Growth doesn’t occur on Accident.
Therefore, I have developed a specific plan to increase my leadership effectiveness.
The following was cultivated as the result of work performed in a class devoted to understanding my strengths and weaknesses and building structures to ensure future success.
Cultivating the leader that I am and will become someday has become one of my most important lifelong goals. Therefore, it is absolutely critical I implement a detailed plan to constantly help me assess where I am succeeding and what areas need reevaluating. It is with this goal in mind that I have put together a plan to serve as a constant metric against which I can better evaluate my leadership.
As a starting point, I have assembled ten specific questions to use for getting to the heart of what I consider to be the five most essential attributes of a healthy leader. Since my goal is to develop not merely into a “successful” leader or an influential one, but rather a fully-developed healthy leader, I strive to possess each of these five traits. The first trait is self-awareness, the second is accountability, the third is clarity, the fourth is discipline, and the fifth is passion. I believe that these ten questions will not only help me evaluate whether or not I am demonstrating strength or weakness in each of these areas, but of equal importance, I believe they can help me determine the level of health that other leaders around me possess. Many of my past leadership mistakes are the result of cultivating my own leadership while choosing to serve under the guidance of an unhealthy leader. These questions should bring clarity to future interactions with leaders who I am considering serving alongside, in an effort to avoid repeating this scenario.
The first three questions seek to narrow in on the question of clarity and vision in the life of the leader. Without clarity, a leader is essentially a ship that’s lost its rudder. It is “an essential component of all great leadership.” (Kotter 70) Without it, the leader will be tossed by the waves of difficulty or pain and blown about by every insecurity, trend, or opinion. There is perhaps no greater danger for an employee than working under the scope of confused leader. Ultimately, the organization will become stagnant at best and will completely dissolve at worst when a leader without clarity is at the helm.
Question one: Right now, what’s the greatest assets you have within the scope of your leadership? This will quickly determine the leader’s internal inventory of everything at their disposal. Do they see people as one of their greatest assets? Do they have a hard time seeing beyond obstacles to identify assets? Sometimes I need to simply just slow down and remember the many things God has given to me in order to help me be effective as a leader. Hopefully this question will be asked and answered in such a way that forces me to keep that in mind.
Question two: What vision are you specifically working toward over the next 12 months? Since a visionless leader is essentially flying blind, this question will serve as an internal optical exam for the leader. Do they know what they’re working toward? Is the vision so clear that there’s a tangible set of goals that are derivative from it in the immediate future? Healthy leadership will have embraced this by default as these leaders understand that no quality result is achieved without extreme intentionality. A good leader is marked by this intentionality as they seek to create movement in others. I must regularly check myself to ensure the vision is clear that action steps are firmly in place to help usher in the future and accomplish the mission.
Question three: What successes have you celebrated over the last 12 months and what do you feel currently isn’t working well? This question is akin to the leadership trait of self-awareness, but rather than focusing on the individual status of the leader, this focuses on the leader’s awareness of status of the organization. Is the leader keenly aware of what is working well? Do they have the discipline to celebrate those wins as they occur and build morale? And do they understand the areas that are suffering or failing under their leadership? All of these questions will be answered by question number three as long as I allow myself to deeply reflect on the implications of what it poses.
The next three questions are geared toward understanding whether or not the leader has established proper accountability in their leadership and are pro actively submitting to it. Toxicity begins to take root within the life of the leader when they are left to their own devices and are not held accountable on both their personal and organizational fronts. Therefore, the next three questions seek to ensure that accountability is being leaned fully into in each of these areas.
Question four: Behind the scenes, who do you have that’s on your side and how did you acquire them? This should help me to slow down and evaluate those God has placed within the sphere of my life, as well as my leadership. The question serves to context the following two questions. Often, we may overlook people with the potential to aid in accountability because we fail to slow down and see their value. Question four serves as a caution against allowing that to happen.
Question five: Who’s holding you accountable to the mission and vision and how’s your relationship with them? Not only will this question get directly to the point of organizational accountability, but it also analyzes how healthy things are between the leader and those tasked to keep them and the organization at its best. A great indicator of health is when the leader maintains a good relationship with those who may cause engage in conflict with them for the sake of the mission.
Question six: Who holds you personally accountable behind the scenes and are they doing their job? The goal here is simply to ensure that there is a strong personal support team behind the leader that is pro actively is invested in them even beyond the scope of their immediate leadership. The ability to dive into the concept of exactly what is required for these people to be “doing their job” is as significant as the ability to confidently answer who is on your team.
