Leadership is a gift, but it is only for a season, so lean in.
When I was starting out, I thought leaders had to be pretty close to perfect. I remember the leaders I admired always seemed to say the right things, make great decisions and know exactly what to do next. I constantly put pressure on myself to live up to these perfect standards (and inevitably fell short).
I now know none of that is true. In fact, there are several myths about leadership, that when subscribed to, sabotage what otherwise would be a great leader.
If I could go back in time and give myself some advice about how to lean in and take advantage of the season God had placed me in, here are some things that I know I would say.
1. It’s not about being the smartest. It’s more about asking the right questions.
When you’re the only one talking, you’re not really leading. You’re dictating. This is a dangerous place to be as a leader. Leaders learn to glean the information from the room, meaning, it’s not your job to know everything. It’s your job to pull out the best from those around you.
2. It’s not about being the most talented. It’s about activating the genius in others.
The most effective leaders are like coaches. They get their athletes and their teams to perform at exceptional levels. To do this, they must enable those around them to understand the context they’re in (a view that only someone with your vantage point has), and then step into that and do what is needed at a given point and time.
3. It’s not about being out in front of a room. It’s about making space for others to lead.
Great leaders aren’t just found at the front. Give the mic to others and you’ll find more fulfillment.
4. It’s not about doing as much as you can. It’s about stripping away all the distractions.
Leadership is an endurance sport. It takes focus and clarity. If you make it your singular mission to put those two things at the forefront, it will keep you from burning out too early in your calling and in what God has for you.
5. It’s not about measuring effort. It’s about measuring progress.
Leaders don’t confuse productivity with progress. Rather, they understand results and outcomes are evidence of good habits and great thinking. The best way to do this is to set goals and then track them. Celebrate the progress along the way and not just the outcome.
Finally, here’s my advice to the young leaders who are reading: Don’t take life too seriously, and don’t believe the lie that leaders are anything more than ordinary human beings placed in moments and seasons of influence to bring about a specific change in the world. The second you begin to think that you have to be more than human, you’ll forget what leadership is really all about. And that is leading the people that God has placed right in front of you. Leadership is a gift, but it is only for a season, so lean in. I believe the adventure is absolutely worth the risk.