Fear is not a quality many leaders long to develop in their lives. But I do believe there is a healthy dose of fear that every leader needs. Today I was reading Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” The Hebrew word for knowledge means wisdom, discernment, understanding, skill or perception. These are all things that I long for as a leader. One of my constant prayers is that God would give me “Leadership Instinct”. I define leadership instinct as the wisdom to act in the right way at the right time for the right reason. Solomon says that type of instinct starts with fearing God. Why? Because God is all wise and all knowing. And He shares His mind and heart with those who love and revere Him. So I must move forward throughout my day with a healthy fear of the Lord. And as I do it’s more likely that I will hear His voice, know His heart, do His will and be the Leader He has created me to be.
What does the fear of the Lord produce in my life? According to Proverbs fear of the Lord…
- Gives me Knowledge 1:7
- Gives me Knowledge of God 2:5
- Gives me a distaste for evil 8:13
- Gives me Wisdom 9:10, 15:33
- Adds length to my life 10:27
- Aids in living a righteous lifestyle 14:2
- Helps me Avoid evil 14:16, 16:6
- It is a fountain of life 14:27; 19:23
- Produces an atmosphere of security in my home 14:26
- Brings wealth and honor 22:4
- Keeps me from being envioius 23:17
- Brings blessing 28:14
Not a bad list of benefits! Move forward with fear.
Its not an uncommon for a leader to hurt someone’s feelings, rub someone the wrong way or mis-communicate to those they lead. If you follow a leader it’s likely you have been offended by them at some time or another. How you handle that offense speaks volumes about your character. When a leader has hurt your feelings you have three options:
- Remain Silent
- Complain to others
- Talk to them about it.
Okay, let’s break down each of these options to determine which approach we should take.
OPTION #1 REMAIN SILENT – While this may seem honorable to some, it’s extremely dangerous. Those who take this approach actually undermine authentic community and can develop a spirit of self-righteous pride. If a leader has offended or hurt you, not dealing with it allows resentment to build in your heart. And if the leaders actions were truly wrong then not addressing it allows that potential blind spot to persist in their leadership character. Remaining silent hurts you and the leader in the long run. Solomon declares in Proverbs 10:18 “He who conceals hatred is a liar.” Be careful, your silence may not be as honorable as you think.
OPTION #2 COMPLAIN TO OTHERS – Many people feel justified using this approach because they were truly wronged. However, complaining to others spreads discontent and division among the team. Even the most subtle complaints to co-workers undermines the authority of the leader and weakens the unity the organization. Someone one told me, “If you speak poorly of an individual, what would make tha person you are talking to think you would not speak poorly of them as well.” When we speak negatively about others it diminishes peoples confidence in our character. Solomon gives warning in Proverbs 16:27-28 “A scoundrel plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire. 28 A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”
OPTION #3 TALK TO THEM– The reason most people fail to confront is they view confrontation as a means of recompense rather than reconciliation. Viewing the confrontation from a selfish perspective (What am I going to get out of it) will only build walls and create a defensive spirit in most leaders. But a Christ Centered perspective of seeking reconciliation and restoration is more likely to produce an open spirit within the person being confronted. When they sense a humble spirit with a selfless motive walls of defense will melt and it’s more likely to produce a healthy, productive discussion. Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 27:6 “faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
Hurt? Offended? What’s your next step?
Finding yourself making a lot of mistakes? Getting a lot of resistance to your leadership? Frustrated by a lack of progress? Perhaps you need a good dose of leadership wisdom. It’s easy to fall into the trap of being a busy leader rather than a discerning leader. Solomon reminds us, “Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you.” I was doing a study of wisdom in Proverbs recently and discovered 5 factors that keep us from having leadership wisdom. (If you put your cursor over the bible references below you will be able to read the verses)
- Impatience – I want it fixed now. Seeking wisdom requires TIME. Proverbs 1:20-21, 14:8
- Laziness – I don’t have drive or energy to seek out options and the right solution. Seeking wisdom requires ENERGY. Proverbs 2:1-5
- Self reliance – I can figure it out myself, I don’t need anyone’s help. Seeking wisdom requires HUMILITY. Proverbs 3:7; 9:10; 28:26
- Failure to Seek counsel – I didn’t think about seeking counsel from others. Seeking wisdom requires a TEACHABLE SPIRIT. Proverbs 9:9; 12:15; 13:10, 20. 15:31, 19:20.