The next two questions seek to understand the discipline level of the leader and help me to evaluate if I am demonstrating the key traits that go alongside it. As Henry Nouwen points out in his writing on what the habits of an effective leader, “Discipline means to prevent everything in your life from being filled up.” (Nouwen) Therefore, a disciplined leader must demonstrate that they are available for those they lead by choosing to build space into their lives. While much can be learned by a driven leader, a healthy leader will be able to answer these questions with a clarity that no other type of leader will have.
Question seven: Over the last six months, how available have you made yourself to your core leadership and describe the health of those individual relationships? The heart of the leader will quickly be shown in whether they value tasks or people greater by how they answer this question. It is my aim to always be a leader who deeply values the people whom I lead. Yet, it is extremely difficult to slow down and invest in the lives of others. That’s why most leaders do not perform as well in this area as they may believe. So it is essential to answer this question with some evidence of how deep the connection is between the leader and their team. I believe that self-analysis will help me point out to myself where I may be overlooking people even when I’m initially convinced that I’m not.
Question eight: Over the last six months, how much time have you devoted to solitude and in what ways have you successfully been observing self-care? These are two sides to the same coin. On one hand, I’m ensuring that I (or the leader I am questioning) am taking the time to escape busyness and noise to focus my heart, mind, and spirit on what is true and what needs to be done next. For me, the focus here is to take time to hear the voice of God clearly. On the other side of the coin, the question ensures that I have placed practices in my life that fill up my tank and keep me in the game. Many great leaders burn out because they don’t take the appropriate time to care for themselves and I cannot allow this pattern to become the norm in my own life.
The following question is intended to understand how self-aware the leader is of their current climate of leadership and what dangers are posed as the direct result of their blind-spots and shortcomings. Personally, this question is intended to force me to check my insecurities, recognize truths and lies, and determine areas where I might be prone to leadership failure. If I don’t regularly identify where the core issues exist, I will be prone to suffering from self-inflicted wounds.
Question nine: In what area, or in what way, is your leadership currently most vulnerable? The question demands that I look beyond the areas I may typically be comfortable considering. What have I built poorly? What part of me is prone to self-destructing what I’ve worked so hard to build? The more a leader tastes success, the more prone they may be to failing to recognize or choosing to overlook vulnerabilities. Success breads confidence, which can often give way to pride and Scripture keenly points out that “pride comes before the fall.” (Proverbs16:18) If I want my leadership to endure, I cannot be blindsided by myself.
The final question of this assessment is intended to bring into focus the passions that connect a leader to their role and help them thrive. It is a barometer that will help understand just how much of one’s self will be applied to all of the prior questions. Without passion, it will truly be impossible to dive deeply enough into the heart of the first nine questions to make a lasting impact as a leader. Therefore, this question is one that must be answered clearly after the appropriate soul searching has occurred.
Question ten: What part of your current leadership role do you most enjoy and what significant contributions do you feel you are uniquely wired with to help bring usher the vision into reality? The question is phrased to unveil two unique aspects of the leader’s passion. The first aspect is focused on the parts of their role in leading others that sparks excitement or passion. The second aspect is a subtle way to determine what strengths of the leader’s personality are given an opportunity to play a part in the overall goals of the organization. If I am in a healthy place as a leader, these components should culminate into a positive and definitive answer that demonstrates I am fully engaged in my current role as leader. If the answer is marked by hesitation, frustration, or pain, a clear disconnection has likely occurred somewhere along the way or the role is not well-suited for the leader.
These questions provide a framework for me to truly see what I’m actually building as a leader well beyond the results that I may be experiencing corporately. They combat self-deception and ensure that I don’t possess “the inability to see that one has a problem.” (The Arbinger Institute 17) And ultimately, it is intended to bring a balance of humility and purpose that gives confidence to my steps. But in order to fully understand these implications, I must know myself well enough to constantly weigh in my strengths and weaknesses into the equation. For that reason, I will briefly cover a couple of these strengths and challenges that will be a part of my leadership regardless of the context I find myself in as I answer the aforementioned questions.
Allow me to begin with my strengths. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts I’ve been given is the ability to communicate well, especially within the context of public speaking. As a child of parents whose generation was twice removed from my own, I learned at a young age to communicate in a mature and succinct fashion with adults much older than I. So often, even from an early age, I would find myself crafting sermons or speeches and giving them to anyone who would listen. When it comes to communicating vision or truth, I find that I am capable of unlocking my passion through this medium and it is an effective way at creating movement in the lives of the listeners. Therefore, whenever I am given the opportunity to use this platform, it serves my leadership well. It is a craft that I can continue to develop and use to communicate clearly the Gospel and initiatives that I need those whom I am leading to grasp and invest.
