Tag Archive for: courageous leadership

Leading is not easy. In addition to the responsibility of making tough decisions, there are relationships that need care, systems, and networks that need attention, and your personal health to be considered. 

Whether you know it or claim it, what you say and do as a leader leaves an impact upon the people entrusted to your care. That impact is the legacy of your leadership. 

What is your legacy?

Usually, when people talk about legacy, they are talking about making an impact at the end of their lives. They leave money, build a building, or add a wing to a building in memory of a loved one. I’m not questioning the goodness of those legacies, but I do think there is another legacy that makes a greater impact over a longer period of time. It is your legacy as a leader. 

You leave an incredible legacy through the relationships you develop and sustain on a daily basis. What you leave behind lives in the hearts and minds of the people entrusted to your care. It is measured by what you do and what you say every day. 

Begin with the End in Mind

Habit number 2 in Stephen R. Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is “Begin with the End in Mind.” He wrote, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

How will you be remembered?

The same is true regarding your legacy. So, how do you want to be remembered? 

People could say, “You were extremely busy and that you always seemed to work hard.” What they say might be true, but it is easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busy-ness of life, to work harder and harder at trying to move up the ladder of success only to discover that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall. It is possible to be busy and to work hard without being very effective. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Live your Life By Design

According to Covey, “to begin with the end in mind” is to live your life by design. He wrote, “Before you go on a trip, you determine your destination and plan out the best route. Before you plant a garden, you plan it out in your mind, possibly on paper. You create speeches on paper before you give them, you envision the landscaping in your yard before you landscape it, you design the clothes you make before you thread the needle.”

By Design or By Default?

The same is true regarding your legacy. So, how do you want to be remembered? Living by design or living by default? In your personal life, if you do not develop your own self-awareness and become responsible for the direction of your life, you give other people and circumstances the power and influence to shape your life by default. You reactively live by the direction of work, family, circumstances, and the agenda of others. These agendas are usually rooted in your deep vulnerabilities, dependency on others, and your need for acceptance. You allow your sense of importance and worth to be directed by default. Is that the legacy you want to leave?

Five Characteristics of a Leadership Legacy

What legacy do you want to develop and leave behind? How do you want to be remembered? Here are 5 characteristics that will help you design your leadership legacy.

Develop your character. 

Character plays a critical role in leadership. It will leave a lasting impression. Too many people are concerned with their reputation when they should be concentrating on their character. Your character is who you really are, while your reputation is what others think you are. Developing your character and your leadership legacy will take care of itself.

We live in a time where character does not seem important. Whether it be in politics, social media, or just truth-telling, the focus seems more upon what you can get for yourself rather than what part of yourself you give to others. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Your character will leave a legacy for others to follow and to emulate. 

Develop the potential in others. 

Your legacy will be seen in how you value the people around you. Bene Brown, in Dare to Lead, describes a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” God has gifted every person with special strengths, talents, and gifts. Your care and connection are irreplaceable in developing the strengths and gifts of the people entrusted to your care. 

Too many leaders overlook the gifts of the people with whom they work. Instead of becoming vulnerable and trusting colleagues, they begin to micromanage and become defensive. Whether it be at work, with family, or in daily relationships, your ability to help others be who they have been created to be is vital in developing happy and healthy relationships. 

Who you are is how you lead. Your leadership legacy is seen in how you recognize, value, and develop the potential in others. 

Be a person of integrity and respect. 

When what you say is what you do, and when you live up to your promises, you make a lasting impact. If your behavior is the same in unguarded moments as it is when someone is watching, you are creating the kind of legacy anyone would want.

When you act with integrity it will be remembered. If you treat others with respect it will be honored; when you are trustworthy it will be recognized; and as you live by your values, you will make a lasting impact upon the people entrusted to your care. 

Followers want leaders who they can trust, who respond with compassion, who bring stability, and who offer hope. Be authentic and vulnerable in your relationships. Be caring and clear in your communication. The way you relate to others and conduct yourself shapes your leadership legacy. People will remember how you valued and cared for them long after they forget your name. Who you are is how you lead. 

