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What makes a person a good leader? A leader that others are willing to follow and work with to accomplish tremendous things in the world and in the Church today? What is it that separates an effective from an ineffective leader?
The answer is the character qualities of the individual person. The character of the leader is what makes a leader great. A great leader being someone who attracts people and makes things happen.
Some leaders are born; others are not. But both need to grow and develop as leaders. It is important that a potential leader recognize, develop, and refine the personal characteristics needed to be a truly effective leader, the kind people want to follow. Leadership development is essential.
Leadership development is an inside job. You start by taking a really good look at who you really are on the inside and then make adjustments that will be seen on the outside – in your behaviour, attitude, values, morals, and approach to others with whom you relate.
Leadership development is approached from the inside out. Leaders are effective because of who they are on the inside – in the qualities that make them up as people. And to be an effective leader people will follow, people have to develop these character traits from the inside out.
Everything rises and falls on leadership. And leadership is developed from the inside out. If you can become the leader you ought to be on the inside you will be able to become the leader you want to be on the outside. And, people will want to follow you.
CHARACTERISTIC #1: Character
How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character. Crisis does not necessarily make character, but it certainly does reveal it.
Adversity is a crossroads that makes a person choose one of two paths: character or compromise.
Every time he chooses character, he becomes stronger even if that choice brings negative consequences.
The development of character is at the heart of our development not just as leaders, but as human beings.
Here is what every person should know about character…
1> Character is more than talk
Anyone can say that they have integrity, but action is the real indicator of character. Your character determines who you are. Who you are determines what you see. What you see determines what you do. That is why you can never separate a leader’s character from his actions. If a leader’s actions and intentions are continually working against each other, then look to his character to find out why.
2> Talent is a Gift, but Character is a Choice
We have no control over a lot of things in life. We don’t get to choose our parents. We don’t select the location or circumstances of our birth or upbringing. We don’t get to pick our talents or IQ. But we do choose our character. In fact, we create it every time we make choices – to cop out or dig out of a hard situation, to bend the truth or stand under the weight of it, to take the easy money or pay the price. These daily choices that we make determine our ongoing character development.
As you live your life and make choices today, you are continuing to create your character.
3> Character Brings Lasting Success with People
True leadership always involves other people. As the leadership proverb says, “If you think you are leading and no one is following you, then you are only taking a walk.” Followers do not trust leaders whose character they know to be flawed, and they will not continue following them.
4> Leaders Cannot Rise Above the Limitations of Their Character
Have you ever seen highly talented people suddenly fall apart when they achieve a certain level of success? The key to that phenomenon is character. People who achieve great heights but lack the bedrock or foundational character to sustain them through the stress and success are headed for disaster. They end up in one or more of the four A’s: Arrogance, painful feelings of aloneness, destructive adventure-seeking, or adultery. Each is a terrible price to pay for weak character.
These cracks in your character will not go away with time or disappear with success. They will only become greater and more evident. Unaddressed cracks in character only get deeper and more destructive with time.
To improve your character:
1> Search for the cracks
Spend some time looking at the major areas of your life (work, marriage, family, ministry, etc.), and identify anywhere you might have cut corners, compromised, or let people down. Write down every instance you can recall from the past few months.
2> Look for patterns
Examine the responses that you just wrote down. Is there a particular area where you have a weakness, or do you have a type of problem that keeps surfacing? Detectable patterns will help you diagnosed character issues.
3> Face the music
The beginning of character repair comes when you face your flaws, apologize, and deal with the consequences of your actions. Create a list of people to whom you need to apologize for your actions, then follow through with sincere apologies.
It is one thing to face up to your past actions. It is another to build a new future. Now that you have identified any areas of weakness in your character, create a plan that will prevent you from making the same mistakes again.
CHARACTERISTIC #2: Charisma
“How can a person have charisma? Be come concerned about making others feel good about themselves than you are making them feel good about you.” Dan Reiland
Most people think of charisma as something mystical, almost undefinable. Some think it is a quality that comes at birth or not at all. But that is simply not true. Charism, plainly stated, is the ability to draw people to you. And like other character traits, it can be developed.
To make yourself the kind of person who attracts others, you need to personify these pointers:
1> Love Life
People enjoy and follow leaders who love and enjoy life. Think of the people you want to spend time with. How would you describe them? Grumpy? Bitter? Depressed? Of course not! They are celebrators, not complainers. They are passionate about life.
If you want to attract people, you need to be like the people you enjoy being with.
2> Put a “10” on Every Person’s Head
One of the best things you can do for people – which also attracts them to you – is to expect the best of them. Some call it “putting a 10 on everyone’s head.” It helps others think more highly of themselves, and at the same time, it also helps you to view them in a positive light. You need to see good in every person.
If you appreciate others, encourage them, and help them reach their potential, they will love you for it and follow you as a leader.
3> Give People Hope
French General Napoleon Bonaparte characterized leaders as “dealers in hope.” Like all great leaders, he knew that hope is the greatest of all possessions. If you can be the person who bestows that gift on others, they will be attracted to you. They will be grateful. They will follow you.
4> Share Yourself
People love leaders who share themselves and their life journeys. As you lead people, give of yourself. Share wisdom, resources, and even special occasions. When you invite others into your special times (a training event, a fishing trip, your holidays…) you are telling them that they are important and personally valuable to you.
When it comes to charisma, the bottom line is other-mindedness. Leaders who think about others and their concerns before thinking of themselves exhibit charisma.
Reflecting on this character trait, how do you rate yourself when it comes to charisma?
Are other people naturally attracted to you? Are you well liked?
If not, you may possess one of these roadblocks to charisma:
PRIDE – Nobody wants to follow a leader who thinks he is better than everyone else
INSECURITY – If you are uncomfortable with who you are, others will be too
MOODINESS – If people never know what to expect from you, they stop expecting anything
PERFECTIONISM – People respect the desire for excellence, but dread totally unrealistic expectations
CYNICISM – People don’t want to be rained on by someone who sees a cloud around every silver lining
Staying away from these qualities will help anyone to cultivate charisma.
To improve your charisma, do the following:
1> Change your focus
Observe your interaction with people during the next few days. As you talk to others, determine how much of your conversation is concentrated on yourself. Determine to tip the balance in favour of focusing on others.
2> Play the first impression game
Try an experiment. The next time you meet someone for the first time, try your best to make a good impression. Learn the person’s name. Focus on his interests. Be positive. And most important, treat him as a “10.” If you can do this for a day, you can do it every day. And this will increase your charisma overnight.
3> Share yourself
Make it your long-term goal to share your resources with others. Think about how you can add value to five people in your life this year. They can be family members, colleagues, employees, or friends. Provide resources to help them grow personally and professionally, and share your personal journey with them.
CHARACTERISTIC #3: Commitment
People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at a personal cost and even sacrifice. The world has never seen a great leader who lacked commitment.
If you want to be an effective leader, you have to be committed. True commitment inspires and attracts people. It shows them that you have conviction. They will believe in you only if you believe in your cause.
What is the true nature of commitment? Three observations that will help you to grab hold of this essential character trait…
1> Commitment Starts in the Heart
Some people want everything to be perfect before they are willing to commit themselves to anything. But commitment always precedes achievement. A leader is committed to do whatever is necessary to see the goal reached regardless of the personal cost to himself.
Commitment starts in the heart of the leader. Heart is what separates the good from the great. So, if you want to make a difference in other people’s lives as a leader, look into your heart to see if you are really commitment to the cause, whatever your cause may be.
2> Commitment Is Tested by Action
It is one thing to talk about commitment. It is another to do something about it. The only real measure of commitment is action. Someone once said, “Nothing is easier than saying words. Nothing is harder than living them day after day.”
3> Commitment Opens the Door to Achievement
As a leader, you will face plenty of obstacles and opposition – if you don’t already. And there will be times when commitment is the only thing that carries you forward. If you want to get anywhere worthwhile, you must be committed.
“Commitment is the enemy of resistance, for it is the serious promise to press on, to get up, no matter how many times you are knocked down.” David McNally
When it comes to commitment, there are really only four types of people:
1> Cop-outs. People who have no goals and do not commit
2> Holdouts. People who don’t know they can reach their goals, so they are afraid to commit
3> Dropouts. People who start toward a goal but quit when the going gets tough
4> All-outs. People who set goals, commit to them, and pay the price to reach them
What kind of person are you? Have you been reaching your goals? Are you achieving all that you believe you can? Do people believe in you and follow you readily?
If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” the problem may be your level of commitment.
To improve your commitment, do the following:
1> Measure it
Sometimes we think we are committed to something, yet our actions indicate otherwise. Take your calendar and your financial budget… spend a few hours tallying up how you spend your time and where you spend your money. Look at how much time you spend at work, in service to your community, with family, in health and recreation activities, and so forth. Figure out how much money you spend on living expenses, entertainment, personal development, and giving.
All these things are true measures of your commitment. You may be seriously surprised at what you find.