A second strength I possess is that my personality thrives on starting new things. When given the opportunity to create something brand new - that has never existed - or to solve an outstanding issue, it allows for me to dive fully into the matter with all of arsenal of talents. It inspires and excites me to be a part of making something happen. I love to experiment in new areas and am unlocked when it allows me to have freedom to move beyond the same day-to-day tasks and routines by enabling my creative side. People will see and understand some of the best parts of me as I am given these opportunities. Organizationally, it is beneficial to allow me to lead in areas that carve out new paths and are centered on short-term results and challenges that will involve constant reevaluation and adjustment.
A final strength that is worth noting is that I find deep value in connecting on a relational level with the people whom I lead. This strength has perhaps served me far greater than in any other area of my leadership. When harnessed correctly, it affords me the opportunity to gain deep layers of trust with those in my sphere. They believe that I truly value them for who they are, because I find ways to ensure that is true. I want to know about their life, discover their personality, and find ways to enjoy accomplishing the mission together. This is essential to me. If I feel disconnected from the team around me on a relational front, I struggle to open up my personality and lead well. So, connecting with people is always a priority and when I’ve done so, it makes those people far more willing to see beyond my shortcomings and allows for me to lead them more effectively.
The latter two strengths are closely tied to an area of concern for my leadership because I so enjoy creating and being relationally connected that I often struggle when becoming relegated to purely administrative work. I do not enjoy being responsible for the details of the vision at the microscopic level. Finances, spreadsheets, reports, and data are all things that I need to be just aware of enough to serve as healthy boundaries (or obstacles to be overcome) in the mission I am on. Being drawn too deeply into those aspects instead of focusing on implementation will result in stress and a loss of personal momentum. I have found that having a team around me who are capable of handling the gathering of these details for me alleviates these issues. Therefore, I must be great at delegating administrative tasks while still forcing myself not to overlook their details. I also have to intentionally allot time and space to engage in these details in a healthy way. That way I don’t undermine myself by focusing on the vision and overlooking the administrative steps to get there.
In addition, because I don’t enjoy being mired in the details, I can often become indecisive when it comes to these matters. A mass of data in multiple directions can paralyze me from making clear, difficult choices. The inability to make these decisions, or the choice to simply put off making critical decisions serve as an Achilles tendon to my leadership; one that I cannot afford. “Often the success of leaders is measured by the success of the decisions they make.” (Borek 49) The primary method I’ve found useful in overcoming this is creating meetings with my core team to debate major decisions and resolving to not leave the meeting without coming up with and enacting a plan. While there may be times when I need to allow for some space to process before landing on a firm decision, I cannot leave that time line open. I must self-impose deadlines to avoid becoming, or even appearing to be, an indecisive leader.
And finally, I must constantly be aware that my greatest obstacle in leading well lies simply in my own insecurities. Insecure leaders are a threat to the organization and everyone they lead because they can become unstable and unpredictable based on their emotions. John Maxwell likens the insecure leader to a firework in that “it’s only a matter of time until they explode, and when they do, they hurt everyone close to them.” (Maxwell)
There is no question that my ability to harness my emotions toward positive momentum is a huge asset. Yet, these emotions can also be ultimate downfall of my leadership and I have experienced this on several occasions in the past. When things are going well and I feel that those around me (or especially those above me) are confident in the direction of my leadership and the choices I am making, I am capable of great things. Under these circumstances, even when the going gets hard I will appear focused, decisive, and in control. But when I hit a bump in the road and begin to lose the confidence of these same people, I can quickly lose confidence in myself and doom my leadership in one fail swoop.
Guarding against this is much easier said than done. The most effective way that I have found to do this is by leaning hard on truth to help balance my emotions. I need to surround myself with people and resources that remind me it is okay to fail and still help me remember who I am designed to be. I cannot allow myself to sit and dwell on the circumstance, but instead I need to throw myself back into the work at hand and find ways to rebuild my confidence quickly. While it is a good thing to demonstrate humility in the face of trouble, I must not allow myself to fall victim to my own insecurities along the way.
In order to overcome these areas of concern and further cultivate my leadership potential, it is essential that I focus on leadership styles that compliment my strengths and force me to embrace areas of weakness that I might otherwise ignore. For this reason, I have selected several specific leadership styles that I wish to consciously incorporate into my leadership over the span of my life. I will briefly discuss the focus of each.
