What is Leadership?

I’ve been wrestling with issues of leadership, character, management and spiritual development while completing the readings for my recent seminary class. I have gifts of administration and leadership and am confident of that. But, administration makes me a manager and leadership makes me a shaper.

There’s some conflict between the two but they also can complement each other. The manager can get lost in the details and lose the big picture. The manager develops the methods to accomplish goals. The leader sets direction and enlists people to take up the cause and pour themselves into it.

I have seen leaders who inspire people but struggle to move them anywhere. It’s like the football coach who gets his team all pumped up in the pregame speech. While his boys are definitely amped to play the game, their success depends on how well they have been prepared.

I have seen administrators schedule events, put together checklists and chart out goals and budgets only to have no one show up for the events they’ve planned. They have great systems in place but no followers.

I remember a youth ministry intern I had working with me years ago. He was passionate about Jesus and built strong relationships with students. They were ready to follow his lead. I remember meeting with him a few weeks before a high school canoe trip to help him be sure he had covered all his bases (and to protect myself from the phone calls from angry parents if he hadn’t.) We had a couple dozen students registered but when I asked if he had called the canoe company to make a reservation he gave me a blank stare. I got the same stair when I asked about release forms, transportation and adult leadership. I asked him about his plans for food, tents and camping and his look turned more to terror. I laughed with him and helped him with a checklist of details that had to be checked off to ensure a successful and safe event.

All seemed to be going well on the starting day of the event until we reached the place where we were getting the canoes. They had no reservations and no more canoes available! Instead of having a powerful canoe and camping trip, we returned to the church with two dozen disappointed students. He never checked that one of the list. In fact, he admitted that he lost the list within a day of our meeting and thought he remembered everything. While he had leadership potential, he struggled to get followers the rest of the summer because the kids just started to expect that, dispite his enthusiasm, the events wouldn’t live up to the billing he gave.

By the end of the summer I had him carrying three-ring binders with schedules and checklists. I worked with him to help him delegate and enlist the help of those in our group who had gifts of administration. No matter what I tried, he’d lose his materials or forget to make key contacts. I knew the reality was that he would never make it as a youth pastor as long as he was unwilling to work to develop some basic administrative skills. He spent the next five years bouncing from church to church before settling into a youth support service where others determined his schedule and all the details of his days.

Did he have leadership abilities? I think he did at some level. People were willing to follow until they discovered his inability to fulfill his promises. Had he been willing to develop some foundational administrative skills, the type provided in thousands of one-day management seminars given daily all across the country. I believe he would have done well. Instead, he shrugged and would say, “Hey, it’s not my gift.”

I think Bill Hybels said it best noting, “the leader is the organization’s top strategist… systematically envisioning the future and specifically mapping out how to get there.”

But, the leader who is unwilling to develop the systems and specificality of the needs Hybels points out, ends in frustration time after time with few followers and co-workers. She is representative of the leader in the ancient proverb saying the leader who travels with no followers is merely taking a walk.

On the flip side, the administrator who is unwilling to develop foundational leadership skills fills his day making plans and developing systems that will be followed by no one. The administrator, however, can be successful when coming alongside a leader.

I am coming to the conclusion that Hybels is correct in pointing out that the most effective leader has the ability to develop systems and provide detailed maps of the journey. This leader sumultaneously possesses the ability to connect with people and persuade as well as develop plans to take the organization to a specific destination.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

Though Roosevelt did not know it, he was promoting a 2 Timothy 2:2 approach to leadership which tells us to take the Truth we have received and then entrust it to other reliable (capable, dependable, thourough) people who will then pass it to others.

Where am I in all of this? Sometimes I am the leader who rings the bell and calls all to follow but, because of outside pressures and too many distractions, have not taken the time to map the direction. Sometimes I am the administrator who sees so many tasks that need to be done that I trample the people I am called to care for.

When balanced, disciplined and focused, I see God accomplish amazing things because of my willingness to submit everything to Him and stay true to what He has called me to.

Rick Warren has said that it is important that leaders know who they are. Who am I?

I am a child of God. Imperfect, flawed, fragile. Renewed, redeemed, accepted.

I am a leader. I know my weaknesses: I am subject to distraction. I am subject to trying to please others. I am subject to taking on too much and relaxing and resting too little. My willingness to give tasks to others without meddling in the results can be misinterpreted when I fail to praise.

I am dependant on Christ. I am surrounded by a very gifted team. I am called to convince people to follow and live like Jesus and shake off the shackles of religion and legalism.

I am called to equip people for ministry. I am a multiplier. I do not crave the spotlight. I am a cheerleader.

I am comfortable with others and humbled by their service. I am committed to shared journies where I sharpen and am sharpened. I am a “we” and “us” type of leader. I am committed to being genuine.

This class is going to stretch me. I can see that already.

About Scott Linscott

Living life to the fullest, walking in the dust of my Rabbi, creating art through photography and written word, speaking words of hope and encouragement at conferences, workshops, church and civic gatherings.
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