2> Know what’s worth dying for
One of the questions every leader must ask himself is, “What am I willing to die for? If it came down to it, what in life would you not be able to stop doing, no matter what the consequences were?”
Spend some time alone answering those questions and meditating on what you find and your thoughts. Write down what you discover. Then see if your actions match your ideals.
3> Use the Edison method
If taking the first step toward commitment is a problem, try doing what Thomas Edison did. When he had a good idea for an invention, he would call a press conference to announce it. Then he’d go into his lab and invent it. Make your plans public, and you might be more committed to following through with them.
CHARACTERISTIC #4: Communication
If a leader can’t get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn’t even matter.
John Maxwell states: “Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple.”
Everyone who is wanting to be a leader needs to possess the ability to communicate. The success of your relationships, your friendships, your marriage, and your job, depends greatly on it. People will not follow you if they don’t know what you want or where you are going.
You can be a more effective communicator if you follow these four basic rules:
1> Simplify Your Message
Communication is not just what you say. It is also knowing how you say it. Contrary to what educators teach, the key to effective communication is simplicity. Forget about impressing people with big words or complex sentences. If you want to connect with people, keep it simple.
Napoleon Bonaparte used to tell his secretes, “Be clear, be clear, be clear.”
A story about a junior business executive gives a blueprint for effective communication. The young man was invited to speak to a large group for the first time, so he approached his mentor for advice about giving a good speech. The older man said, “Write an exciting opening that will grab everybody in your audience. Then you write a dramatic summary and closing that will make the people want to act. Then put them as close together as possible.”
2> See the Person
Effective communicators focus on the people with whom they are communicating. They know it is impossible to effectively communicate to an audience without knowing something about them.
As you communicate with people – whether individuals or groups – ask yourself these questions: Who is my audience? What are their questions? What needs to be accomplished? And, how much time do I have? If you want to become a better communicator, become audience oriented. People believe in great communicators because great communicators believe in people.
3> Show the Truth
Credibility precedes great communication. There are two ways to convey credibility to your audience. First, believe in what you say. Ordinary people become extraordinary communicators when they are fired up with conviction. The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire. Second, live what you say. There is no greater credibility than conviction in action.
4> Seek a Response
As you communicate, never forget that the goal of all communication is action. If you dump a bunch of information on people, you are not communicating. Every time you speak to people, give them something to feel, something to remember, and something to do. If you are successful in doing that, your ability to lead others will go to a new level.
Let’s reflect on this a bit…
A leader must get things done through others. Therefore, the leader must have the ability to inspire and motivate, guide and direct, and listen. It’s only through communication that the leader is able to cause others to internalize his or her vision and implement it.
How do you rate your ability to communicate with others?
Is communication a priority for you?
Can you inspire and motivate people?
Do you express your vision in such a way that people are able to understand, internalize, and implement it?
When you talk to people one-on-one, are you able to connect with them?
How about with groups?
If you know in your heart that your vision is great, yet people still do not buy into it, your problem may be an inability to communicate effectively.
To improve your communication skills, do the following:
1> Be clear as a bell
Examine an email, text, or other item that you have recently written. Are your sentences short and direct, or do they meander? Will your readers be able to grasp the words you have chosen, or will they have to scramble for a dictionary? Have you used the fewest words possible?
To a communicator, your best friends are simplicity and clarity. Write your next piece of communication keeping both in mind.
2> Refocus your attention
During the coming week, pay attention to your focus when you communicate. It is on you, your material, or your audience? If it’s not on people, you need to change it. Think about their needs, questions, and desires. Meet people where they are, and you will be a better communicator.
3> Live your message
Are there any discrepancies between what you communicate and what you do? Talk to a few trustworthy people and ask them whether you are living your message. Your spouse, a mentor, or a close friend may be able to see things that you are blind to. Receive their comments without defensiveness. Then purpose to make changes in your life to be more consistent.
CHARACTERISTIC #5: Competence
Competence goes beyond words. It’s the leader’s ability to say it, plan it, and do it in such a way that others know that you know how – and know that they want to follow you.
We all admire people who display high competence, whether they are precision craftsmen, world-class athletes, or successful business or church leaders. But the truth is that you can grow in your area of interest and expertise and become more competent.
If you want to cultivate this quality, here is what you need to do:
1> Show Up Every Day
There is a saying, “All things come to him who waits.” Unfortunately, sometimes it’s just the leftovers from the people who got there first. Responsible people show up when they are expected. But highly competent people take it a step farther. They don’t show up in body only. They come ready to play every day – no matter how they feel, what kind of circumstances they face, or how difficult they expect the game to be.
2> Keep Improving
All highly competent people continually search for ways to keep learning, growing, and improving. They do that by asking ‘why.’ After all, the person who knows ‘how’ will always have a job, but the person who knows ‘why’ will always be the leader.
3> Follow Through with Excellence
I have never met a person who I would consider competent who didn’t follow through. Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skilled execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.
Performing at a high level of excellence is always a choice, an act of the will. As leaders, we expect our people to follow through when we hand them the ball. They expect that and a whole lot more from us as their leaders.
4> Accomplish More than Expected
Highly competent people always go the extra mile. For them, good enough is never good enough.
In the book, “Men in Mid-life Crisis,” Jim Conway writes that some people feel “a weakening of the need to be a great man and an increasing feeling of ‘let’s just get through this the best way we can.’ Never mind hitting home runs. Let’s just get through the ball game without getting beaned.”
Leaders cannot ford to have that kind of attitude. They need to do the job well, and then some – day in and day out.
5> Inspire Others
Highly competent leaders do more than perform at a high level. They inspire and motivate other people to do the same. While some people rely on relational skills alone to survive, effective leaders combine these skills with high competence to take their organizations and teams to new levels of excellence and influence.
So, where do you stand when it comes to getting the job done? Do you attack everything you do with fervour and perform at the highest level possible? Or is good enough sometimes good enough?
When you think about people who are competent, you are considering only three types of people:
1> Those who an see what needs to happen
2> Those who can make it happen
3> Those who can make things happen when it really counts
When it comes to your job or your profession, where do you consistently perform? Are you a thinker, a doer, or a clutch player? The better you are, the greater potential for influence you will have with your people.
To improve your competence, do the following:
1> Get your head in the game
If you have been mentally or emotionally detached from your work, it is time to reengage.
First, rededicate yourself to your current job. Determine to give it an appropriate amount of your undivided attention.
Second, figure out why you have become detached. Do you need new challenges? Are you in conflict with your boss or coworkers? Are you in a dead-end job? Identify the source of the problem, and create a plan to resolve it.
2> Redefine the standard
If you are not performing at a consistently high level, reexamine your standards. Are you shooting too low? Do you cut corners? If so, hit your mental reset button, and outline more demanding expectations of yourself.
3> Find three ways to improve
Nobody keeps improving without being inventional about it. Do a little research to find three things you can do to improve your professional and leadership skills. Then dedicate the time and money to follow through on them.
You are only as good as your private standards. When was the last time you gave a task your absolute best even though nobody but you would know about it? This is where competence starts.
CHARACTERISTIC #6: Courage
Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian, once said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during World War Two, said: “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities … because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
Someone once wrote, “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”
Every great leader exhibits courage in their personal lives and in the decisions they make in their chosen field – business, research, government or Church. Whenever you see significant progress in an organization, you know that the leader made courageous decisions. A leadership position does not give a person courage, but courage can give him a leadership position.
Larry Osborne, a pastor in California, observes, “The most striking thing about highly effective leaders is how little they have in common. What one swears by, another warns against. But one trait stands out: the willingness to risk.”
Some truths about courage:
1> Courage Begins with an Inward battle
Every test you face as a leader begins within you. The test of courage is no different. All the significant battles are waged within self.
Courage is not an absence of fear. It is doing what you are afraid to do. It’s having the power to let go of the familiar and forge ahead into new territory.
2> Courage Is making Things Right, Not Just Smoothing Them Over
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Great leaders have good people skills, and they can get people to compromise and work together. But they also take a stand when needed.
If you don’t have the ability to see when to stand up and the conviction to do it, you will never be an effective leader. Your dedication to potential must remain stronger than your desire to appease others.
3> Courage in a Leader Inspires Commitment from Followers
“Courage is contagious,” asserts evangelist Billy Graham. “When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.”
A show of courage by any person encourages others. But a show of courage by a leader inspires. It makes people want to follow him.
“Leadership is the expression of courage that compels people to do the right thing.”
4> Your Life Expands in proportion to Your Courage
Fear limits a leader.
Roman historian Tacitus wrote, “The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.”
But courage has the opposite effect. It opens doors, and that’s one of its most wonderful benefits. Perhaps that is why British theologian John Henry Newman said, “Fear not that your life will come to an end but that it will never have a beginning.”
Courage not only gives you a good beginning, but it also provides a better future.
What is ironic is that those who don’t have the courage to take risks and those who do, experience the same amount of fear in life. The only difference is that those who don’t take chances worry about trivial things. If you’re going to have to overcome your fear and doubts anyway, you might as well make it count.
