It has been said that “everything rises and falls on leadership.” This is true, but how do you know if you are ready to lead. Perhaps if more people were aware of the state of their soul before attempting to lead, there would be fewer wounds and war stories.
I have noticed that some people have too low an opinion of their leadership. They don’t feel ready, equipped or gifted for the task at hand, when in reality, they are ready and have enough humility to lead well. Others, conversely, believe they have been endowed with the abilities of superman. They quickly jump at, and taker over, leadership initiatives when they would do well to slow down and grow in some key areas before attempting to lead others.
So that leaves the question, “How Do I Know When I Am Ready To lead?”
In 2 Corinthian 4:7-12 there are some powerful thoughts about leadership:
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
Notice that leadership is not without trial, struggle, or pain. Even having a great cause does not mean that everyone will like you or agree with what you are saying. The health of a leader is crucial in order to navigate the ideologies and opinions of the day. In Paul’s life I notice the following areas to reflect upon concerning leadership readiness.
1. Are you self-aware and honest with yourself? In other-words, do you know that you are not perfect, that you have areas of deficiency and brokeness that need to be addressed, worked through and healed. One will never be a great leader if they are not ruthlessly honest with themselves about themselves. Not only is it the portal to leading, it is the first step towards healing. If the broken areas are not addressed, those hurts, habits and hangups will be transferred to those you lead, creating a seriously dysfunctional team. A leader with no self-awareness will hurt those they are trying to lead.
2. Are you connected to others in community? Being in community and accountability with others provides the safe environment where people you trust can reveal your blind spots…the wake you leave behind you relationally, vocationally and spiritually. Most people have many acquaintances, but few deep friendships. A healthy living community is one where you laugh, play and serve together being committed to helping each other become the best they can be. A leader that is not in community will not see how their wake affects the people they lead.
3. Are you willing to decrease so others can increase? One of my favorite leadership quotes comes from Lao Tzu where he states:
“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Are you ready to take on a role or responsibility that isn’t “up-front” and highly “visible?” A great leader helps others towards self-epiphanies. Not that all roles are “unseen” but are you willing to decrease so others can increase. The best leaders surround themselves with men and women who are great at what they do, and they facilitate them to do even better, even if they don’t get the strokes for it. A leader who is not willing to decrease will use others to serve them and not the mission.
4. Are you consistent in the small things? Jesus said that “If you have been faithful in little, then you will be made master of much.” Are you willing to do the small tasks that you have now, and are you doing them well? As a leaders proves faithful with the part she has, then more will be given. If you have an attitude that the “small stuff” doesn’t matter, then it’s time to go back to question number 1. A leader who isn’t faithful in the small stuff will not be faithful in the big stuff.
5. Are You Liquid. Effective leadership for the 21st century is not rigid, but liquid. We live in a time where fluidity in the norm and flexibility is crucial. Gracefully and patiently moving with and alongside those you lead reveals the calmness of your soul, how attached you are to “things” and how will you will deal with things when coloring inside the lines doesn’t work. Flexibility does not mean the removal of expectations of vision, rather it is harnessing the power of the river to forge new ways that flow best in the surrounding atmosphere. A rigid leader might have some obedience, but he will never have all the creativity and potential that comes with fluidity. A leader who isn’t liquid will frustrate and limit the potential of the people they lead.
Spend some time reflecting on these questions concerning your leadership. As you reflect you are actually practicing question #1 which is the gateway to the rest!