5 Things a Leader Should Do Every Day
A young girl came home from school with a tummy ache. “You need something to eat,” said her mom. “Your tummy aches because there’s nothing in it.”
A quick snack remedied the situation. Then the phone rang. With mom busy elsewhere, the young lass answered. It was their pastor.
“How are you today?” the girl asked politely, as she had been taught. The truthful minister responded, “Well, actually I have a bit of a headache.”
“My mom says that’s because there’s nothing in it!” assessed the young one.
Starting from Nothing?
Many of us start our days from scratch, bottomed out, blank slates, empty heads. We build our daily routines in response to external demands and the agendas that others inflict on us.
Yet leaders become what they are, in whatever situation, by living more proactively than “normal.” They lean into the future, rather than steadying themselves against it.
There are numerous studies of “leadership character” and “leadership style” and “leadership gifts.” Many are worth noting. But Kouzes and Posner, in their ongoing research (The Leadership Challenge), now spanning decades, have helped us think about something else: what do leaders do?
Their findings help leaders of all shapes, sizes and circumstances plan ahead for each day, regardless of giftings or temperament.
Five Daily Practices of Leaders
1. Challenge the Status Quo.
No matter how big the church, how grand the organization, how lucrative the balance sheet, how calm the waters, or how competent the staff, no church or business ever “arrives.” The Kingdom of God is still ahead of us, still beckoning us on to higher ideals and better expressions. Leaders understand this, and infuse a daily dose of holy restlessness into any situation.
2. Inspire a Shared Vision.
Organization inertia saps energy. Repetition narrows focus. The urgent trumps the important. And churches die treading water in the middle of a ministry pond begging for transformation and renewal. Point leaders talk about the main thing. They keep talking about making the main thing the main thing. They color it in vivid shades, they note its practical implications, they call others into its swimming currents.
3. Enable Others to Act.
Organizations are living entities with personalities. Peter Senge reminded us that good leaders are attuned to “systems thinking” (The Fifth Discipline), recognizing that health is connected vitally to the well-being of people involved in the social conglomerate. Leaders need to check the organizational barometer regularly, and empower others to live well both individually and within the system. Where are bottlenecks? Who is being unintentionally sidelined? Where are frictions developing? Who needs hands held for a time? Where should discipling correctives be administered? What roadblocks need to be removed? How can repentance, forgiveness, renewal and healing become hallmarks of this place?
4. Encourage the Heart.
Leaders need to be cheerleaders. Leaders need to believe in the people they work with. Leaders need to delight in the persons that surround them. Leaders need to bring out the best in others.
5. Model the Way.
We follow those we admire, not so much for their successfulness, but rather because they live into grace and honesty and kindness and hope. We trust those who are willing to do the things they ask of us. We pay allegiance to those who carry no pretense, and show us what it takes to live meaningfully in this organizational system.
I think Kouzes and Posner are truly onto something as they tell us what leaders do. What amazes me even more is that these are essentially the biblical offices we in the church have received callings into:
- Who better than a Prophet challenges the status quo?
- Who more than a King inspires a shared vision?
- Who outside of a Priest enables others to act?
- Who deeper than an Elder encourages the heart?
- Who higher than a Deacon models the way?
You have five fingers on your hand. Make them wear reminders of these five things that you need to do each day, starting today.