A small reflection:
Eleanor Roosevelt acknowledged, “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this hour. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
How do you tend to handle fear? Do you embrace it? Are stretching experiences a regular part of your daily life? Or have you retreated so far into your comfort zone that you don’t ever even feel fear? How must you change to develop a spirit of courage in your life?
Some suggestions – to improve your courage, do the following:
1> Face the music
Go out and do something stretching simply for the sake of growing in courage. Skydive. Speak in front of an audience (most people’s greatest fear). Perform a play. Go white-water rafting. Rock climb. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it causes you to face a genuine fear.
2> Talk to that person
Most people are avoiding confrontation with someone in their lives – an employee, a relative, or a coworker. If that’s true for you, talk to that person this week. Don’t dump on him or abuse him. Speak the truth in love. You won’t be so afraid to do it is you have already sky-dived, rafted…
3> Take a giant step
Maybe you have been afraid to make a career move. If you have known in your heart that you should have changed jobs or started a new business, now is the time to face up to it. Take the time to really look at it. Talk to your spouse, your mentor, and a trusted friend or two. If it is the right thing to do, then do it.
A nineteenth-century circuit-riding preacher named Peter Cartwright was preparing to deliver a sermon one Sunday when he was warned that President Andrew Jackson was in attendance, and he was asked to keep his remarks inoffensive. During that message, he included these statements: “I have been told that Andrew Jackson is in this congregation. And I have been asked to guard my remarks. What I must say is that Andrew Jackson will go to hell is he doesn’t repent of his sins.”
After the sermon, Jackson strode up to Cartwright. “Sir,” the president said, “if I had a regiment of men like you I could whip the world.”
A courageous act often brings unexpected positive results.
CHARACTERISTIC #7: Discernment
One of my mentors use to say, “Smart leaders believe only half of what they hear. Discerning leaders know which half to believe.”
“The first rule of holes: When you’re in one, stop digging.”
Molly Ivins, Columnist
Effective leaders need discernment
Discernment can be described as the ability to find the root of the matter, and it relies on intuition as well as rational thought.
Discernment is an indispensable quality for any leader who desires to maximize effectiveness. It helps to do several important things:
1> Discover the Root Issues
Leaders of large organizations (even churches) must cope with tremendous chaos and complexity every day. They are never able to gather enough information to get a complete picture of just about anything. As a result, they have to rely on discernment.
Researcher Henry Mintzberg of McGill University stated, “Organizational effectiveness does not lie in that narrow-minded concept called rationality. It lies in the blend of clearheaded logic and powerful intuition.”
Discernment enables a leader to see a partial picture, fill in the missing pieces intuitively, and find the real heart of a matter.
2> Enhance Your Problem Solving
If you can see the root issue of a problem, you can solve it. The closer a leader is to his area of gifting, the stronger his intuition and ability to see the root cause. If you want to tap into your discernment potential, work in your area of strength.
3> Evaluate Your Options for Maximum Impact
Management consultant Robert Heller has this advice: “Never ignore a gut feeling, but never believe that it’s enough.” Discernment isn’t relying on intuition alone, nor is it relying only on intellect. Discernment enables you to use both your gut and your head to find the best option for your people and your organization.
4> Multiply Your Opportunities
People who lack discernment are seldom in the right place at the right time. Although great leaders often appear to be lucky to some observers, I believe leaders create their own “luck” as the result of discernment, that willingness to use their experience and follow their instincts.
A number of questions:
- Are you a discerning leader?
- When faced with complex issues, can you readily identify the heart of the matter?
- Are you able to see root causes of difficult problems without having to get every bit of information?
- Do you trust your intuition and rely on it as much as you do your intellect and experience?
If not, you need to cultivate it. Value nontraditional thinking. Embrace change, ambiguity, and uncertainty. Broaden your horizons experientially. Your intuition will only increase with use.
To improve your discernment, do the following:
1> Analyze past successes
Look at some problems you solved successfully in the past. What was the root issue in each problem? What enabled you to succeed? If you can capture the heart of the matter in a few words, you can probably learn to do it with future issues.
2> Learn how others think
Which great leaders do you admire? Pick some whose profession or gifting is similar to yours, and read their biographies. By learning how other discerning leaders think, you can become more discerning.
3> Listen to your gut
Try to recall times when your intuition”spoke” to you and was correct (you may or may not have listened to it at the time). What do these experiences have in common? Look for a pattern that may give you insight into into your intuitive ability.
CHARACTERISTIC #8: Focus
In leadership, the sharper your focus, the sharper you are and the sharper your leadership. As someone once said, “If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”
Margaret Mead once said: “What people say, what people do, and what they say they do are entirely different things.”
It is very apparent that people who are great at what they do have cultivated a kind of concentration unknown to most people. They have this aspect of character we call “focus.”
What does it take to have the focus required to be a truly effective leader? The keys are: priorities and concentration. A leader who knows his priorities but lacks concentration knows what to do but never gets it done. If he has concentration but no priorities, he has excellence without progress. But when he harnesses both, he has the potential to achieve great things.
Many people in leadership positions major in minor things. So, the important question is, “How should you focus your time and energy?” Use these guidelines to help you:
1> Focus 70% on Strengths
Effective leaders who reach their potential spend more time focusing on what they do well than on what they do wrong. Leadership expert Peter Drucker notes, “The great mystery isn’t that people do things badly but that they occasionally do a few things well. The only thing that is universal is incompetence. Strength is always specific! Nobody ever commented, for example, that the great violinist Jascha Heifetz probably couldn’t play the trumpet very well.”
To be successful, focus on your strengths and develop them. That’s where you should pour your time, energy, and resources.
2> Focus 25% on New Things
Growth equals change. If you want to get better, you have to keep changing and improving. That means stepping out into new areas. If you dedicate time to new things related to areas of strength, then you will grow as a leader. Don’t forget: in leadership, if you are through growing, you are through.
3> Focus 5% on Areas of Weakness
Nobody can entirely avoid working in areas of weakness. The key is to minimize it as much as possible, and leaders can do it by delegating.
How would you rate yourself in the area of focus?
Have you been majoring in minor things?
Have you spent so much time shoring up your weaknesses that you have failed to build up your strengths?
Do the people with the least potential monopolize your time?
If so, you have probably lost focus.
To get back on track with your focus, do these things:
1> Work on yourself – You are your greatest asset or detriment.
2> Work at your priorities – You will have to fight for them
3> Work at your strengths – You can reach your potential
4> Work with your contemporaries – You can’t be effective alone
To improve your focus, do the following:
1> Shift to strengths
Make a list of three or four things you do well in your job. What percentage of your time do you do spending them? What percentage of your resources is dedicated to these areas of strength?
Devise a plan to make changes, allowing you to dedicate 70% of your time to your strengths. If you can’t, it may be time to reassess your job or career.
2> Staff your weaknesses
Identify three or four activities necessary for your job that you don’t do well. Determine how you can delegate the jobs to others. Will it require hiring staff? Or finding volunteers? Can you partner with a coworker to share responsibilities? Develop a plan.
3> Create an edge
Now that you have looked at priorities, think about concentration. What would it take for you to go to the next level in your main area of strength? What new tools do you need?
Rethink how you do things, and be willing to make sacrifices. Time and money spent to take you to the next level are the best investment you can make.
And, remember, divided focus always works against you.
CHARACTERISTIC #9: Generosity
No person was ever honoured for what he received. Honour has been the reward for what he gave” Calvin Coolidge, American President
“Giving is the highest level of living.” John Maxwell
Nothing speaks to others more loudly or serves them better than generosity from a leader. True generosity is not an occasional event. It comes from the heart and permeates every aspect of a leader’s life, touching his time, money, talents, and possessions. Effective leaders, the kind that people want to follow, don’t gather things just for themselves; they do it in order to give to others.
Cultivate the quality of generosity in your life – here is how to do that:
1> Be Grateful for Whatever You Have
It’s hard for a person to be generous when he is not satisfied with what he has. Generosity rises out of contentment, and that does not come with acquiring more.
If you are not content with little, you won’t be content with a lot. And, if you are not generous with little, you won’t suddenly change if you become wealthy.
2> Put People First
The measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him or her, but the number of people they serve. Generosity requires putting others first. If you can do that, giving become much easier.
3> Don’t Allow the Desire For Possessions to Control You
People today can be divided into three groups: “Haves, have-nots, and have not paid for what they have.” More and more people are becoming enslaved to the desire to acquire.
Author Richard Foster writes, “Owning something is an obsession in our culture. If we own it, we feel we can control it; and if we can control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure. The idea is an illusion.”
If you want to be in charge of your heart, don’t allow possessions to take charge of you.
4> Regard Money as a Resource
Someone once said that when it comes to money, you can’t win. If you focus on making it, you are materialistic. If you try to but don’t make any, you’re a loser. If you make a lot and keep it, you’re a miser. If you make it and spend it, you’re a spendthrift. If you don’t care about making any, you are unambitious. If you make a lot of it and still have it when you die, you’re a fool – for trying to take it with you.