First, I desire to lean into the Trait Approach of leadership. (Northouse19) Though this approach has perhaps the greatest emphasis on just myself as a leader, I find that this is a good starting point. I must be willing to work on developing the desirable leadership traits that don’t necessarily come naturally to me. As I have already indicated, I am quite prone to responding emotionally to any given circumstance and it can have a grave impact on my leadership. The trait approach identifies that emotional intelligence is one of the key traits I must possess in order to derive a positive response from those I attempt to lead. Focusing on this style of leadership enforces the need for me to develop the emotional intelligence I need to survive and thrive as the leader I wish to become.
Second, I want to begin to incorporate the Situational Approach into my leadership. (Northouse 95) It is easy for me to lead via one particular style regardless of the situation that I or my team may be facing. I tend to lead in highly supportive fashion that involves low aspects of direction in most situations. Yet, I recognize that this is not always the healthiest approach. It is wise for me to pay attention to the situation and know when my team may need me to alter this default in order to best provide what is needed in order to overcome the circumstance. This may mean that I must be more direct in instructing the team on how to act in order to achieve the desired outcome. It may also guide me to be more challenging in my interpersonal relationships with them in order the help them grow in the face of difficulty. Either way, the goal is to make myself aware that I need to adapt how I lead by what is called for in that season.
Third, I want to piggy-back off of the Situational Approach by also incorporating and growing my Adaptive Leadership. (Northouse 257) This approach also focuses highly on what I do when the going gets tough. The concept here is that when obstacles arise, I must be disciplined to not ignore, deflect, or avoid them, but rather choose to face them head on. I cannot accomplish this alone however, so I need to mobilize those who I lead and equip them to face the obstacle head on as well. I must regulate my emotions and maintain disciplined attention in order to lead through hard times and guide change as necessary. In so doing, I can become a stabilizing force for those around me. If I learn to pay careful attention to the need to adapt and change, I believe I can accomplish exactly that.
Fourth, I want to play to some of my most God-given strengths by learning to enhance the depth of my leadership through focus on the Leader – Member Exchange. (Northouse 139) This is accomplished by paying close attention to the relationships that I have with every single person on the team. I must focus on making sure that each person feels personally valued by me for what they bring to the organization or team. They must feel known. These transactions occur all the time and are not limited merely to teaching moments or conflict. Rather, they provide essential building blocks for trust that ultimately catalyze into an investment in the group as a whole. Essentially, it is this style of leadership that seeks to ensure the group becomes a team and is willing to work for goals much larger than their own because they know they are valued. This is at the core of my heart and personality as a leader. I want the people around me to feel secure and respond to me positively because they trust that I truly do care for who they are and what God has instilled in them.
Fifth, I desire to take this this style to its ultimate end and make my approach to leadership holistically about those whom I lead, even more so than the goals I wish to accomplish. This is modeled through Transformational Leadership. (Northouse 163) The idea here is that I will ultimately find my value only by seeing the lives of those I lead bettered. Simply put, I grow because my leadership unlocked parts of them to grow and thrive. For people to allow me to motivate them at this level though is no small thing. It requires that I demonstrate a true sense of self-confidence. I cannot portray indecisiveness or fear. Rather, I need to exhibit high levels of charisma that attract people to my leadership and position them to be receptive to the instruction I give. It is the ultimate level of trust and I believe it unlocks eternal implications in their lives and mine. For me, this is the entire reason I desire to lead. I want to be a part of helping others succeed not just corporately, but in ways that impact their soul.
As a final component of my development plan, I will focus on some tools that I believe will prove to be assets to me in the coming years as I strive to meet the goals I’ve set forth thus far. In order to overcome my leadership struggles and cultivate new and necessary strengths, I will rely heavily on these resources to prepare me for strategic growth. There are ten specific resources I have chosen to focus on.
First, I have chosen two different assessments that focus on measuring emotional intelligence. As I have previously listed this to be a critical area of focus in my development, I think that using these assessments to regularly evaluate my progress will be rather helpful. The first assessment was recommended in our text by Northouse (28) and is the MSCEIT test provided by Emotional Intelligence Worldwide. (Emotional) The second comes from the Institute for Health and Human Potential and is their EQ Quiz. (IHHP)
Second, I have selected one additional assessment that I believe will be helpful to identify other aspects of my leadership that need focus. These are areas that I may not be aware of on my own accord. It is for that reason that I have chosen Princeton’s MCG Leadership Blind Spot Assessment as a tool to help me discover my blind spots. (Shaw) Like the previous assessments, this test will be advantageous to retake regularly and receive new analysis.