- Lack of Prayer – I neglect talking to God about my leadership opportunities and decisions. Seeking wisdom requires PRAYER. Proverbs 2:6, James 1:5
Getting hurt by the people you lead is one of the occupational hazards of leadership. Many wounded leaders have lost their ability to trust and therefore live in a world of emotional isolation for the sake of self-protection. But no one can lead alone. The pressures of leadership demand the leader have a release valve, a trusted friend or two they can lean on, be honest with and seek wisdom from.
I had three different friends from three different cities call me last week and each one said, “I don’t know why but I’ve been thinking about you and felt like I needed to give you a call and just check on you.” Wow, these calls made me feel loved, valued, accountable and cared for. And it also reminded me of how important friendships are for me as a leader.
Each of the individuals that called me are friends who challenge me, stretch my thinking and make me better. Solomon highlights the importance of friendship throughout Proverbs. Here are 4 traits we all need in a close friend.
- I need a friend who will tell me the truth. Proverbs 27: 6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
- I need a friend who will stick with me through the good and bad. Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
- I need a friend who shares the same values and connects with me deeply. Proverbs 18:24, “There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.”
- I need a friend with whom I can discuss difficult decisions. Proverbs 27:9, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.”
Todays Leadership Challenge: Call a friend just to let them know you’re thinking of them.
One of the most overlooked competencies in leadership today is the skill of listening. Listening enables the leader to maximize what God’s doing while minimizing mistakes, maximize team member’s strengths while minimizing their weaknesses, maximize employee engagement while minimizing misunderstandings. As leaders we can’t afford not to listen because the price is too high.
But leaders like to move fast which doesn’t always lend itself to listening. A large part of leadership is about understanding, discerning, reading people, assessing your culture, hearing God and then taking action. All which require listening. I mean really actively listening to people. I find it interesting that Solomon, a “get it done” leader himself, repeated the instruction, “Listen” over 20 times in the 31 chapters of Proverbs. Perhaps he emphasized it so much because we aren’t quite as good at listening as we think.
So what is the taletale sign that you are a good listener? Your people feel valued, respected, esteemed, appreciated and loved.
I spent several hours on Saturday beginning my initial planning for 2010. I find it very helpful to pray through and think through what is ahead and begin to get a glimpse of what could be for the year ahead. However in 26 years of ministry I’ve heard over and over again about the “evils” of planning from well meaning Christians. There’s a sense that planning is something that is done in the flesh and we must allow the Holy Spirit to lead spontaneously as he wishes, and any type of planning is trying to control God.
While that may sound spiritual I don’t see biblical evidence for this thinking. Certainly as leaders we can plan in the flesh and end up devising our own path rather than Gods. But there is one problem with this line of thinking…God is a planner and if I want to be like Him then I need to be a planner as well. I did a search through Scripture on the word “plan” and “plans” and gained some interesting insights. Here are just a few of the Scriptures that support planning.
- God is a planner. Psalm 33:11, But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
- God shares his plan with us. Amos 3:7, Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets
- God expects us to plan. While Scripture does not come right out and say, “Thou shalt plan” there are plenty of Scriptures encouraging us to plan wisely. Proverbs 20:18, Make plans by seeking advice; if you wage war, obtain guidance.
- Planning is beneficial. Proverbs 21:5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.
- The Holy Spirit guides us in planning. When we practice Spirit lead planning it allows God to display His wisdom through our leadership. 1 Chronicles 28:12 He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things.
- Plans are to be written in pencil not in ink. Proverbs 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 19:21, Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
When was the last time you had a really good Spirit-led planning session?
