It’s time to lead small. For too long leadership has been something “out there” that “other people” did. Leadership needs to be doable and attractive. Focus on the twin pillars of leadership and you’re a long way to leading well in all circumstances and on all occasions.
The challenge given by Drew Dudley in his brief and fantastic TED Talk is a core message for us today. Leadership is something we can all do. We’ve made Leadership SO big it’s only for BIG (or perceived big) people. We’ve made the tasks so BIG that only the leaders with years of experience could hope to pull it off.
Drew disagrees. He tells the story of him giving a lollypop out to a student on the first day of her college experience, and that experience made her stay, introduced her to her husband to be and impacted her for the rest of her life. So the irony, Drew doesn’t remember the exchange. He calls it “Lollypop Leadership,” something we can all participate in every day. Small yet significant exchanges with people that matter (and let’s face it, all people matter.)
Do yourself a favour. Watch the TED Talk.
I’m convinced that the message of leadership needs to be dialled up for the sake of the generation we are engaged with now and for subsequent.
I believe leadership MUST be embraced more than ever. I believe Christian leadership must be embraced and expressed more than ever. In moving forward I believe that we need to focus on one truth and two areas of growth.
The one truth is this. In some way, EVERYONE, who is a Christian is a leader. Let me explain…. From a Christian perspective, we are described as “salt and light,” we have a responsibility to make some sort of impact on the environments we are in. Our presence ought to change the environment we are in in some obvious way. With salt, we know it’s there. I once made a friend a coffee with milk and two salts, let me assure you its presence was obvious. Light makes darkness disappear. It replaces what was with something better.
In the Kingdom of God, I believe we have gifts AND responsibilities. Yes, we have gifted leaders whose specific role is to lead the way in unique circumstances and times. In addition to that I believe we all have the responsibility of exercising leadership, or influence. Choosing to be the kind of person that has a ‘salt and light’ impact on the environment they are in. Sacred or secular, we have a responsibility to lead and influence our environments.
In some way, we are all leaders.
How can we do leadership well then? The two areas of growth in leadership are found in the description of King David in Psalm 78:72 twin pillars of leadership, character and capability. At the end of this Psalm David’s leadership is described as having “integrity of heart” and “skilfulness of hands.” These are the two fundamental areas of growth that every leader needs. We lead out of our character (integrity of heart), and we increasingly influence and multiply through our capability (skilfulness of hands.) As a leader you need to be developing both.
The Twin Pillars of Leadership. Psalm 78:72
In this model based on Psalm 78:72 the two areas of development for us as leaders are our character and capability.
There are three levels that will help you make sense of this as you develop as a leader. Firstly, how does the model help us identify what’s actually going on in your area of leadership? Secondly, what needs to happen as a leader? Lastly, what is required from us as leaders to make this happen well?
The model explained
Low Character and Low Capability. This person is what I have described as slippery. You just can’t pin them down to the kind of behaviours and integrity that you really need for the work you are sharing together. It’s more intuitive, a little bit frustrating and at times you have a nagging sense of “is this going to be ok?”
The big challenge for a leader is to do what they KNOW they need to do. This person needs to be sidelined. Not kicked out. Not dealt with harshly, but taken out of the game for a period of time so progress can be made in areas of character and skill. A careful, caring, yet firm conversation needs to take place.
High Character – Low Capability. This is the malaise of the Christian Church. These are nice people. Well meaning, well intended, trying hard but really not particularly good at what they are doing.
This is really hard to work through. A nice person is a great start. The extra we are looking for is the ability to do what we are inviting them to do. The key here is to have a conversation with them that provides feedback and a pathway to equip them so they can be more effective. Even consider repositioning them, so their roles are more congruent with their skills.
Low Character – High Capability. These are the driven people around you. Good at what they do yet unaware of their negative impact on people. They are efficient, and they get the job done. In doing so, you find yourself questioning their methods. The antidote to the driven person is to disciple them. Help them see their impact on people and show how the development of Christ like character, patience and gentleness can get more accomplished with more people, more of the time.
The last group is our High Character – High Capability people. Harder to lead than you might think. You see, a good leader will lead in whatever situation they find themselves in. Our job is to make sure the fruitful person is pointing in the right direction, carrying the right culture and multiplying the kind of ‘fruit’ we have agreed on. When they are doing that, our role is to mobilise them in pursuit of a future that we believe in and focus on.
What it takes from you and I as leaders are the following five practical steps:
- When you have to sideline someone, you need courage and resolve. This isn’t easy, but it’s important. Have the hard conversation and have it as soon as possible.
- When you need to equip someone you need authenticity and diligence. Be honest with them about their areas of skill development. Invite feedback and partner with them for progress. Avoid punishing them. Equip them with the practical skills needed to be more fruitful.
- When discipleship is the next best step, it requires honesty and focus. The person who is getting things done, often can’t see their impact on others. Hold the line to give these people feedback and back them up all the way in their character development. These people, when they realise that making a small change will radically increase their output will be motivated to make the internal changes.
- Working out how to truly multiply and release a person, requires humility and vision. On both sides of the relationship. Pointing that fruitful person in the right direction, making sure the culture is internalised and cheering them on while they lead with integrity and skill will be a delight to observe. Focus on what you are building together, serve one another’s strength’s and go for it!
- Lastly, maintain your own personal leadership life, in a way that means you are both a teacher and learner, helping others and yourself being helped. Serving others and yourself being served. So when you need reminding Paul told us what to focus on when he said “In all things let this be true. If a person’s gift is to lead, do it diligently.” (Romans 12:8 NIV)
#leadsmall – because when you do, big things can happen.