The only way to really win with money is to hold it loosely – and be generous with it to accomplish things of value. As E. Stanley Jones said, “Money is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. If it gets on top and you get under it, you will become its slave.”
5> Develop the Habit of Giving
In 1889, millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie wrote an essay called “Gospel of Wealth.” In it he said that the life of a wealthy person should have two periods: a time of acquiring wealth and one of redistributing it. The only way to maintain an attitude of generosity is to make it your habit to give – your time, attention, money, and resources.
Richard Foster advices, “Just the very act of letting go of money, or some other treasure, does something within us. It destroys the demon greed.”
If you are enslaved by greed, you cannot lead.
So, some personal reflection:
Are you a generous leader?
Do you continually look for ways to add value to others?
Are you giving money to something greater than yourself?
And to whom are you giving your time?
Are you pouring your life into others?
Are you helping those who cannot help you or give anything in return?
Writer John Bunyan affirmed, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”
If you are not giving in the small areas of your life, you are probably not as generous a leader as you could be.
To improve your generosity, do the following:
1> Give something away
Find out what kind of hold your possessions have on you. Take something you truly value, think of someone you care about who could benefit from it, and give it to him. If you can do it anonymously, even better.
2> Put your money to work
If you know someone with the vision to do something really great – something that will positively impact the lives of others – provide resources for him to accomplish it. Put your money to work for something that will outlive you.
3> Find someone to mentor
Once you reach a certain level in your leadership, the most valuable thing you have to give is yourself. Find someone to pour your life into. Then give him time and resources to become a better leader.
CHARACTERISTIC #10: Initiative
“Of all the things a leader should fear, complacency should head the list.” John Maxwell
“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Conrad Hilton, Hotel Executive
Leaders are responsible for initiating a connection with their followers. But that’s not the only area where leaders must show initiative. They must always look for opportunities and be ready to take action.
What qualities do leaders possess that enable them to make things happen? There are at least four:
1> They Know What They Want
A comedian once said, “Once I make up my mind, I’m full of indecision.” Unfortunately, that’s the way many people actually operate. But no one can be both indecisive and effective. The starting point of all achievement is desire. If you are going to be an effective leader you have got to know what you want. That’s the only way you will recognize opportunity when it comes.
2> They Push Themselves to Act
There is an old saying, “You can if you will.” Initiators don’t wait for other people to motivate them. They know it is their responsibility to push themselves beyond their comfort zone. And they make it a regular practice.
That’s why someone such as former United States President Theodore Roosevelt, one of the great initiating leaders of the twentieth century, was able to say, “There is nothing brilliant or outstanding in my record, except perhaps this one thing: I do the things that I believe ought to be done … And when I make up my mind to do a thing, I act.”
3> They Take More Risks
When leaders know what they want and can push themselves to act, they still have one more hurdle. That’s willingness to take risks. Proactive people always take risks. But one of the reasons good leaders are willing to take risks is that they recognize there is a price for not initiating too. President John F. Kennedy asserted: “There are risks and costs to a program of action, but they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”
4> They Make More Mistakes
The good news for initiators is that they make things happen. The bad news is that they make lots of mistakes. IBM founder Thomas J. Watson recognized that when he remarked, “The way to success is to double your failure rate.”
Even though initiating leaders experience more failure, they don’t let it bother them. The greater to potential, the greater the chance for failure. Senator Robert Kennedy summed it up: “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” If you want to achieve great things as a leader, you must be willing to initiate and put yourself on the line.
Are you an initiator? Are you constantly on the lookout for opportunity, or do you wait for it to come to you?
Are you willing to take steps based on your best instincts? Or do you analyze everything? Former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca said, “Even the right decision is the wrong decision if it is made too late.”
When was the last time you initiated something significant in your life? If you haven’t pushed yourself lately and gotten out of your comfort zone, you may need to jump-start your initiative.
To improve your initiative, try the following:
1> Change your mind-set
If you lack initiative, recognize that the problem comes from the inside, not from others. Determine why you hesitate to take action. Does risk scare you? Are you discouraged by past failures? Do you not see the potential that opportunity offers?
Find the source of your hesitation, and address it. You won’t be able to move forward on the outside until you can move forward on the inside.
2> Don’t wait for opportunity to knock
Opportunity does not come to the door knocking. You have got to go out and look for it. Take stock of your assets, talents, and resources. Doing that will give you an idea of your potential. Now, spend every day for a week looking for opportunities. Where do you see needs? Who is looking for the expertise you have? What unreached group of people is practically dying for what you have to offer? Opportunity is everywhere.
3> Take the next step
It is one thing to see opportunity. It’s another thing to do something about it. As someone once quipped, “everyone has a great idea in the shower. But only a few people step out, dry off, and do something about it.” Pick the best opportunity your see, and take it as far as you can. Don’t stop until you have done everything you can to make it happen.
It will take a bold step from you today to reach your potential tomorrow.
CHARACTERISTIC #11: Listening
To connect with their hearts, use your ears.
“The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people.”
Woodrow Wilson, American President
“A good leader encourages followers to tell him what he needs to know, not what he wants to hear.” John Maxwell
One of the Laws of Leadership is that the leader must touch a heart before they ask for a hand. (The Law of Connection). But before a leader can touch a person’s heart, he has to know what’s in it. He learns that by listening.
An unwillingness to listen is too common among poor leaders. Peter Drucker, the father of American management, believes that 60 percent of all management problems are the result of faulty communications. Others would say that the over-whelming majority of communication problems come from poor listening.
A lot of voices are clamouring out there for your attention. As you think about how to spend your listening time, keep in mind that you have two purposes for listening: to connect with people and to learn. For that reason, you should keep your ear open to the following people:
1> Your Followers
Good leaders, the kind that people want to follow, do more than conduct business when they interact with followers. They take the time to get a feel for who each one is as a person.
Philip Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield, believed, “many a man would rather you heard his story than grant his request.” If you are in the habit of listening only to the facts and not the heart of the person who expresses them, change your focus – and really listen.
2> Your Customers (members of your church)
A Cherokee saying states: “Listen to the whispers and you won’t have to hear the screams.”
I am amazed by the leaders who are so caught up in their own ideas that they never hear their customers’ concerns, complaints, and suggestions. Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, said, “Unhappy customers are always a concern. They’re also your greatest opportunity.”
Good leaders always make it a priority to keep in contact with the people they are serving.
3> Your Competitors (other ministries and churches)
Sam Markewich announced, “If you don’t agree with me, it means you haven’t been listening.” Though he was no doubt making a joke, the sad truth is that when a leader sees another organization as competition, he focuses his attention on building his own case or championing his cause and forgets to learn from what the other group is doing.
Larry King says, “I remind myself every morning: nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.” As a leader, you don’t want to base your actions on what the other guy is doing, but you should still listen and learn what you can to improve yourself.
4> Your Mentors
No leader is so advanced or experienced that he can afford to be without a mentor. I have learned so much from leaders who have more experience than I have. If you don’t already have a mentor, go out and find one. If you can’t get someone to help you in person, begin the process by reading books. That’s where I got started. The main thing is to get the process of growing and learning underway.
So, the key question:
Are you a good listener? Or, are you too busy doing your own thing and hearing the sound of your own voice?
When was the last time you really paid close attention to people and what they have to say?
Do more than just grab onto some facts. Stop using what they say as a springboard to jump into what you are thinking. Start listening not only for words, but also for feelings, meanings, and undercurrents.
To improve your listening skills, do the following:
1> Change your schedule
Do you spend time listening to your followers, customers, competitors, and mentors? If you don’t have all four groups on your calendar regularly, you are probably not giving them enough attention. Schedule in time for each of them on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
2> Meet people on their turf
A key to being a good listener is to find common ground with people. The next time you meet with an employee, a customer, a staff member, discipline yourself to ask four or five questions about them as a person. Get to know who they are, and seek common ground to build your connection with them.
3> Listen between the lines
As you interact with people, you certainly want to pay attention to the factual content of the conversation. But don’t ignore the emotional content. Sometimes you can learn more about what’s really going on by reading between the lines. Spend time in the coming days and weeks listening with your heart.
A good story…
President Theodore Roosevelt was a man of action, but he was also a good listener, and he appreciated that quality is other people. Once at a gala ball, he grew tired of meeting people who returned his remarks with stiff, mindless pleasantries. So he began to greet people with a smile, saying, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” Most people, so nervous about meeting him, didn’t even hear what he said. But one diplomat did. Upon hearing the president’s remark, he leaned over and whispered to him, “I’m sure she had it coming to her!”
The only way to find out what you’re missing is to really start listening.
CHARACTERISTIC #12: Passion
Passion – “Take this life and love it”
“When a leader reaches out in passion, he is usually met with an answering passion.”
Experts spend a lot of time trying to figure out what makes people successful. They often look at people’s credentials, intelligence, education, and other factors. But more then anything else, passion makes the difference. Someone once said, “nobody can be successful unless he loves his work.”
