If I ask you what you have learned over the past year, what would you say? “I’ve learned more about technology than I ever wanted to know.” Or “I learned how to relate to people without being face-to-face with them.” Or “I have learned more about myself and who God created me to be.”
One of the things I have learned or relearned over the past year is “as a leader your character will be tested more than your competency”. People who look to you as their leader are looking for a person they can trust. They learn to trust you by paying attention to what you do more than listening to what you say. Remember, who you are is how you lead.
I’ll Keep You in Prayer
Maybe you can think of this way. Over the past several weeks I have heard some of you say, “I’ll be praying for you,” or “I’ll keep you in prayer.” I am grateful for your prayers. I know you are sincere in making your commitment. Now, understand, I am not complaining, but I often wonder if you, or any of us, actually deliver on that commitment to pray.
In our culture, when a report of violence has taken place like a mass shooting, whether in a school, a shopping center, or a neighborhood, (there have been 48 mass shooting in the United States since March 18), I either hear people say, “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” or I read on social media simply, “Thoughts and prayers.” Again, it is a good gesture to offer thoughts and prayers, but do you think people making that commitment actually pray?
Are You Accountable for Your Commitments?
I confess there was a time in my life and ministry when I would honestly say, “I’ll pray for you.” It was truly a desire of my heart to pray for the person to whom I had made the commitment. Yet, I would not think of that commitment until the next time I saw that person. The thought would run through my mind, “Oh, I hope they are doing well. I forgot to pray.”
Then one day it occurred to me, that every time I said, “I will pray for you” or “I’ll keep you in prayer,” I was making a commitment to pray. Now, I don’t know whether anyone knew I was praying or not, but I knew. For me, that was enough to develop new habits of accountability. What I have learned is, people listen to the words of their leaders and then observe whether the leader actually lives what he or she says. The question is “Are you being accountable for your commitments?”
Deliver on Your Commitments
Accountability occurs when you reliably deliver on your commitments. You demonstrate accountability when you show others you can be trusted to do what you say you will do. When you take responsibility for your actions and decisions, you model for others as well as set a path of accountability they can follow.
So, let’s stay with the practice of prayer. When you or I say, “I will be praying for you,” you are making a commitment. Now, how does that commitment to pray relate to accountable leadership?
1. Lead by Example
By your actions, you model leadership by showing others how they too can be accountable. As a leader, you demonstrate accountability with these behaviors:
- Discipline – Stay focused upon your goals and be aware when you are getting derailed by competing desires or priorities. If prayer is your goal and you make a commitment to pray, set aside the time to pray. The excuse of “not enough time” or “I had a meeting” reveals the need for the discipline to order your life around your goals.
- Integrity – Be who you are. Be authentic and trustworthy regarding commitments and honest and responsible when something goes wrong. When you make a commitment to pray for someone, pray for them. As a person of integrity, if you make a commitment to pray but don’t pray, be honest and responsible enough to admit that you forgot or simply did not pray. You will gain a greater respect and effectiveness if you keep your commitments as well as being honest when you don’t. Integrity does not come by “faking it until you make it.”
- Improvement – Develop new skills and behaviors that assist you in keeping your commitments. If you want to pray for others, set aside time to pray. Establish new patterns and develop new schedules for prayer. You will not need to tell people you are learning and implementing new habits, your living will reveal the depth of your praying.
2. Develop Accountable Leaders
When you provide people opportunities to be responsible, you are developing accountable leaders. Regardless of the work or task, people learn to deliver on their commitments when they experience the importance of being reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of others. Assist the people around you with opportunities to pray for one another. Give your leaders prayer partners and have them check in with one another every time you gather. Celebrate the new prayer habits. If someone hasn’t prayed, asked what he or she needs to develop the habit of praying for others.
3. Communicate Clearly
When you communicate clearly and share information and knowledge that helps others meet their goals, you are demonstrating accountability. People will learn and take their cues from you. They will observe what you do, practice what they observe, and listen for clear direction and feedback. Remember, clear is kind. It is important to not only share information that shapes behavior but to, authentically live by the information you are sharing. So, communicate not only with your words but with your character.
Your Character Over Your Competency
Let’s come back to “as a leader your character will be tested more than your competency”. I practiced most of ministry thinking I knew all the right things to do and say. Yes, I attended workshops, seminars, clinics, and conferences for the purpose of sharpening my skills, so I could do what I was doing better. I am grateful, that through the assistance of good friends, colleagues, and honest feedback, I realized that who I was as a person affected my leadership more than what I could do or accomplish as a person. So, again I say, “remember who you are is how you lead.”
Do It Again, Lord!
Dr. J. Edwin Orr, as a lecturer at Wheaton College, would take students to visit places where Christian leaders had preached throughout history. In 1940 he took a group to England to visit the Epworth refectory where John Wesley had lived.
When the bus arrived at Epworth, Dr. Orr led the students off the bus and into the house. The group first saw the study of John Wesley. There was a bible on the desk and several books on the shelves. There was a feeling of awe as Dr. Orr explained that the beginnings of a great spiritual awakening had started in the heart of mind of Wesley in that study.
He then led them to the kitchen. The table was neatly but sparsely set. There were cups on the counter and plates on the shelves. Dr. Orr asked his students to imagine Wesley sitting at the table eating and taking nourishment for his preaching missions. He explained that deep spiritual conversations had taken place with colleagues and friends around that table.
He then led them into Wesley’s bedroom. It was a small room, barely large enough to hold the students as they filled in. There was a bed, neatly made, and a nightstand with a bible and a writing pad. Next to the bed, on the floor, were two worn impressions. Dr. Orr explained that those worn impressions were made by Wesley as he knelt in prayer every morning and evening. He explained that it was Wesley’s prayers that had helped bring about England’s social and spiritual renewal.
When the visit concluded and the students were getting back on the bus, Dr. Orr noticed one person was missing. He waited for a moment before going back into the house to look for the student. He took a quick glance into the study. No one there. He looked quickly in the kitchen. It, too, was empty. It was when he entered the bedroom that he saw his student kneeling by the side of the bed. The student had placed his knees in the worn impressions on the floor. He was praying, “O Lord, do it again! Do it again! And do with through me.” Dr. Orr, knowing the schedule he had to keep, placed his hand on the student’s shoulder and whispered, “Come on Billy, we must be going.” At that moment the student, Billy Graham walked out of the house with this teacher and got on the bus.
Who You Are Is How You Lead
Who you are is how you lead. Your leadership is rooted in your character. You become an accountable leader when others know you can be trusted to do what you say you will do and when you take responsibility for your actions and decisions.
You don’t need me to tell you what you need to work on regarding your accountability. My guess is you already know. So, take a few minutes now to do the following:
- Thank God for making you who you are
- Confess that you have not always been who you were created to be
- Ask God to help you to live fully into God’s grace. “Do it again, Lord, through me.”
Who you are is how you lead. Let me know if your conversation with God reveals anything about accountability to you.
When you need and want assistance, remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.
Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Charles Boayue joins us in discussing Accountable Leadership. If you have not been a LeaderCast listener, you want to start with this one. Check out Episode 174 of LeaderCast. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Again, who you are is how you lead.