less.
The 2020 Presidential election is fast approaching. What characteristics will voters find most important when they vote for the leader that will represent our country? Some people may focus more on competency, while others may focus more on character. There were eight manager openings in Major League Baseball after the season ended. What qualities are General Managers looking for as they fill those openings?
If you had to name the 5 most essential qualities of a great leader, what would they be, and why? And, what leader(s) would come to mind that demonstrate each of these qualities. Below I’ll share my thoughts on this. Continue reading
Recently, I read David Goetsch’s book Christians on the Job: Winning at Work without Compromising Your Faith. This is a good book that I would recommend to Christians on how to integrate their faith with their work.
One comment in the book stood out as I read it. The author writes: “Have you ever worked with someone and been surprised to learn he or she is a believer? How did this make you feel about the individual in question?” Immediately my mind went back to a time early in my career. Continue reading
I used to regularly get feedback indicating that “Bill doesn’t like conflict”. Well, I’m not sure many people really like conflict, but I do know that if you avoid situations because you don’t want to deal with conflict due to a lack of leadership courage it can result in other problems. In fact, Patrick Lencioni has written that the fear of conflict is almost always a sign of problems.
In the organization that I worked at as a leader for nearly 38 years, we often talked about leadership courage, especially in evaluating emerging leaders. But what do we mean by leadership courage?
John Maxwell has said that he has never known a successful leader who was not courageous. He states that courage is an essential quality for a leader. Samantha Pena has written that a courageous leader is someone who constantly asks themselves if they are being courageous enough, who are willing to make difficult decisions and do not back down when things get too hard.
Leaders who consistently demonstrate leadership courage model these 5 traits:
- Confront reality. Leaders need to be able to assess their environment effectively and then lead based on the current reality. They have to be able to adjust their thinking and approach based on current conditions.
- Change agent. Leaders who have leadership courage are comfortable driving change, are not afraid to challenge the status quo and take calculated risks. Susan Pearse writes “Without courage you can’t have the right conversations that lead to change. Without courage you won’t even get off the starting block as a leader.”
- Open and honest communication. Leaders must be able to deliver the difficult messages about change in their organization, even if they may personally disagree with them.
- Honest performance feedback. Not being honest about a team member’s performance appears to be kind, but it’s really not. Not being honest doesn’t do the team member nor the organization any favors. Giving a team member a better than deserved performance evaluation is not being fair to them, because eventually they will encounter a good leader who will be honest with them. Give them honest feedback that will help them to address any performance issues they may have.
- Go back. There are times when a leader must show leadership courage and go back on a decision they have made when it becomes obvious that the decision was wrong. This also takes humility, a trait of all great leaders.
These are just 5 traits of leaders who consistently demonstrate leadership courage. What would you add to the list?
When we look to do business with an organization, we look to work with people in that organization that have both competency and character. First, we need people who know their jobs, and have the skills and experience to take care of what we need them to do for us. Second, and every bit as important, if not more so, we need them to be honest, have integrity and be people of character. A definition that I have used for character for many years is doing the right thing when nobody is watching. Carey Nieuwhof writes in his new book Didn’t See It Coming, that all the competency in the world can’t compensate for a lack of character.
My wife and I recently had an unexpected encounter with a person in a service profession who demonstrated honesty, integrity and character. An indicator light in Tammy’s car showed that the front left tire was running low. That was surprising as she had bought four new tires just five months ago. After adding air to the tire, we noticed a bubble in it so she set up an appointment to get the tire replaced. What happened next was a true demonstration of honesty, integrity and character. Continue reading
I have struggled with a fear of failure for as long as I can remember. Several years ago I read Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s book Pivot: How One Turn in Attitude Can Lead to Success with a team member. I remember joking as we started the book that it was funny that two positive people with good attitudes were reading a book about attitude. However, as it turned out, Dr. Zimmerman included chapters about worry and failure in the book. I have to admit that I worry about failing. My wife can tell you that I tended to stress about each new class at seminary after receiving the syllabus. After looking it over and feeling overwhelmed before class even started, I thought there was just no way I was going to be able to do it. How could I, working 50+ hours a week, possibly do well on a mid-term and final exam, do all of the required reading, write a paper, etc.?
How about you? Do you have a fear of failure? Do you worry about failing? Continue reading
Hannah Anderson discusses the issue of discernment in her book All is Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment, which was named the best book in the “Christian Living” category of the 2018 Gospel Coalition Book Awards. She defines discernment as the ability to sort between a host of options and pick what is good. She tells us that discernment carries the idea of judging the merits of something, being able to distinguish between good and bad and what is best.
She states that in order to make good decisions, you must become a discerning person, a person skilled in wisdom and goodness itself. At the same time, she states that people who are confident in their own ability to make good decisions shouldn’t be. How are we to get this discernment? Anderson tells us that God will give us discernment when we ask Him for it.
Discernment is a key attribute of leadership. I would go so far as to say that it is an essential for a good leader to have discernment. I had to make many difficult decisions as a leader. Here are three situations in which discernment was needed for me, and where I would often go to the Lord in prayer for wisdom: Continue reading
Dee Ann Turner was Vice President, Talent and Human Resources for Chick-fil-A, Inc. In her book “Bet on Talent: How to Create a Remarkable Culture That Wins The Hearts of Customers” she talks about the importance of truth-telling for a leader. She writes that “the kindest thing you can do for someone is tell the truth. This is especially true when providing feedback.” She tells us that truth-telling helps people perform better and often strengthens relationships; it’s likely that people would thank you for telling the truth, even when they don’t like it.
As a leader, this really resonated with me. I always enjoyed giving positive feedback, administering a good performance evaluation or promoting a team member. The flipside of this was not so enjoyable, but every bit as important. Some leaders will sugarcoat difficult messages, perhaps because they want to be liked or perhaps not to hurt the feelings of the person they were providing the feedback to, and I know that I did that over the years as well. But we do no favors to our team members, instead harming them, and not giving them the chance to improve, when we don’t tell them the truth. Here are a few specific situations in which it is important for leaders to tell their team members the truth: Continue reading