Monday, October 3, 2011

Leadership Lessons I’ve Learned - Part 1

     I’ve been doing some reflecting lately on leadership lessons I’ve learned over the years. I’ve been privileged to serve in leadership positions for most of my adult life. I have learned much from mentors and through experience. I will acknowledge that most of what I have learned came from reading and listening to John Maxwell. Over the next few weeks I’ll share these lessons with the hope that they will be of great value to you.

1. Everything rises and falls on leadership
     Most successes can be traced back to competent and effective leadership and most problems can be traced to a lack of competent leadership. I believe that one of the greatest problems we have in our nation today, (especially in the political arena) is a significant shortage of men and women who are skilled in leadership.
2. Leadership is influence.
      I learned this lesson while reading “Spiritual Leadership” by J. Oswald Sanders. For better or worse, good or bad; leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. Put a group five or six children together in a room and within five minutes you will be able to determine which one will be the leader -- for good or for bad. The same is true in a youth group. It doesn’t take long to determine who to whom everyone else looks and listens. In board meetings, there is one person who is in leadership by position, but it doesn’t take long to determine who the real leader is in the room. It’s the person with the most influence.
3. The test of leadership: “Is anyone following?”
      If you want to know whether or not you're a leader, simply look over your shoulder. John Maxwell says, "He who thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him is only taking a walk." If you have to remind people that you're the leader, then you're not. Leadership is influence and if you're not influencing anybody, it doesn't matter that you think you're the leader -- you're not.
4. People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
     I think it is more true to say, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care about him or her as an individual.” People will follow a leader anywhere if they know that he/she cares for them and that he/she truly respects and desires to add value to them. The moment that people sense that the leader does not care, influence and thus leadership have been lost.
5. Leadership can be learned
     The question is often asked, “Are leaders born?” Of course they are. All leaders are born, but they do not come out of their mother’s womb a leader. Leadership skills are learned. Leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus wrote, “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers.” The good news is, anybody can learn to be a leader.