Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. Many different types of leaders have impacted my life: pastors, youth pastors, parents, principals, teachers, coaches, bosses, friends, managers. Some of these have been great; others…not so much!
What separates good leaders from bad leaders? You can probably spit out several obvious responses with little effort. Good leaders treat everyone with respect; they lead by example; and they aren’t hypocrites.
However, if you are a leader, this isn’t the question you should be asking. Instead, you should be concerned with what makes a great leader. I have outlined below three ways to guarantee your leadership will be nothing more than average. By simply doing the opposite, you can ensure your leadership is both exceptional and effective. These are not necessarily tailored toward ministry, but they certainly are applicable in many contexts, including ministry.
Convince Yourself that Intentions Are What Is Important,
Have you ever been misunderstood? I’ll be the first to admit that the impact of what I say is sometimes divergent from what I intended. This can present significant challenges in non-verbal communication such as text messages and emails. Many leaders’ attitude is as follows: “If someone misunderstands me or gets offended, so long as I didn’t intend to offend them, it’s not my problem.” Great leaders approach communication differently. Their primary concern is how their message is received, irrespective of what they intended.
Effective leaders understand that how you say something is just as important as what you say. And they are concerned with their impact, not just their intent. Have you ever stopped to consider that your message may be perceived in a way that undermines what you intended?
Treat Everyone Exactly the Same
Though it seems obvious, two people can perceive the exact same actions or words occurring in the exact same setting in opposite ways. If person A is making a presentation and you don’t ask any questions, he may view this as you not supporting him. Person B, however, may view your asking of questions as an attempt undermine to his authority. Similarly, if there is a problem that needs to be addressed, a meeting in your office might cause person A to resent you, but this might be exactly what person B needs.
Effective leaders know how to encourage and correct each person in their organization. They know how to tailor a message to a particular person or audience to obtain the desired result. Are willing to learn about each person you oversee and impact in order to communicate more effectively?
Don’t Worry about Power Dynamics
When asked to rank their own importance within their organization, most people rank themselves lower than their inferiors do. If you don’t realize the level of your own authority (or power) and how this should impact your behavior, you cannot effectively lead. Why? Because you do not know what impact you have on others.
As an example, imagine you are an associate pastor who has spent a significant number of years at one church. You must understand that a joke poking fun at someone might be appropriate if directed at a fellow staff member yet could be very inappropriate if directed at a congregant or teen. The appropriateness of having a one-on-one meeting in your office with someone is likely dependent on factors such as age and gender. An interaction that leaves a college-aged male intern feeling like you are his friend may make your female secretary very uncomfortable. Power dynamics are multi-faceted and dynamic. That is, they change over time.
Effective leaders are cognizant of how factors like age, gender, experience, and title can impact communication. As their role within an organization changes, great leaders understand they often must modify their approach. Do you understand your role within your organization and, more importantly, how that should affect your conduct?
Leadership comes with authority and responsibility. Both are important factors in determining how you can and should communicate with members of your organization. If you want to be an effective leader, keep these three points in mind. If you are ok with being mediocre, feel free to ignore them.
Read more about LEADERSHIP at P4G…
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