Things change. I don’t always like change (unless I am the one initiating it). I sat with a young leader the other day and told him, “Ministry is changing, the tools are changing, the strategies and styles are changing and I’m no longer the one initiating the change.” I told him, “It’s primarily your generation that’s innovating.” I’m 47 years old and I find it fascinating that this next gen leader doesn’t live in my world…I now live in his. I’m having to adapt to the changes his generation has brought to ministry.
I remember the days, when I was in my early 20’s and felt compelled to “do church” differently. Now it‘s my son’s generation who feels compelled to bring about change. So older leaders, like me, we have a choice. What will our Change Reaction be? Will we be Critical, Cautious or will we earnestly Champion change?
I want to be an early adopter when I hear my son say, “Dad, I want to do it different than you.” I want to support next gen leaders when they say, “I feel compelled to take a God-sized risk.” I want to be a Champion for those who drive the Gospel forward in innovative, creative and imaginative ways.
So I have to be careful with my words anytime someone says, “I have an idea.” In Proverbs 16:23 Solomon says, “A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction.” The Hebrew word for guide is sakal, which means to look upon and to ponder. It has the idea of being very intentional in our speech.
As I grow older I am realizing that part of my role is to discern what God is doing next, identify who He is doing it through and be very intentional in my encouragement, support and in doing so champion God-initiated change.
Are you criticizing change or are you a champion of change?
Price Pritchett said, “Change always comes bearing gifts.” It doesn’t always feel that way, especially when you’re the one introducing the change. As leaders we see the possibilities, the potential and the prize at the end of the change. But it’s not always so easy for followers to see what we see.
While we think of the Critical response as the most dangerous, I believe there is a second type of change reaction that is actually a bigger threat to the change process: The Cautious reactor. We typically call them mid-adopters. They aren’t “critical”, they’re just hesitant, reluctant and uneasy.
Here’s the trouble, many times they don’t speak up. When we introduce change the Cautious reactor responds with silence, passive questioning and even a seemingly positive head nod. But deep down they’re not bought in. The leader who cannot “read the room” could be in danger. At least the Critical responder is verbal and you know where they stand. But the Cautious responder may unwittingly lead you to believe they’re with you all the way, when in fact they are not.
A wise leader has a sense of when people are with him. He takes the time to ask the right questions and to probe thoughts. He puts his finger on the pulse of their hesitancy. Instead of fearing it, he engages it and learns from it. And in doing so the Cautious responder offers us a gift. He gives the gift of understanding. In Proverbs 2:2 Solomon advised, “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding.” The word “incline” in Hebrew is natah, which means “to stretch”. When introducing change we must make sure we don’t run ahead to quickly but take the time to ask questions, listen, process and allow the voice of the Cautious Responder to “stretch” our understanding. Their perspective could help take our idea from good to great!
Don’t forget the middle adopter represents around 60-70% of our followers. If we fail to get the majority of our followers excited about the change then there is a high likelihood things will not turn out as we plan
How well are you listening to what’s not being said?
As a leader I want to see more early adopters in our world. Leaders change things…followers…well …followers follow change. So it can be very frustrating to a leader when he introduces change and it’s met with a less than favorable response. But wise leaders have an appreciation for the various change reactions. There are basically three responses to change, each one needed, each playing an important role in the change process.
First is Criticism – Many times change is met with criticism. It’s usually from the late adapter who has “concerns”. Typically this reaction creates awkward moments, uncomfortable conversations and raises levels of mistrust.
However, I would suggest that this is a valuable and necessary reaction. Criticism, especially done in the right spirit, can help improve an idea, identify the potential pitfalls, and give us wisdom. Solomon warned in Proverbs 19:20, “Get all the advice and instruction you can, and be wise the rest of your life.” This is difficult, but a leader must learn to look at criticism as a gift. It’s not easy for us as leaders to look at the weaknesses, faults or disadvantages of our idea. While we can’t let the critic stop a God-ordained idea, we can benefit from some of their perspective.
The critic also adds value in the sense that he tests the convictions of the leader. If you gives up because of criticism, then you may not have had the staying power to really bring about the intended change anyway. But if you endure through the criticism it demonstrates to all those who follow you the power of your conviction.
What is your reaction to criticism? Do you use it to add wisdom…or do you just criticize your critic?