If you look at the lives of effective leaders, you will find they often don’t fit into a stereotypical mold. For example, more than 50 percent of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had C or C- averages in collage. Nearly 75 percent of all U.S. presidents were in the bottom half of their school classes. And more than 50 percent of all millionaires entrepreneurs never finished college.
What makes it possible for people who might seem ordinary to achieve great things? The answer is passion. Nothing can take the place of passion in a leader’s life.
Take a look at four truths about passion and what it can do for you as a leader:
1> Passion Is the First Step to Achievement
Your desire determines your destiny. Think of a great leader and you will be struck by their passion:
Gandhi for human rights
Winston Churchill for freedom
Martin Luther King Jr. for equality
Bill Gates for technology
Anyone who lives beyond an ordinary life has great desire. It’s true in any field: weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire creates little heat. The stronger your fire, the greater the desire – and the greater the potential.
2> Passion Increases Your Willpower
It is said that a dispassionate young man approached the Greek philosopher Socrates and casually stated, “O great Socrates, I came to you for knowledge.”
The philosopher took the young man down to the sea, waded in with him, and then dunked him under the water for thirty seconds. When he let the young man up for air, Socrates asked him to repeat what he wanted.
“Knowledge, O great one,” he sputtered. Socrates put him under the water again, only that time a little longer. After repeated dunking and responses, the philosopher asked, “What do you want?” The young man finally gasped, “Air. I want air!”
“Good,” answered Socrates. “Now, when you want knowledge as much as you wanted air, you shall have it.”
There is no substitute for passion. It if fuel for the will. If you want anything badly enough, you can find the willpower to achieve it. The only way to have that kind of desire is to develop passion.
3> Passion Changes You
If you follow your passion – instead of others’ perceptions – you can’t help becoming a more dedicated, productive person. And that increases your ability to impact others. In the end, your passion will have more influence than your personality.
4> Passion Makes the Impossible Possible
Human beings are so made that whenever anything fires the soul, impossibilities vanish. A fire in the heart lifts everything in your life. That’s why passionate leaders are so effective. A leader with great passion and few skills always outperforms a leader with great skills and no passion.
Think about it:
Despite the power of passion, many people in our culture seem to believe that passion is something to be suspicious about. Sociologist Tony Campolo has observed, “We are caught up at a particular stage in our national ethos in which we’re not only materialistic but worse than that; we’re becoming emotionally dead as people. We don’t sing, we don’t dance, we don’t even commit sin with much enthusiasm.”
Is passion a characteristic of your life?
Do you wake up feeling enthusiastic about your day?
Is the first day of the week your favourite, or do you live from weekend to weekend, sleepwalking through your everyday routine?
How long has it been since you couldn’t sleep because you were too excited by an idea?
If passion is not a quality in your life, you are in trouble as a leader. The truth is that you can never lead something you don’t care passionately about. You can’t start a fire in your organization unless one is first burning in you.
To increase your passion, do the following:
1> Take your temperature
How passionate are you about your life and work? Does it show? Get an honest assessment by querying several coworkers and your spouse about your level of desire. You won’t become passionate until you believe passion can be the difference maker in your life.
2> Return to your first love
Many people allow life and its circumstances to get them off track. Think back to when you were just starting in your career – or even further back to when you were a child. What really turned your crank? What could you spend hours and hours doing? Try to recapture your old enthusiasm. Then evaluate your life and career in light of those old loves.
3> Associate with people of passion
It sounds hokey, but birds of a feather really do flock together. If you have lost your fire, get around some firelighters. Passion is contagious. Schedule some time with people who can infect you with it.
CHARACTERISTIC #13: Positive Attitude
If you believe you can, you can
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitude of mind.” William James, Psychologist
“A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him.” David Brinkley, Television Journalist
If you desire to be an effective leader, having a positive attitude is essential. It not only determines your level of contentment as a person, but it also has an impact on how others interact with you.
To learn more about what it means to be positive, think about the following:
1> Your Attitude Is a Choice
The average person wants to wait for someone else to motivate him. He perceives that his circumstances are responsible for the way he thinks. But which comes first – the attitude or the circumstances? That’s really a chicken-or-the egg kind of question. The truth is that it doesn’t matter which came first. No matter what happened to you yesterday, your attitude is your choice today.
2> Your Attitude Determines Your Actions
Family life expect Denis Waitley addresses this issue: “The winner’s edge is not in a gifted birth, a high IQ, or in talent. The winner’s edge is all in the attitude, not aptitude. Attitude is the criterion for success.” Your attitude is crucial because it determines how you act.
3> Your People Are a Mirror of Your Attitude
I am constantly amazed by people who display a poor attitude, yet expect their people to be upbeat. There is a leadership law called ‘The Law of Magnetism” which says, “who you are is who you attract.”
Thomas Edison stated, “If the only thing we leave our kids is the quality of enthusiasm, we will have given them an estate of incalculable value.”
4> Maintaining a Good Attitude Is Easier Than Regaining One
In ‘Earth and Altar,’ Eugene Peterson wrote, “Pity is one of the noblest emotions available to human beings; self-pity is possibly the most ignoble…[It} is an incapacity, a crippling emotional disease that severely distorts our perception of reality…a narcotic that leaves it addicts wasted and derelict.”
If you already have a positive attitude, I want to encourage you to keep it up. On the other hand, if you have a difficult time expecting the best of yourself and others, don’t despair. Because you choose your attitude, you can change it.
Reflecting on your attitude…
English heart surgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones asserted, “Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening yo yourself rather than talking to yourself.” What kind of voices do you hear?
When you meet people, do you tell yourself they’ll let you down?
When you face new experiences, does a voice in your head say you are going to fail?
If you are hearing negative messages, you need to learn to give yourself positive mental pep talks. The best way to retrain your attitude is to prevent your mind from going down any negative forks in the road.
To improve your attitude, do the following:
1> Feed yourself the right “food”
If you have been starved of anything positive, then you need to start feeding yourself a regular diet of motivational material. Read books that encourage a positive attitude. Listen to motivational talks. The more negative you are, the longer it will take to turn your attitude around. But if you consume a steady diet of the right “food,” you can become a positive thinker.
2> Achieve a goal every day
Some people get into a rut of negativity because they feel that are not making progress. If that describes you, then begin setting achievable daily goals for yourself. A pattern of positive achievement will help you develop a pattern of positive thinking.
3> Write it on your wall
We all need reminders to help us keep thinking right. Alex Haley used to keep a picture in his office of a turtle on a fence post to remind himself that everybody needs the help of others.
As incentive, people put up awards they have won, inspirational posters, or letters they have received. Find something that will work for you and put it on your wall.
In the field of athletics – one very famous tennis player wrote:
“The thing that separates good players from great ones is mental attitude. It might only make a difference of two or three points in an entire match but how you play those key points often makes the difference between winning and losing. If the mind is strong you can do almost anything you want.” Chris Evert
Is your mind “conditioned” to win the key points ahead of you?
CHARACTERISTIC #14: Problem Solving
“You can’t let your problems be a problem.”
“You can measure a leader by the problems he tackles. He always looks for ones his own size.” John Maxwell
“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year.” John Foster Dulles, Former US Secretary of State
Effective leaders always rise to a challenge. That’s one of the things that separates winners from whiners. Leaders do not complain, they rise above that by solving problems with creativity and tenacity.
No matter what field a leader is in, he will face problems. They are inevitable for three reasons:
A> We live in a world of growing diversity and complexity
B> We interact with people
C> We cannot control all the situations we face
Leaders with good problem-solving ability demonstrate five qualities:
1> They Anticipate Problems
Since problems are inevitable, good leaders anticipate them. Anyone who expects the road to be easy will continually find himself in trouble.
I heard a story about David Livingstone, the missionary to Africa, that illustrates the kind of attitude leaders need. A mission organization wanted to send helpers to Dr.Livingstone, so its leader wrote, “Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you.” Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will come only if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come even if there is no road at all.”
If you keep your attitude positive but plan for the worst, you will find yourself in a good position to solve problems that come your way.
2> They Accept the Truth
People respond to problems in these ways:
A> They refuse to accept them
B> They accept them and then put up with them
C> They accept them and try to make things better
Leaders must always do the latter
“In times like these it is good to remember that there have always been times like these.”
Paul Harvey, Radio Commentator and Broadcaster
No leader can simultaneously have his head in the sand and navigate his people through troubled waters. Effective leaders face up to the reality and truth of the situation.
3> They See the Big Picture
Leaders must continually see the big picture. They cannot afford to be overwhelmed by emotion. Nor can they allow themselves to get so bogged down in the details that they lose sight of what’s important.
“The majority see the obstacles; the few see the objectives; history records the successes of the latter, while oblivion is the reward of the former.” Alfred Armand Montapert, Author
4> They Handle One Things at a Time
Richard Sloma has this advice: “Never try to solve all the problems at once – make them line up for you one-by-one.”
The leaders who get into trouble most often are the ones who are overwhelmed by the sheer size or volume of their troubles and then dabble at problem solving. If you are faced with lots of problems, make sure you really solve the one you are working on before moving on to the next one.