Make courageous decisions. 

Because life is made up of decisions, the decisions you make from your legacy. As you make choices and decisions every day, keep in mind you are leading by design. Your decisions help form your leadership legacy. 

You always want to make the right decisions, but do not get stuck in “paralysis of analysis.” You want to learn from your mistakes, but do not be afraid to step out and take the risks needed to move forward. In the end, your leadership legacy will reflect not only the decisions you have made but how you made those decisions. Who you are is how you lead and is reflected in your decision-making.

Be a person of compassion. 

Compassion grows out of your care for people more than your attention to processes and procedures. Leadership, at its core, is the ability to relate to people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives. When they experience and trust your care, they help shape your leadership legacy. Through compassion, you leave a long-lasting impression. 

You cannot fake compassion. So be yourself. Love and care for people in the way others have loved and cared for you. It is okay to be vulnerable and to trust the people around you. You will leave a long-lasting impression through your compassion. Who you are is how you lead.

Your Leadership Legacy

So, how do you want to be remembered? Start today to design the legacy you want to leave. Step out with confidence. Develop your character, develop the potential in others, live a life of integrity, make courageous decisions, and be a person of compassion. As you do, people will learn to trust your actions and you will become more you God has created you to be. You will be remembered as a leader who helped others feel significant and empowered. 

This week, if not today, take a few moments to reflect on how you want to be remembered.

  • Compared to the way you are leading today, what behaviors need to change? 
  • What disciplines or patterns need to be established? 
  • What do you need to learn? 
  • What relationships do you need to develop? 
  • What do you need to do to create a leadership legacy that leaves something not for people, but leaves something in people? 

Who you are is how you lead. How do you want to be remembered? 

Leadership can be about doing the things that most other people don’t like doing. Confronting interpersonal conflict is one of those things. Whether it is called conflict resolution or conflict management you must address the tension head-on. When it comes to conflict, leadership is not easy. Here is another place I want to say, “Who you are is how you lead.”

Conflict and Disagreements

Abraham Lincoln once remarked that his father had taught him the value of hard work but had never succeeded in teaching him to enjoy it. I confess that I find myself with the same feeling when it comes to conflict and disagreements. To be honest, I like it best when people relate together in warm and harmonious ways. The psalmist says it best, “How good and pleasant it is when people live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). Yet, after 47 years of ministry, I have come to the conclusion that such a harmonious state is not always possible or, at times, even desirable.

Barriers to Health

You and I have seen what happens when “being nice” becomes the mode of operation and “peace at any price” is sought out in the midst of conflict. Such actions do not lead to relational health. In fact, they inhibit any honest interaction in which real differences are shared and true fellowship is experienced. 

That is why I say I feel the way Lincoln felt about hard work. When it comes to conflict, I cannot say I “enjoy” it, but I do see its value. With that in mind, there are several insights that are necessary for courageous and effective leadership.

Conflict is Inevitable

First, conflict is inevitable. It is part of who we are as human beings, and it happens in every ongoing relationship. Because it is a part of who we are, it is an opportunity for growth and understanding, as well as change and improvement. It is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed. 

Think of it this way, we are created differently. You and I have different strengths, talents, and abilities. If we love and respect one another, there will be times we find ourselves in disagreement with one another. 

Diversity and Unity

In fact, if we take seriously the doctrine of the Trinity, there is individuality and diversity within the nature of God. There is a dynamic interaction between the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is not surprising that a world created in the image of this kind of deity would be full of diversity. 

You and I do not think, feel, or act in the same way. This means there will be conflict between us when our differences interact. It also means there will be a richness and creativity that will emerge when we acknowledge our differences and love one another in the midst of our differences. Conflict is the price we pay for our individuality. It is inevitable.

Conflict Shapes Who We Are

Second, conflict shapes who we are. It is through conflict that we become more who God created us to be. Theologian Paul Tillich defined reality as “that which comes against, that which resists us.” It is through conflict that our individual natures are shaped. Conflict is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed.

