Effective leadership is more than a position. It is more than an activity that you do. Effective leadership is made up of common skills. More people are leaders than think they are.
Leadership is a deep issue. But we define it in a shallow way.
Leadership is a whole lot more than that. At least good leadership is. “Who is a leader?” is not as simple a question as it sounds. “Who is a good leader?” is a better, and even more complicated question.
The answers to both of those questions should form the definition of leadership.
Who is a leader? Everyone is a leader in some sense. You are a leader. I need to define good leadership to define what sense.
Who is a good leader? You are a good leader the extent that they are good at four essential tasks. There may be more than four tasks in leadership, but these four are the central ones. The nucleus.
These tasks are:
- To equip
- To educate
- To empower
- To encourage
You are a good leader to the extent that you are good at even one of those things. You are a great leader to the extent that you are good at more than one of those things.
This means several things that contradict the “standard” definition of leadership.
- Leadership is more than a position of authority.
- Leadership is more than the act of leading a group.
- Leadership is not only from the top down.
- It can be from top down.
- It can be from peer to peer.
- It can be from bottom up.
Equip the People Around You
The people around you are all trying to get things done. Maybe productive things. Maybe fun things. Maybe useless things. Maybe something you told them to do. Maybe something you asked them to do. Maybe not.
Regardless… they need “tools” or “equipment” to get things done. They need equipped so that they can achieve their goals.
Effective leadership requires you to equip the people around you.
If you equip others, you are a leader, even if you do not think so.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ… – Ephesians 4:11-12
Educate the People Around You
A tool that you don’t know how to use does you no good.
We are remodeling our basement right now. Part of the remodel includes taking out a wall. I gave my 3 year old a hammer the other day and told her to hit the wall with it. She used both hands, held it right next to the head, and had a short swing. She didn’t even dent the sheet rock.
I equipped her. But I failed to educate her (at least for a few minutes). Even after some instruction, she wasn’t effective. Or interested. It was fun, but she is still too young to use a hammer.
Effective leadership requires you to educate the people around you.
If you educate others, you are a leader, even if you do not think so.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20
Empower the People Around You
Empowerment = task + trust.
Empowerment = Responsibility + Authority.
I don’t remember where I first heard that. I didn’t come up with it.
The point is that if you ask someone to do something, then micromanage them, you are not empowering them. Or you are not trusting them.
This is a sticking point for many leaders. If you have always done it yourself, it is hard to trust someone to do it for you. If you believe, “if it’s going to be right, do it yourself,” you limit yourself.
The skill of delegation is hard because it is taxing on your emotions. You have trust another person with your goal. To delegate well, you hang on to some responsibility, but none of the authority.
It is tempting to do the opposite. You may want to hang on to authority, and not responsibility. But that is a recipe for disaster.
Effective leadership requires you to empower the people around you.
If you empower others, you are a leader, even if you do not think so.
It’s too long to include here, but consider reading Exodus 18.
Encourage the People Around You
This is both the easiest, and the most important skill. It only requires one of two things:
- Attention to notice when someone needs encouragement
- Kind words to offer encouragement
Encouraging others does not always need your time invested. But investing your time in encouragement is powerful. Time does more than add to attention and kinds words. It multiplies them.
Encouragement = (Attention + Kind words) x Time
Effective leadership requires you to encourage the people around you.
If you encourage others, you are a leader, even if you do not think so.
…encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
- With this new definition of leadership, who are some people in your life that you now think of as leaders?
- Which of these skills is most natural for you, and how can you develop it further?