The Healthy Stretch of Leadership
I’ve been leading people for over 20 years now and in that time I’ve discovered leadership stretches us in 5 different ways. Being stretched is a good thing, it’s the opposite of letting us retreat into ourselves. When we retreat into ourselves, we find what we think is safety, comfort, rest, protection, but this is just a facade. What really happens is we become unhealthy, self-serving, risk averse, lethargic leaders with poor attitudes and hearts that can grow toxic.
The apostle Paul issued the war cry of the stretched leader when he said ‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.’ (Phil 1:21) My life for the cause regardless of the cost, as the ultimate cost will be worth all I have. So how are we stretched as leaders and what happens to us when we aren’t?
I want to share with you what I’ve discovered about being stretched in leadership. Every leader begins the leadership journey with the same five components. The role of the leader is to steward these components toward anonymity, away from ambition, so as their influence is aligned to God’s influence, the cause they lead and the God whom they lead for is glorified. Allow me to elaborate.
Stretch 1 – Passion into Wisdom
Every leader is passionate when they first start. They are fired up, keen and excited, wanting to change the world. Passion however dilutes if it is not stretched. If passion is not pulled toward and informed by wisdom, passion at best fades to disengagement or at worst results in recklessness.
When a passionate leader presents an idea or initiative to their people they should be seeking the wisdom and not approval of those they lead. Approval does not necessarily result in the success of the idea, but wisdom always does. The passionate leader needs to seek out wisdom, for maturity to take place.
Stretch 2 – Trust into Integrity
Integrity is a leader’s greatest asset; it is from integrity that influence flows. Every leader begins leading with an empty integrity account, but they are trusted to have influence, all be it in small amounts. If a leader chooses integrity always, the trust they build increases.
Through every decision a leader either builds or bankrupts trust. Building trust is acting with integrity, so the trust others place in you is rewarded. To not build trust is to play the role of the hypocrite, pretending to be someone your followers will eventually discover you’re not. Leaders who seek integrity always hunger for the truth, whilst using it as a mirror.
Stretch 3 – Invincibility into Humility
When a leader realizes their weaknesses they begin to embrace humility. Every emerging leader is not aware of their weaknesses yet, as they’ve not been leading, but as a result they do not know what will disqualify them from leadership. They feel invincible.
It takes courage to examine yourself and have others do the same, to discover your limitations, blind spots and weaknesses. People frequently think humility is just thinking less of yourself. Humility isn’t thinking of yourself less it’s thinking about yourself less. Leadership is not about you, it’s about the God whom you lead for and the people you lead, period!
Stretch 4 – Confidence into Security
Even the most unconfident leaders begin with confidence. It’s why they decided to step onto the leadership platform. The direction they steward their confidence however determines how long they remain on and how far-reaching their platform becomes. Insecurity is not a lack of confidence; it’s the investment of confidence in the wrong things.
Every leader needs to explore what they have invested their confidence in and potentially reinvest it in something else. Insecurity breeds in us when we trust something that is untrustworthy, constantly changing, and ever unreliable. A leader needs to place their confidence in God and lead out of the security, which accompanies this.
Stretch 5 – Commitment to Resilience
Resilience is the most valuable trait a leader can have. Without it, leading is horrendously difficult. When a leader starts leading they are committed. That is until the first set back, knock down, disruption, heartbreak, frustration. It’s at that point they need to decide if they will grit their teeth and push on.
Resilience is the repeated and constant decision to not give up, to stay committed. A leader needs to constantly make this decision and in so doing, deepens the well from which they lead. Commitments can come and go, or rise and fall on any number of variables, but resilience is a white-knuckle refusal to give up. The greatest leaders are resilient.
Leading people will stretch you, it’s meant to, but you need to ensure you’re stretched in the right way. For more on this and to explore these and other concepts further you can pickup my latest book The Anonymous Leader: An Unambitious Pursuit of Influence.
How are you stretched as a leader and what is the result of that stretching in your influence?
It’s an honor today to host Ralph Mayhew. Ralph and I connected through the blog world several months ago at Joe Lalonde’s site. Despite living on the other side of the world (Ralph lives in Australia), we share several common bonds: a passion for leadership and a passion for Christ. I hope Ralph’s post today challenges you to become a better leader. His new book is fantastic! And I’d highly recommend you pick up your own copy if you’re serious about becoming a better leader.
Ralph Mayhew’s brand new Amazon bestseller The Anonymous Leader: An Unambitious Pursuit of Influence, offers a fresh understanding of leadership and influence, and is available at www.theanonymousleader.com. He also blogs at www.ralphmayhew.com.