Again, think of it this way. It is through encountering resistance that a child begins to distinguish the limits of her/his being. At first the world is an extension of themselves. But when the child pushes on the side of the crib and it does not move, or demands something from his/her parents, and they do not comply, the child experiences conflict. Without it, the true shape of the child’s personality would never be known. 

Disagreements Can Bring Clarity

You and I may not really know each other until we disagree. When I come up against something in you that is not the same as what is in me, then the shape of who you are begins to stand out clearly and distinctly against who I am. 

Our distinctiveness is neither good nor bad. It is just who we are. We each can love and respect each other for who we are and to move forward from there. Only then is there a chance for us to have real fellowship together. Conflict is a gift we receive that helps us love and respect one another as God has created us to be.

An Opportunity for Courageous Leadership

Third, conflict provides the opportunity to lead courageously. Conflict is a daily occurrence. Whether at home, at work, or within relationships, each occurrence is an opportunity to lead with courage and compassion. 

Remember, leadership is taking the responsibility for finding the potential in people and the courage of developing that potential. When conflicts arise, you can embrace the situation and the people involved. You work not only to address the problem, but you learn about your own leadership as you lead others through the adverse circumstances. Conflict is not something to be resolved as much as something to be transformed.

Tension Leads to Growth

As a leader, you see opportunities that others do not see. You assist others in growing in healthy relationships, because you know that the most authentic relationships do not truly begin until they experience some form of tension with each other. 

Think of it this way. In I John 1:5-7, John writes, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all…if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” 

This means that God is willing to be Godself in all openness. God, by nature, is transparent. God does not hide his uniqueness in darkness or in the shadows. Walking “in the light…” means practicing the same kind of authenticity and transparency. This is the only way you can have true fellowship with those entrusted to your care. You openly acknowledge the realities of the differences of the people around you and interact with them with honesty and clarity.

Courage to Lead

This is where your courage as a leader takes place because this way of leading and relating brings with it the possibility of conflict and disagreement. When two individuals who are not the same come down on opposite sides of things, you must have courage to be authentic and transparent. 

As I stated earlier, this is the price you pay for the kind of fellowship that grows out of honest interaction. It is inevitable. On the other hand, it is a gift that helps you lead with love and respect. It is not easy. Don’t try to avoid or minimize the conflict. See it as an opportunity to become the person and leader you were created to be. 

Your Next Step

This week, take a moment to reflect upon the conflict you are facing. As you focus upon the people involved, are you able to set aside your personal feelings? Are you able to listen to what is being said and to the feelings being expressed? As you listen, where can you work for positive and constructive change? 

Decide how you can best lead in the midst of the situation. Share your decision with a trusted friend. Offer your decisions and conversations to God and move forward with courage. You are not alone. Walk in the light and be who God created you to be. 

No matter how difficult, when you dare to lead with authenticity, working to transform conflict into healthy relationships, you will discover the fellowship God has intended for all God’s creation. 

Who you are is how you lead. 

The past year has offered each of us, as leaders, numerous learning opportunities. A variety of situations and circumstances have required changes in how we work and how we communicate with those entrusted to our care. The shifts are subtle but are necessary for becoming the leaders needed for this time. Whether it is remote from the kitchen table or in-person in the meeting room, these shifts will help you navigate the leadership challenges of today. 

Three of these shifts are:

  • Rhetoric to Relationships  
  • Self-Awareness to Self-Direction  
  • Time Management to Time Value 

1.      Rhetoric to Relationships: Shift Your Focus to Empathy.  

Courageous leaders are effective communicators, but leadership is deeper than words. Courageous leadership transforms rhetoric into relationships. When people say, “we need to improve our communication” or “you are not communicating with us,” they are saying “we feel disconnected and not a part of things.” When they say, “You don’t know who we are” or “we don’t know who you are,” they are saying, “we are not connected, and we don’t trust you.”

The number one characteristic people want in their leader is trust. You are leading in a time when saying you care is not enough.  The people entrusted to your care want you to know who they are and understand their life situations.  Along with giving programmatic updates, asking questions, and active listening, you are being asked to go deeper and develop empathy. Brene Brown says empathy fuels connection: it’s feeling with people and connecting with a person’s situation. 

