Great Leaders Think ‘Leaders’ not ‘Bodies’

LeadersthinkI have learned a valuable lesson over the years that I still have to remind myself of frequently. One of my strengths is “Achiever,” which is to get things done and to do so quickly and efficiently. Many of you are the same. Nearly everything you do goes on a list and you begin your day by reviewing your to do list. You dislike interruptions because it interferes with your progress in knocking out your to do list.

I have learned that a to do list is very helpful as long as the list contains things that I should be doing. However, a personality like mine can be overtaken by the to do list and miss opportunities to invite and empower other leaders to utilize their own strengths and gifts. This is why I have learned to keep reminding myself to…

Think “Leaders” not “Bodies”

To think “leaders” means to look for opportunities to invite others to join you in the leadership journey. Often times, people with a personality similar to mine look for “bodies” to get the job done rather than “leaders” who will take it to the next level. For example, if you have a project that requires 10 people to complete, you basically have the following two options: (1) search for TEN people, or (2) search for ONE leader. If you choose option one, you recruit the people, you plan the project, and you oversee execution. However, if you choose option two you step into the realm of true leadership and release others to grow and lead. Sure, bodies will get the project done; however, when you invite someone to lead rather than a body to do, the following happens:

1. Your efforts as a leader are multiplied.

You can either hang on to leadership and stay where you are or you can release others into leadership and multiply your efforts AND energy. Releasing others into leadership expands your capacity to have a greater impact.

2. You become a mentor instead of a manager.

Managers are responsible for details and moving parts, while mentors are responsible for developing people into their own future.

3. The results will most likely exceed what you could’ve done alone.

Leaders who think ‘leaders’ are more likely to produce the kind of excellence that every endeavor deserves. If you find yourself frustrated by the level of excellence that you are seeing, perhaps you should consider giving more away.

There are more results that will occur when leaders begin thinking “leaders,” but I’ll stop here and leave room for discussion.

I encourage you to keep REACHING FORWARD in your leadership journey, but by all means—-invite others to join you!

Feel free to share other benefits of thinking “leaders.”

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How to Lead When the Unexpected Occurs

One of the principles that 21 years in the military taught me was that a plan is usually only good until the word go. Some of the greatest challenges leaders face are navigating through roadblocks, adjusting to change, adapting to unexpected circumstances and simply staying on track when things go awry. The word ‘awry’ means “away from the expected or proper direction; amiss; wrong: Our plans went awry” (Dictionary.com).

In other words, planning is important and necessary, but it’s not necessarily the principal thing. Of course, it is true that if we fail to plan we plan to fail. I love planning. I love to map out strategies and create road maps for success. I believe that planning and strategy are critical for the success of any team or organization. However, a leader must equip his or her team to achieve success even when the plans and strategies fail or unexpected turbulence occurs.

How to lead when the unexpected occurs:

1. Clearly communicate outcomes rather than ‘how tos’. People will find it difficult to function when the unexpected happens if they are always told what to do. Leaders who communicate ‘how tos’ rather than outcomes create fear of failure and lack of initiative in their people. When plans go awry, people will freeze up, hesitate, and get stuck not knowing what to do. However, when leaders communicate what the outcome should look like, people catch a vision for the end result and creativity is sparked. One caution here. Leaders must know their expectations are realistic. I write about that here.

2. Train your team to be mission-focused. In the military we always made two things very clear before getting into the strategy, which I recommend in any leadership environment. First, present the situation as it currently is. Describe things like the current state of the environment, the challenges in front of us, our strengths and weaknesses. Second, clearly communicate the mission in such a way that it is understood by EVERYONE! No one can be left out when it comes to knowing the mission. Every person must know the end game! What is it that we are called to do and why are we doing it? A clear and concise mission that is understood by everyone will minimize the distractions of the current situation and maximize the changes that are happening. People will learn that the success of the team is about accomplishing the mission and not focusing on trying to manage the distracting circumstances.

3. Empower subordinate leaders and team members to make decisions. When subordinate leaders and team members clearly know the mission and are free to use their gifts, talents, and ideas, the mission will be accomplished. Many leaders want things done, but only if it is done their way. These leaders are stifling creativity and initiative. The key to empowering subordinate leaders and keeping them on track is to ensure they have embraced the organizational values. Values are the guides for good decision-making. Remember, a plan doesn’t always go as planned. When the plan falls apart, people must be free to use critical thinking, ingenuity, imagination, and what I call a “get-it-done” mentality.

4. Inspire everyone with a compelling vision. One question that always comes to mind when things are going haywire is this: “Is it really worth it?” “Is it worth the resources, time and energy that we’re expending?” People have to know why the mission is important and where it is ultimately taking them. In order for a compelling vision to inspire others it must touch their heart. In his famous book “Visioneering” Andy Stanley writes “Vision provides motivation. The mundane begins to matter. The details, chores, and routines of life become a worthwhile means to a planned-for end.” When plans go awry, people need to be inspired by knowing why they should continue to problem-solve and work hard to “get-it-done.”

Communicate, train, empower and inspire! These are essential elements in leading through the havoc and confusion of a plan gone awry. Keep REACHING FORWARD even in the toughest of times!

Feel free to comment and share other insights on how to lead when the unexpected occurs.

Are You Listening To The Right People?

Psalm 37:30-31 – “The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path.” (NLT)

One question comes to mind when I read this passage.

How do I know I am listening to the right people?

The answer is found in the second verse; “They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path.” The word ‘law’ in this verse literally means “direction.” A godly person who is offering good advice (teaching right from wrong) is a person who has made God’s direction their own. In other words, their lives are reflective of God’s values and the teachings of scripture. Jesus said it like this, “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:8, NLT)

Whether we are looking for advice in our marriage, our career, major decisions, or simple adjustments in life, it is vital that we know who we’re listening to. The wisdom of God is what we need in our lives. If we are taking advice from people who are not making God’s direction their own, we are potentially headed down the wrong path. Get close to people who are producing godly fruit in their lives. Who you allow to influence you matters a great deal!

By the way, if you desire to help people by giving advice and teaching right from wrong, make sure your life is following God’s direction. First things first: Allow the Holy Spirit to mentor you and counsel you through the word of God. Adopt God’s direction as your own and the wisdom of God will lead you! When the counterfeit shows up, you will know it.

Feel free to share your thoughts.