5> They Don’t Give Up a Major Goal When They’re Down
Effective leaders understand the peak-to-peak principle. They make major decisions when they are experiencing a positive swing in their leadership, not during the dark times. They knows not to give up when they are in the valley.
“I never decide whether it is time to retire during training camp.” Bob Christian NFL Fullback
So, thinking about all this….
“What you think means more than anything else in your life. More than what you earn, more than where you live, more than your social position, and more than what anyone may think about you.” George Matthew Adams, Author
Every problem you face, introduces you to yourself. It shows you how you think and what you are truly made of.
When you come face-to-face with a problem, how do you react?
Do you ignore it and hope it will go away?
Do you feel powerless to solve it?
Have you had such bad experiences trying to solve problems in the past that you have just given up?
Or, do you tackle them willingly?
The ability to solve problems effectively comes from experience facing and overcoming obstacles. Each time you solve another problem, you get a little better at the process. But if you never try, fail, and try again, you will never be good at it.
To improve you problem solving, do the following:
1> Look for trouble
If you are avoiding problems, go out looking for them. You will get better if you gain experience dealing with them. Find situations that need fixing, come up with several viable solutions, and then take them to a leader with good problem-solving experience. You will learn from his decisions how he thinks when handling difficulties.
2> Develop a method
Some people have a hard time solving problems because they don’t know how to tackle them. Try using the TEACH process:
Time – spend time to discover the real issue
Exposure – find out what others have done
Assistance – have your team study al the angles
Creativity – brainstorm multiple solutions
Hit it – implement the best solutions
3> Surround yourself with problem solvers
If you are not a good problem solver, bring others onto your team who are. They will immediately complement your weaknesses, and you will also learn from them.
“Never allow others to put obstacles in the pathway of your dreams.”
CHARACTERISTIC #15: Relationships
If you get along, they’ll go along
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” Theodore Roosevelt, American President
“People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” John Maxwell
The ability to work with people and develop decent relationships is absolutely indispensable to effective leadership. According to the May 1991 issue of Executive Female magazine, a survey was taken of employees asking for the top three traits they desired in employees. Number one on the list was the ability to relate to people: 84 percent responded that they sought good interpersonal skills. Only 40 percent listed education and experience in their top three. And if employees need good people skills, think about how much more critical those skills are for leaders. People truly do want to go along along with people they get along with. And, while someone can have people skills and not be a good leader, he cannot be a good leader without decent people skills.
What can a person do to manage and cultivate good relationships as a leader? It requires three things:
1> Have a Leader’s Head – Understand People
The first quality of a relational leader is the ability to understand how people feel and think. As you work with others, recognize that all people, whether leaders or followers, have some things in common:
They like to feel special, so sincerely compliment them
They want a better tomorrow, so show them hope
They desire direction, so navigate for them
They are selfish, so speak to their needs first
They get low emotionally, so encourage them
The want success, so help them to win
Recognizing these truths, a leader must still be able to treat people as individuals. The ability to look at each person, understand him, and connect with him is a major factor in relational success.
This means treating people differently, not all the same as one another. Marketing expert Rod Nichols notes that in business, this is particularly important: “If you deal with every customer in the same way, you will only close 25 percent to 30 percent of your contacts, because you will only close one personality type. But if you learn how to effectively work with all four personality types, you can conceivably close 100 percent of your contacts.”
This sensitivity can be called the soft factor of leadership. You have the ability to adapt your leadership style to the person you are leading.
2> Have a Leader’s Heart – Love People
President and CEO of Definitive Computer Services Henry Garland captures this idea: “Being a leader is more than just wanting to lead. Leaders have empathy for others and a keen ability to find the best in people … not the worst … by truly caring for others.”
You cannot be a truly effective leader, the kind that people want to follow, unless you love people. Physicist Albert Einstein put it this way: “Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that man is here for the sake of other men.”
3> Extend a Leader’s Hand – Help People
Le Roy H. Kurtz of General Motors said, “The fields of industry are strewn with the bones of those organizations whose leadership became infected with dry rot, who believed in taking instead of giving … who didn’t realize that the only assets that could not be replaced easily were the human ones.”
People respect a leader who keeps their interests in mind. If your focus is on what you can put into people rather than what you can get out of them, they will love and respect you – and these create a great foundation for building solid relationships.
So, the question here is:
How are your people skills?
Do you mix well with strangers?
Do you interact well with all kinds of people?
Can you find common ground readily?
What about long-term interaction?
Are you able to sustain relationships?
If your relational skills are weak, your leadership will always suffer.
To improve your relationships, do the following:
1> Improve your mind
If your ability to understand people needs improvement, jump-start it by reading several good books on the subject. Then spend more time observing people and talking to them to apply what you are learning.
2> Strengthen your heart
If you are not as caring towards others as you could be, you need to get the focus off yourself. Make a list of little things you could do to add value to friends and colleagues. Then try to do one of them every day. Don’t wait until you feel like it to help others. Act your way into feeling.
3> Repair a hurting relationship
Think of a valued long-term relationship that has failed. Do what you can to rebuild it. Get in touch with the person and try to reconnect. If you had a falling out, take responsibility for your part in it, and apologize. Try to better understand, love, and serve that person.
Never underestimate the power of relationships on people’s lives.
CHARACTERISTIC #16: Responsibility
“Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility … In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.”
“A leader can give up anything – except final responsibility.”
John C. Maxwell
People today don’t focus on their responsibilities, they rather focus more on their rights. Along with this people have embraced a victim mentality … whatever is happening to them or in the project they are involved in … it is always someone else’s fault and not their responsibility.
Good leaders never embrace a victim mentality. They recognize that who and where they are remain their responsibility – not that of their parent, their spouses, their children, the government, their bosses, or their coworkers.
They face whatever life throws at them and give it their best, knowing that they will get an opportunity to lead the team only if they have proved that they can carry the ball.
The following are the characteristics of people who embrace responsibility:
1> They Get the Job Done
In a study of self-made millionaires, Dr. Thomas Stanley of the University of Georgia found that they all have one thing in common: they work hard.
One millionaire was asked why he worked 12 to 14 hours a day.
He answered, “It took me fifteen years, working for a large organization, to realize that in our society you work eight hours a day for survival, and if you work only 8 hours a day, all you do is survive … Everything over 8 hours is an investment in your future.”
No one can do the minimum and reach his maximum potential.
How do people maintain a get-it-done attitude?
They think of themselves as self-employed
If you want to achieve more and build your credibility with followers, adopt that mind-set.
2> The Are Willing to God the Extra Mile
Responsible people never protest, “That’s not my job.”They are willing to do whatever it takes to complete the work needed by the organization. If you want to succeed, be willing to put the organization ahead of your agenda.
3> They Are Driven By Excellence
Excellence is a great motivator. People who desire excellence – and work hard to achieve it – are almost always responsible. And when they give their all, they live with an inner peace.
Success expert Jim John says, “Stress comes from doing less than you can.”
Make high quality your goal, and responsibility will naturally follow.
4> They Produce Regardless of the Situation
The ultimate quality of a responsible person is the ability to finish.
“It is priceless to find a person who will take responsibility, who will finish and follow through to the final detail – to know when someone has accepted an assignment that it will be effectively, conscientiously completed.” An Open Road, Richard L. Evans
If you want to lead, you have got to produce.
Reflecting On It:
Gilbert Arland offers this advice” “When an archer misses the mark he turns and looks for the fault within himself. Failure to hit the bull’s-eye is never the fault of the target. To improve your aim, improve yourself.”
So answer the following:
Are you on target when it comes to responsibility?
Do others see you as a finisher?
Do people look to you to carry the ball in pressure situations?
Are you known for excellence?
If you have not been performing at the highest level, you may need to cultivate a stronger sense of responsibility
To improve your responsibility, do the following:
1> Keep hanging in there
Sometimes an inability to deliver despite difficult circumstance can be due to a persistence problem. The next time you find yourself in a situation where you are going to miss a deadline, lose a deal, or fail to get a program off the ground, stop and figure out how to succeed. Think outside the lines.
Can you work through the night?
Can you call a colleague to help you?
Can you hire a staff member or find a volunteer to help?
Creativity can bring responsibility to life.
2> Admit what’s not good enough
If you have trouble achieving excellence, maybe you have lowered your standards. Look to your personal life for p[laces where you’ve let things slip. Then make changes to set higher standards. It will help you to reset the bar of excellence for yourself.
3> Find better tools
If you find that your standards are high. Your attitude is good, and you consistently work hard – and you still don’t achieve the way you’d like – get better equipped. Improve your skills by taking classes, reading books, and listening to teachings. Find a mentor. Do whatever it takes to become better at what you do.
CHARACTERISTIC #17: Security
Competence never compensates for insecurity
“You can’t lead people if you need people.”
Dr. John Maxwell
“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit for doing it.” Andrew Carnegie, Industrialist
To be a secure and strong leader you must not appear to have doubts about yourself and what you believe. You need to be absolutely secure in your leadership call. That is the case for all great leaders no matter what area of competence they are working in and who or how many they are leading.
