Sunday, June 21, 2009

Everything I Know About Leadership

On Friday, June 19, 2009, Mike Hyatt post 20 Questions to Ask Other Leaders. These questions were asked of him by Michael Smith of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee. I looked through these questions an I thought, It might be good to answer these myself, just to know how I as a leader would answer them. I don’t know that I will answer all of them for your benefit here, but that first question is one that I feel needs to be answered today, Father’s Day. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe some one who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

Everything I know about leadership I learned from my Dad. Everything. I’ve read books on leadership. I have spent time with many leaders. I have been in various positions of leadership. Taking all of that into account, I still look back at my successes in leadership and think I learned that from Dad. Or I look at my failures in leadership and I think I should have paid better attention to Dad.

If you measure a pastor by the size of his church, Dad isn’t much of a pastor. But one of the things I learned from Dad is that you stay where God puts you. When your church is growing, you stay. When your church is shrinking, despite your best efforts, you stay. When a church member is upset with you, you stay. You stay and stay and stay, until the Lord sends you somewhere else.

People follow Dad. I noticed this early in life. Whenever there was a group trying to accomplish something, it seemed like Dad was almost always the leader. We attended association meetings with other churches and other pastors would often turn to him to lead. He has been president of the BMA of Missouri, he has been president of the local school board and as served in many other positions of leadership. I don’t think he sought any of those positions. He wouldn’t have been on the school board if some of the members hadn’t come to him, asking him to fill a vacancy.

I learned that leadership isn’t something to brag about. I’ve heard men respected as leaders by thousands call Dad “rock solid and steady.” But I’ve never heard him brag about his friendship with these men. He spent many years working in fire protection at a large paper products plant. I didn’t know until I went to work out there that he was the Fire Chief.

More than once he told me that if you come up with an idea and people don’t like it, don’t get upset about it. Wait a few months. Someone else will suggest doing what you suggested and think he came up with it. There’s a lot to learn from that. First, a leader shouldn’t care if he doesn’t get the credit. Almost nothing has to happen right now. Never tell people what to do; teach them what is right and empower them to make the right decisions. Great leaders are examples in humility. The people with the most by-in are the people who make the decisions; let the church make the decisions and they’ll joyfully do things that you wouldn’t have considered asking them to do.

Dad taught me that great leaders serve the people and not the other way around. That one’s in the Bible, but he still taught it to me. If you ever chair a committee, you’ll understand that one a lot better. The chairman gets one vote like everyone else, but it is his job to make sure the members of the committee have what they need to make informed decisions, to keep the discussion on track, to report back to the body on their decision and to take the heat if someone doesn’t like it. That last one isn’t always easy, but it goes that way sometimes.

Great leaders are faithful men. He taught me that one by the life he has lived.

There are a great many other things I have learned about leadership from Dad. Maybe I’ll tell you a few more some day, but for now, this will have to be enough.

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