Third, I have selected a book that I believe I could be helpful in a component of leadership that I am particularly passionate about getting right: trust. I deeply desire to have the trust of those whom I lead. Therefore, I believe that Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results by Judith Glaser is a must read.
Fourth, when it comes to personal growth, I have found immense value in the medium of podcasting. Therefore, I want to ensure that I devote an intentional amount of time every week to digesting quality leadership podcasts. I enjoy hearing and dissecting theories and principles in this manner and they fit well into my daily routine. I have specifically chosen Eternal Leadership as a podcast that I want to focus on initially. It is led by John Ramstead and seems to focus intently on the Transformational Leadership style that I wish to emulate.
Fifth, I recently read an article in Forbes by Henna Inam that argues the need of keeping a leadership journal and adding to it daily. In so doing, I can become a more effective leader and “see what’s happening from a clearer perspective.” (Inam) She argues that two key benefits of developing this discipline are increased self-awareness and added emotional health. As these are both priorities to me, I think there definitely could be value in adding this to my personal tool bag. The key difference in this journal is that it focuses on a daily assessment of my perception of my current leadership setting and challenges.
Sixth, I believe this tool critically expands on the last and is absolutely essential as a regular practice in the life of a healthy leader. A few years ago, I listened to Tyler Perry share about this from the stage of the Global Leadership Summit as he spoke of the value it adds to his leadership. Since that time, it has been something I have tried to add to my life and have experienced only marginal consistency. I am speaking of the practice of solitude. I believe nothing is more personally critical than regular time to slow myself, silence my mind, and hear the voice of God. I am resolving to commit one day a month in solitude as a seek develop consistency in this area of my life and leadership. “If Christ disciplined Himself in this way, how much more important that we do the same.” (McIntosh 201)
Seventh, I want to focus my last four development tools on the relationships I can cultivate with strategic people who I believe will help me be the leader God made me to be. This occurs in different ways as the purpose for each relationship is unique. For this first relationship, I am committing to diving deeply into the lives of a national mentorship group that I am a part of alongside 20 other men who are my peers. The name of the organization that I was admitted into is RhythmInTwenty and focuses on stirring one another on to success in the journey God has called them to. I have been a part of the process, but not deeply connected enough with the men. I am resolving to change that and do my best to develop relationships that last well beyond the three-year journey we have committed to share together.
Eighth, I believe that I also need a local mentor who is older than I am to help me grow as a leader. I need to identify someone who possess strength of leadership in ways that I don’t by default and ask for the opportunity to be under their intentional mentorship. I have an individual in mind for this role but need to cultivate the relationship a bit further and seek the possibility of a commitment from him to fill this role in my life.
Ninth, I think there is immense value in surrounding myself with other quality leaders on a regular basis. Since my leadership focus pertains specifically to the arena of ministry, I will seek to join a local leadership group of area pastors and be a part of the regular meetings. I think this is also a fantastic opportunity to surround myself with other leaders of like mind and goals and identify some individuals whom I may align with in ways that can help increase my leadership scope and potential within the community and beyond.
And finally, tenth, I believe that in order to seek out my blind spots, ensure emotional health, and grow in self-confidence and decisiveness, few resources can trump a counselor who you trust and meet with regularly. I have a local counselor that fits this bill and has been extremely beneficial in helping me navigate leadership challenges in the past. However, over the past year, I have backed off of meeting with her regularly and definitely need this component added back into the rhythm of my leadership development. I am committing to doing exactly that.
In conclusion, as I reflect on my leadership strengths, weaknesses, plans, resources, etc., I think that I am most struck by how incapable I am of merely being a follower in my daily role. And yet ironically, the only real reason I desire to be an effective leader is because of the implications they have on my life as a follower of Christ. I want to lead well because He extended the offer for me to follow Him. I want to lead others into that journey too and in many ways, I want to see them eclipse me. Yet, I recognize that this will not happen on accident or merely because the subject of conversation may be about Christ. In order for growth to happen in their life and mine, intentionality must take root. So, for that very reason, I must truly take everything posed here and put it into practice. I must be intentional about engaging my leadership capacity and growing it so that those I seek to lead will grow as well.
The resources and awareness that are combined here must serve as an anchor to keep me grounded throughout this journey. Though there is much more to be added to this in the coming years, I feel confident that I can overcome a great deal of challenges if I will work hard, ask these questions regularly, and avail myself of the tools I have identified. In so doing, it is my prayer that I will lead others through my life to the hope and fulfillment that is only found in Christ.
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Nouwen, Henri. “From Solitude to Community to Ministry.” CT Pastors, Henri Nouwen, 1995, www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/1995/spring/5l280.html. Online.
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