No one can live on a level inconsistent with the way he sees himself.
You may have observed that in people. If someone sees himself as a loser, he finds a way to lose. Anytime his success surpasses his security, the result is self-destruction. That’s not only true for followers, but it is also true for leaders.
Insecure leaders are dangerous – to themselves, their followers, and the organizations they lead – because a leadership position amplifies personal flaws.
Whatever negative baggage you have in life only gets more difficult to bear when you’re trying to lead others.
Insecure leaders have several common traits:
1> They Don’t Provide Security for Others
An old saying states, “You cannot give what you do not have.”
Just as people without skill cannot impart skill to others, people without security cannot make others feel secure.
And for a person to become an effective leader, the kind that others want to follow, he needs to make his followers feel good about themselves.
2> They Take More From People Than They Give
Insecure people are on a continual quest for validation, acknowledgement, and love. Because of that, their focus is on finding security, not instilling it in others.
They are primarily takers rather than givers, and takers do not make good leaders.
3> They Continually Limit Their Best People
Show me an insecure leader, and I will show you someone who cannot genuinely celebrate his people’s victories. He might even prevent them from realizing any victories. Or he might take credit personally for the best work of his team.
An insecure leader hoards power and does not empower and release others to minister and work with him. In fact, the better his people are, the more threatened he feels – and the harder he will work to limit their success and recognition.
4> They Continually Limit the Organization
When followers are undermined and receive no recognition, they become discouraged and eventually stop performing at their potential. And when that happens, the entire organization suffers.
In contract, secure leaders are able to believe in others because they believe in themselves. They are not arrogant; they know their own strengths and weaknesses and respect themselves. When their people perform well, they don’t feel threatened. They go out of their way to bring the best people together and then build them up so that they will perform at the highest level. And when a secure leader’s team succeeds, it brings him great joy. He sees that as the highest compliment he can receive for his leadership ability.
Thinking and reflecting on this:
How well do you understand and respect yourself?
Do you know your strengths and feel good about them?
Have you recognized your weaknesses and accepted the ones you can’t change?
When a person realizes that he is created with a particular personality type and has unique gifts, he is better able to appreciate the strengths and successes of others.
How secure are you as a leader?
When a follower has a great idea, do you support it or suppress it?
Do you celebrate your people’s victories?
When your team succeeds, do you give the team members credit?
If not, you may be dealing with insecurity, and it could be limiting you, your team, and your organization.
To improve your security, do the following:
1> Know yourself
If you are the kind of person who is not naturally self-aware, take time to learn about yourself. Take a personality test. Ask several people who know you well to name your three greatest talents and your three created weaknesses.
Don’t defend yourself when you hear their answers: gather to information and then reflect on it
2> Give away the credit
You may not believe that you can succeed if others receive the praise for the job your team is doing. Try it. If you assist others and acknowledge their contributions, you will help their careers, lift their morale, and improve the organization. And it will make you look like an effective leader.
3> Get some help
If you cannot overcome feelings of insecurity on your own, seek professional help. Get to the root of your problems with the assistance of a good counsellor, not only for your own benefit but also for that of your people.
Don’t let insecurity prevent you from reaching your potential.
CHARACTERISTIC #18: Self-discipline
The first person you lead is you!
“The first and best victory is to conquer self”
“A man without decision of character can never be said to belong to himself … He belongs to whatever can make captive of him.” John Foster, Author
No one achieves and sustains strong leadership and thus success without the power of self-discipline. And, no matter how gifted a leader is, his gifts will never reach their maximum potential without the application of self-discipline. Self-discipline positions a leader to go to the highest level and is a key to leadership that lasts.
If you want to become a leader for whom self-discipline is an asset, follow these action points:
1> Develop and Follow Your Priorities
Anyone who does what he must only when he is in the mood or when it is convenient isn’t going to be successful. Nor will people respect and follow him.
Someone once said, “To do important tasks, two things are necessary: a plan and not quiet enough time.”
As a leader, you already have too little time. Now all you need is a plan. If you can determine what is really a priority and release yourself from almost everything else, it is a lot easier to follow through on what’s important. And, that’s the essence of self-disciple.
2> Make a Disciplined Lifestyle Your Goal
To be a successful leader, you need to realize that self-disciple can’t be a one-time event. It has to become a lifestyle.
One of the best ways to do that is to develop systems and routines, especially in areas crucial to your long-term growth and success.
3> Challenge Your Excuses
To develop a lifestyle of discipline, one of your first tasks must be to challenge and eliminate any tendency to make excuses. If you have several reasons why you can’t or won’t be self-discipled, realize that they are really just a bunch of excuses – all of which need to be challenged if you want to go to the next level as a leader.
4> Remove Rewards Until the Job Is Done
“Any business or industry that pays equal rewards to its goof-offs and its eager-beavers sooner or later will find itself with more goof-offs than eager-beavers.” Mike Delaney
If you lack self-disciple, you may be in the habit of having dessert before eating your vegetables.
5> Stay Focused on Results
Anytime you concentrate on the difficulty of the work instead of its rewards or results, you are likely to become discouraged. Dwell on it too long, and you will develop self-pity instead of self-discipline.
The next time you are facing a must-do task and you are thinking of doing what’s convenient instead of paying the price, change your focus. Count the benefits of doing what’s right, and then dive in.
Thinking and reflecting on self-disciple …
“Talent without disciple is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.
If you know that you have talent, and you’ve seen a lot of motion – but little concrete results – you may lack self-disciple.
Look at last week’s schedule …
How much of your time did you devote to regular, disciplined activities?
Did you do anything to grow and improve yourself professionally?
Did you engage in activities promoting good health?
Did you dedicate part of your income to savings or investments?
If you are putting off those things, telling yourself that you’ll do them later, you may need to work on your self-disciple.
So, let see what we need to do next to improve our self-disciple …
1> Sort out your priorities
Think about which two or three areas of life are more important to you. Write them down, along with the disciplines that you must develop to keep growing and improving in those areas. Develop a plan to make the disciples a daily or weekly part of your life.
2> List the reasons
Take the time to write out the benefits of practicing the disciples you have just listed. Then post the benefits some place where you will see them daily. On the days when you don’t want to follow through, reread your list.
3> Get rid of excuses
Write down every reason why you might not be able to follow through with your disciplines. Read them through. You need to dismiss them as the excuses they are. Even if a reason seems legitimate, find a solution to overcome it. Don’t leave yourself any reasons to quit. Remember, only in the moment of disciple do you have the power to achieve your dreams.
A nursery in Canada displays this sign on its wall: “The best time to plant a tree is twenty-five years ago … The second best time is today.”
Plant the tree of self-disciple in your life today.
CHARACTERISTIC #19: Servanthood
To get ahead, put others first.
“The true leader serves. Serves people. Serves their best interests, and in so doing will not always be popular, may not always impress. But because true leaders are motivated by loving concern rather than a desire for personal glory, they are willing to pay the price.” Eugene Habecker, Author
“You’ve got to love your people more than your position.” John Maxwell
When you think of servanthood, do you envision it as an activity performed by relatively low-skilled people at the bottom of the positional totem pole? If you do, you have a wrong impression.
Servanthood is not about position or skill. It’s about attitude. You have undoubtedly met people in service positions who have poor attitudes toward servanthood: the rude worker at the government agency, the waiter who can’t be bothered with taking your order, the store clerk who talks on the phone with a friend instead of helping you.
Just as you sense when a worker doesn’t want to help people, you can just as easily detect whether a leader has a servant’s heart. And the truth is that the best leaders desire to serve others, not themselves.
What does it mean to embody the quality of servanthood? A true servant leader:
1> Puts Others Ahead of His Own Agenda
The first mark of servanthood is the ability to put others ahead of yourself and your personal desires. It is more than being willing to put your agenda on hold. It means intentionally being aware of your people’s needs, available to help them, and able to accept their desire as important.
2> Possesses the Confidence to Serve
The real heart of servanthood is security. Show me someone who thinks he is too important to serve others, and I will show you someone who is basically insecure. How we treat others is really a reflection of how we think about ourselves.
Philosopher-Poet Eric Hoffer captured that thought:
“The remarkable thing is that we really love our neighbours as ourselves; we do unto others as we do unto ourselves. We hate others when we hate ourselves. We are tolerant of towards others when we tolerate ourselves. We forgive others when we forgive ourselves. It is not love of self but hatred of self which is at the root of the troubles that afflict the world.”
It is true that only secure leaders exhibit servanthood.
3> Initiates Service to Others
Just about anyone will serve if compelled to do so. And some will serve in a crisis. But you can really see the heart of someone who initiates service to others. Great leaders see the need, seize the opportunity, and serve without expecting anything in return.
4> Is Not Position-Conscious
Servant leaders don’t focus on rank or position. A servant leader is simply one person trying to help another. Being a leader means having a sense of obligation to serve.
