Leaders come and go. Their seasons change, their circle of influence changes and their challenges change. Some rise to the top and others slowly drift away. What is the difference in the mindset of a leader that never stops stretching and is resilient compared to a leader that gets buried in crisis, personal struggles or loss of motivation and passion? Why are some leaders stirred to move forward and some shaken by the number of challenges and problems facing them? How do you become a leader that rises to the challenge regardless of the season you are in?
1. DEVELOP A PERSONAL GROWTH PLAN
I became a Senior Pastor at 23 years old and I knew right away that I had no idea what I was doing. I needed to figure out how to lead and fast. So I began to read like never before. I listened to every great leader I could, trying to get as much information into my brain as possible
The key to stretching yourself and growing as a leader is to develop a consistent personal growth plan. When you do, it is inevitable that those you lead will grow. Maybe not immediately, and certainly not as fast as all of us would like, but they will grow.
What are you going to do daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to grow yourself?
2. RETRAIN YOUR BRAIN
We all battle indecision and procrastination at some point. The key to pushing yourself through is to trick your brain into thinking differently. I think that is what Paul meant when he coined the phrase “renewing the mind.”
Each one of us has to do some self-study to determine what works best. For me, one of the best methods is utilizing my calendar. I find that when I place things directly into my calendar instead of on a to-do list, I am more likely to get right to it.
Allowing yourself blocks of uninterrupted time keeps you moving in one direction. I utilize weekly routines, categorizing my days into blocks of time. This allows me to be consistent each week with what I am focused on. For example, I block Monday’s for message prep instead of procrastinating and getting my message done later in the week.
3. REALIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF RE-CREATION.
I used to just rest. I would sleep in really late on my day off and then go to the couch and watch movies or play video games all day. There was no focused purpose behind it and afterwards, I found myself more tired, stressed, and less able to focus. The truth is, I was neglecting myself, my health, my family, and my church.
I decided that I needed to do more than just rest, I needed to recreate. Recreation is re-creating yourself. So, instead of watching movies and lazing around all day, I decided to activate the brain instead.
On my days off, I added reading and family time into my calendar. I take my kids out on daddy dates in the morning, I date my wife in the evening, and I will take 3-4 hours in the afternoon to sit in a coffee shop somewhere with a good coffee and a good book and feed my brain instead of starving it.
I began looking forward to getting back to work and felt energized and full of new ideas. Doing this as a regular habit created a way for me to regularly regain and re-engineer my own passions.
Determine what recreates you and then put that into your regular weekly routine. By recreating, you draw from every area of your life and you become energized.
4. LEAD WITH VISION
It is too easy for leaders to react to what’s going on around them, to allow the whirlwind of priorities to distract them from advancing their vision. I believe there are four deadly “D’s” in leadership that we all need focus on overcoming:
The more success you have, the more distractions tend to come your way. It’s important to ask yourself with every decision, “Will this opportunity benefit the big picture of the organization and its vision, or is it a distraction?”
Every leader battles discouragement. It’s going to happen. And it is usually the result of the regular pressures of being a leader. That’s why it is so important to regularly “re-create” yourself and find a way to refuel and re-fire.
Divisions come when there are multiple visions. Multiple visions tend to occur when we become distracted by pressure and reactive instead of leading and advancing with the focused vision.
If I feel myself disengaging from God, people, or the vision I know that there is a problem. This is most likely because I have lost focus, got distracted, or lost momentum because I was overcome by the pressures. Again, I need to reflect, regroup, or recreate to get my passion hot again.
5. ADDRESS THE WARNING SIGNS
When you begin to echo the language of disappointment, discouragement and depression, you may be on the brink of burnout.
Learn to read the physical signs. If I am needing more and more coffee just to stay alert in a day, that’s not good. If I just can’t seem to get enough sleep, that’s not good. If it gets harder and harder to spring out of bed in the morning, that’s not good.
I have learned over the years of doing ministry to know the seasons in the year when, no matter how disciplined I am in my weekly recreation time, I find myself just plain tired. My wife and I schedule regular holidays in those seasons for rest and recreation.
6. DEVELOP YOUR TEAM
Realize that EQ — or emotional quotient — is more important than IQ, talent, or skills. When hiring and working with my staff, I try to surround myself with leaders who have high EQ. Skills and talent are important, but they are easier to teach and train into someone than EQ. That’s the first step.
The second one is to regularly teach your people the value of a personal growth plan. Hold them accountable for growing themselves. If leadership stops growing, our organization will stop growing. So, I regularly ask them about their growth plan. I regularly resource them with books, podcasts, or conferences to keep them stirred.
Thirdly, I regularly give them projects that will challenge and stretch them. I believe it was Noel Tichy who said: “Winning leaders push people not just to memorize the organization’s values but to wrestle with them, to internalize and use them.” He advocates putting people “in progressively more difficult situations where they have to make decisions, and then give feedback and support.”
This keeps them stirred and engaged.