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Leadership, as influence, demands the expression of the authentic self.
A leader in preparation will need to show some type of self-leadership. Self-leadership is about facing the truth about your leadership, emotions, stamina and spirituality and constructing ways to develop oneself. Leaders are ultimately about influencing others and helping them to live better more fulfilled lives. Leaders often seek to help people they hardly know. The one thread that seems to tie all great leaders together, whether Christ-followers or not is their desire to change themselves. It is reported that Tolstoy said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, and no one thinks of changing themselves.”
Self-leadership requires humility and a willingness to learn.
Walking through a car dealership recently, I over heard the father of a 16 year-old sharing a tip on driving in heavy traffic to his son. The young pimpled faced teenager nodded his head quicker and quicker as his dad was trying to give him this important tip about driving in the Atlanta traffic. His son kept saying over and over, “I know, I know.” How many times have we tried to save someone some “grief” and they just couldn’t hear us? How many times have we done the same thing? Self-leadership is the ability to learn from every possible source. There will always be those that just decide to learn things the hard way. The almost ready leader will practice self-leadership through humility in learning and exhibiting personal growth.
There are three main questions that we must infuse into a student’s life. 1) Who are you? 2) What do you want? 3) What does God want? The answers are not as easy as one might think.
Question 1: Who are you?
This must be asked of the almost ready leader preparing for ministry. A greater awareness of their personal darkness and themes of struggle is critically important to the early development of the almost ready leader. Pastors and leaders can help by talking authentically about their own feelings through that process. There are a number of online tools available for growing young leaders. Lead them to discover their personality traits through some assessment that may have been important to your own development. I developed an assessment that helps individuals discover which of the four quadrants need the most self-leadership. This assessment tool demonstrates that four main issues are at work in a leader’s life (leadership, emotions, stamina and spirituality) at all times. (Note: This tool has not yet been developed for children)
In educational circles, we talk about learning curves. In this generation, there are awareness curves. Some come to us with an awareness of the inclinations of their hearts. Others, through our discipline process, need a little help in seeing the character deficiencies present. This is a key step in learning self-leadership. Learning to say as Joseph did, “Who me, sin against God?” An almost ready leader, fully awake to their call, must learn to live within the boundaries that call requires. The almost ready leader needs a health awareness of just who they are. Pastors and student pastors should consider requiring the almost ready leader to state their faith in their own words. Helping them to avoid “churchy phrases” or “spiritual clichés” is an important part of answering the question, “Who are you?”
Question 2: What do they want?
In a postmodern world where bodily comforts are on every hand, the almost ready leader must answer the question, “What do I really want?” This is a process of sorting out through intentional choices the outcome of one’s days. Student culture is shaped when student leadership and administrative leadership does not turn their heads on issues related to personal character. We are training young spiritual champions and refuse to allow silly adolescent explorations into realms of life which lead nowhere and degrade one’s destiny. Here are three easy steps to begin implementing with your almost ready leader:
1. Telling them the truth.
Almost ready leaders must be confronted about their choices, or the opportunity for character development is missed. Leading the almost ready leader to answer the question over and over about what they really want is a technique that has really worked. When they fail miserably ask them if that’s what they wanted to do? Help them examine in detail what led to the failure.
2. Challenge their self talk.
Listen for the words they say. In consulting and personal growth language the words they use are the artifacts under the surface revealing what’s really going on. Those who live with severe attachments or even addictions in their lives are not thinking virtuously about themselves. In other words, the thoughts they have about themselves are not “God’s thoughts” toward them. Their thinking and ultimately their speaking, which usually results in action, reveal the fallenness of their thinking. Theologians call it the “noetic effects” of the fall. Humanity’s ability to think rightly of themselves (see themselves as God sees them) is flawed.
3. Seek to influence them in formal and non-formal ways.
Taking time to think of specific leadership messages you want to send them can be a very profitable way to grow them past internal dead ends which result in a de-energizing effect.
Question 3: What does God want?
The Spirit to Serve tells the story of J.W. Marriott, Jr. He shares stories and experiences about the early days when his father started the Marriott chain. He massages his message of humility, hard work and respect for others throughout the book. He makes a clear call for servant leadership. He says, “There can be no distinction between a company’s core values and the core values of its leadership. The values originate from deep inside the people themselves.”
If there is no inward transformation, all the programmatic character building techniques in the world will have no impact on the almost ready leader. If our goal is to renew our organizations, then we must lead out of a heart authentically devoted to what God wants. Living close to God means caring about what God cares about. The almost ready leader must answer the question, “What does God want for me?”
Leaders are ultimately revolutionaries.
They were once transformed from darkness to light, and they dream change and bring change wherever they are. They pursue passionately the goal of making things better. In the middle of the gut of every great leader lies the desire to make a contribution with their life in some way. Connecting with what God really wants from your life, your specific contribution is the one guiding factor that keeps leaders of character making the choices that they do.
Initially, there is always an experience deficiency within the heart of an almost ready leader. Character is not necessarily present in every leader when they start the preparation. Depending upon childhood development and family issues character may need to be learned at even the most fundamental of levels. Character must be intentionally shaped, cultivated and developed through caring and confrontation. The challenge for those of us currently in leadership is to not underestimate the human capital which surrounds us. This generation of almost ready leaders is critically important to the health of the whole church.
Life upon life, one almost ready leader at a time, the kingdom advances.
Paul the apostle might have underestimated the impact that a young man named John Mark would have on the kingdom. In Acts 12:12, John Mark was present when Peter was miraculously released from prison as a group of believers, in John Mark’s house were praying. In Acts 13:13, when John Mark left Paul and Barnabas, Paul was underestimating who he was going to be. In Acts 15:36, when Paul and Barnabas have the falling out over John Mark, Paul was underestimating the human capital which John Mark brought to the table.
However, Mark’s gospel, reveals a far different John Mark. Mark’s authorship is placed sometime in the middle 50’s to middle 60’s and shows us a more mature leader. Paul would have never believed that this young man’s writings would end up so valued by the church or that they would become canonized.
Perhaps the almost ready leader is profitable to us in the current context of ministry…
but is in the global strategic plan God has for that life. Their being under our leadership may not be about our current assignment at all but more about their value to the organization as a whole.
Mark’s gospel pounds home themes of suffering, handling criticism, the messianic fulfillment of Jesus’ life and the supernatural. Wow! What great themes for the almost ready leader to learn about. John Mark, if we knew the behind the scenes story, probably underestimated his own value to the organization as much as Paul did. There is a pattern that often plays out in towns and cities all over the nation; leaders in preparation are often underestimated about how important they are not only now but to the future of the body of Christ.