5> Serves Out of Love
Servanthood is not motivated by manipulation or self-promotion. It is fuelled by love. In the end, the extent of your influence depends on the depth of your concern and love for others. That is why it is so important that leaders to be willing to serve.
Thinking and reflecting on servanthood
Where is your heart when it comes to serving others?
Do you desire to become a leader for the perks and benefits?
Are you motivated by a desire to help others?
If you really want to become the kind of leader that people want to follow, you will have to settle the issue of servanthood.
If your attitude is to be served rather than to serve, you may be headed for trouble.
If this is an issue in your life, then heed this advice:
Stop lording over your people, and start listening to them
Stop role-playing for advancement, and start risking for others’ benefit
Stop seeking your own way, and start serving others
It is true that those who would be great must be like the least and the servant of all.
To improve your servanthood, do the following:
1> Perform small acts
When was the last time you performed small acts of kindness for others? Start with those closest to you: your spouse, children, parents. Find ways today to do small things that show other you care.
2> Learn to walk slowly through the crowd
The next time you attend a function with a number of other people – believers, non-believers, family, friends, work mates – make it your goal to connect with others by circulating among them and talking to people. Focus on each person you meet. Learn their name if you don’t know it already. Make your agenda getting to know each person’s needs, wants, and desires. Then later when you go home, make a note to yourself to do something beneficial for a half dozen of those people.
3> Move into action
If an attitude of servanthood is conspicuously absent from your life, the best way to change it is to start serving. Begin serving with your body, and your heart will eventually catch up. Sign up to serve others for six months at the church, a community agency, to a volunteer organization. If your attitude still isn’t good at the end of your term, do it again. Keep at it until your heart changes.
“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: The ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” Albert Schweitzer
If you want to lead on the highest level, be willing to serve on the lowest.
CHARACTERISTIC #20: Teachability
To keep leading, keep learning
“Value your listening and reading time at roughly ten times your talking time. This will assure you that you are on a course of continuous learning and self-improvement.”
Gerald McGinnis – President and CEO of Respironics, Inc.
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
John Wooden, Hall of Fame Basketball Coach
Leaders face the danger of contentment with the status quo. After all, if a leader already possesses influence and has achieved a level of respect, why should they keep growing? The answer is simple:
Your growth determines who you are
Who you are determines who you attract
Who you attract determines the success of your organization
If you want to grow your organization (church), you have to remain teachable.
Five guidelines to help you cultivate and maintain a teachable attitude:
1> Cure Your Destination Disease
Ironically, lack of teachability is often rooted in achievement. Some people mistakenly believe that if they can accomplish a particular goal, they no longer have to grow. It can happen with almost anything: earning a degree, reaching a desired position, receiving a particular reward, or achieving a financial goal.
But effective leaders cannot afford to think that way. The day they stop growing is the day they forfeit their potential – and the potential of the group or organization that they work with.
Ray Kroc once said: “As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.”
2> Overcome Your Success
Another irony of teachability is that success often hinders it. Effective leaders know that what got them there doesn’t keep them there. If you have been successful in the past, beware. And consider this: if what you did yesterday still looks big to you, you haven’t done much today.
3> Swear Off Shortcuts
Nancy Dornan says, “The longest distance between two points is a shortcut.” That’s really true. For everything of value in life, you pay a price. As you desire to grow in a particular area, figure out what it will really take, including the price, and then determine to pay it.
4> Trade In Your Pride
Teachability requires us to admit we don’t know everything, and that can make us look bad. In addition, if we keep learning, we must also keep making mistakes. But as writer Elbert Hubbard said, “The greatest mistake one can make in like is to be continually fearing you will make one.” You cannot be prideful and teachable at the same time.
Emerson wrote, “For everything you gain, you lose something.” To gain growth, give up your pride.
5> Never Pay Twice for the Same Mistake
Teddy Roosevelt asserted, “He who makes no mistakes, makes no progress.” That’s true, But the leader who keeps making the same mistakes also makes no progress. As a teachable leader, you will make mistakes. Forget them, but always remember what they taught you. If you don’t you will pay for them more than once.
Reflecting on this leadership quality:
A sign in agricultural center: “If you don’t like the crop you are reaping, check the seeds you are sowing.” That’s a wonderful principle to remember.
What kind of crop are you reaping?
Do your life and leadership seem to be getting better day after day, month after month, year after year?
Are you constantly fighting just to hold your ground?
If you are not where you hoped you would be by this time in your life, your problem may be lack of teachability.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
When was the last time you made yourself vulnerable by diving into something for which you were not the expert?
Observe your attitude toward growing and learning during the next several days or weeks to see where you stand.
To improve your teachability:
1> Observe how you react to mistakes
Do you admit your mistakes? Do you apologize when appropriate? Or are you defensive? Observe yourself. And ask a trusted friend’s opinion. If you react badly – or you make no mistakes at all – you need to work on your teachability.
2> Try something new
Go out of your way today to do something different that will stretch you mentally, emotionally, or physically. Challenges change us for the better. If you really want to start growing, make new challenges part of your daily activities.
3> Learn in your area of strength
Read six to twelve books a year on leadership or your field of specialization. Continuing to learn in an area where you are already an expert prevents you from becoming jaded and unteachable.
CHARACTERISTIC #21: Vision
“You can seize only what you can see.”
“A great leader’s courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”
“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.”
John Sculley – Former CEO of Pepsi and Apple Computer
Vision is everything for a leader. It is utterly indispensable. Why? Because vision leads the leader. It paints the target. It sparks and fuels the fire within, and draws him forward. It is also the fire lighter for others who follow that leader. Show me a leader with vision, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t going anywhere. At best, he is travelling in circles.
To get a handle on vision and how it comes to be a part of a good leader’s life, understand these things:
1> Vision Starts Within
You cannot buy, beg, or borrow a vision. It has to come from the inside. A leader needs to always see what could be and not just what is.
If you lack vision, look inside yourself. Draw on your natural gifts and desires. Look to your calling if you have one. And if you still don’t sense a vision of your own, then consider hooking up with a leader whose vision resonates with you. Become his partner.
2> Vision Draws on Your History
Vision isn’t some mystical quality that comes out of a vacuum, as some people seem to believe. It grows from a leader’s past and the history of the people around him. Talk to any leader, and you are likely to discover key events in his past that were instrumental in the creation of his vision.
3> Vision Meets Others’ Needs
True vision is far-reaching. It goes beyond what one individual can accomplish. And if it has real value, it does more than just include others; it adds value to them. If you have a vision that doesn’t serve others, it’s probably too small.
4> Vision Helps You Gather Resources
One of the most valuable benefits of vision is that it acts like a magnet – attracting, challenging, and uniting people. It also rallies finances and other resources. The greater the vision, the more winners it has the potential to attract. The more challenging the vision, the harder the participants fight to achieve it. Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid, advised, “The first thing you do is teach the person to feel that the vision is very important and nearly impossible. That draws out the drive in winners.”
Reflecting on vision:
Where does vision come from?
To find the vision that is indispensable to leadership, you have to become a good listener. You must listen to several voices.
1> The inner voice
As already stated, vision starts within. Do you know your life’s mission? What stirs your heart? What do you dream about? If what you are pursuing in life doesn’t come from a desire within – from the very depths of who you are and what you believe – you will not be able to accomplish it.
2> The unhappy voice
Where does inspiration for great ideas come from? From noticing what doesn’t work! Discontent with the status quo is a great catalyst for vision. Are you on complacent cruise control? Or do you find yourself itching to change the world. No great leader in history has fought to prevent change.
3> The successful voice
Nobody can accomplish great things alone. To fulfill a big vision, you need a good team. But you also need good advice from someone who is ahead of you in the leadership journey. If you want to lead others to greatness, find a mentor. Do you have an adviser who can help you sharpen your vision?
4> The higher voice
Although it is true that your vision must come from within, you should not let it be confined by your limited capabilities. A truly valuable vision must have God in it. Only He knows your full capabilities. Have you looked beyond yourself, even beyond your own lifetime, as you have sought your vision? If not, you may be missing your true potential and life’s best for you.
To improve you vision, do the following:
1> Measure yourself
If you have previously thought about the vision for your life and articulated it, measure how well you are carrying it out. Talk to several key people, such as your spouse, a close friend, and key leaders, asking them to state what they think your vision is. If they can articulate it, then you are probably living it.
2> Write it down
If you have thought about your vision but never put it in writing, take the time to do it today. Writing clarifies your thinking. Once you have written it down, evaluate whether it is worthy of your life’s best. And then pursue it with all you’ve got.
3> Do a gut check
If you haven’t done a lot of work on vision, spend the next several weeks or months thinking about it. Consider what really impacts you at a gut level:
What makes you cry?
What makes you dream?
What gives you energy?
Also think about what you would like to see change in the world around you. What do you see that isn’t – but could be? Once your ideas start to become clearer, write them down, and talk to a mentor about them.
When you look deep into your heart and soul for a vision, what do you see?
So, 21 characteristics of someone growing as a leader and leading others:
13> Positive attitude
14> Problem solving