It is showing you care, not just as the leader, but as a person. I know this sounds simplistic, but over this past year people have missed relationships. The time is right to model active listening and compassion. It is important to connect with people through their stories, whether it be stories of family members being sick, the difficulties of homeschooling, or other kinds of loss and grief.  Make time in your work life and in the work of your people to shift from updates and reports to listening and connecting to what is happening in their personal lives.

Try this, ask people how they are really doing, and more importantly, wait for the response. Empathy is being able to make space between your question and someone’s answer. Shift the good of what you are saying into meaningful relationships. 

2.      Self-Awareness to Self-Direction

Courageous leaders have the understanding and ability to manage their own thoughts and emotions when responding to individuals and to unwanted situations. There is a difference between reacting emotionally and responding neutrally.  Self-awareness is the ability to be aware of and control your own emotions. We might call it emotional intelligence.   

The shift is from being only aware of your thoughts and emotions to directing your behavior willingly with curiosity and kindness.  Your response does not invalidate or deny your emotions but trusts them as a way of learning about yourself and how to use them in positive and productive ways.  

So, as you become more aware of your feelings, you know more how to navigate through them. How do we do this? Be present in the moment. Be aware of your thoughts and feelings. Acknowledge that they are just thoughts and emotions. And understand that they do not define you.  As you become more aware of how to navigate your own emotions, thoughts, and responses, you will become more aware of what impact your actions have on others.

With this shift, you will not only be aware of your own feelings and the impact of your actions, but you will also become the leader people trust and look to for care and direction. 

3.      Time Management to Time Value

Courageous leaders not only manage their own time and value the time of others but they know the significance of the time they have been given to relate to and lead others.

Our workdays have changed. We cannot simply transfer how we worked in an office into the home space. Cramming meetings and presentations into zoom calls simply does not work. Our context has also changed. So, it is necessary to shift from managing our time to designing our time around how we work, based on what we are working on and with whom we are working. 

Consider being more intentional about how people come together. Consider what can be done by email and what needs to be done face-to-face. Do face-to-face meetings need to be in person or virtually?

When you are planning a meeting, consider who needs to be present, the agenda, and what decisions must be made. Again, I know this seems simple, but time value allows you to send out information before the meeting, have a conversation by text or email, and before making the decisions. Time value provides you the opportunity to not only manage your time, take seriously the time of others, but work more efficiently as you lead effectively.

So, to shift from rhetoric to relationships and from self-awareness to self-direction, build in time to meet individually, one-on-one, with the people you lead. Keep in mind that you always have the opportunity to listen. Sometimes your listening will be work and other times you are listening to what others have to share.  

It seems that there is never enough time in the day. But, since we all get the same 24 hours, why is it that some people achieve so much more with their time than others? The answer lies in shifting from activities to relationships. Being busy is not the same as being effective. It isn’t even working smarter instead of harder.  It is in using your time to develop relationships with care and compassion.  People want a leader who they can trust. Who you are is how you lead.

Your Next Step

This week, what one shift can you make? What one shift will you make?

Remember, Karen Cook, Sara Thomas, and I are with you on your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.  

This week, check out LeaderCast. Sara Thomas and I are discussing barriers to leadership growth and what you can do about it. Tune and listen to Episode 191: 4 Barriers to Leadership Growth and What You Can Do about it. To become a regular LeaderCast listener, subscribe and receive a new episode each week as well as catch up on past episodes. LeaderCast is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the leadership challenges of 2021. 

Remember, who you are is how you lead.

How do you view the concept of accountability? Some people view accountability positively.  They see it as an opportunity to grow personally and to improve professionally. Others view accountability negatively.  When accountability is viewed from the top down or as mandated responsibility, people feel micromanaged or like someone is looking over their shoulder. 

Trust and Accountability

Think about it for a moment. How do you best fulfill your commitments? I’m guessing that where you do not trust the people around you, you are not motivated to be your best. But where you experience trust, clear expectations, and frequent updates you gladly give it all you have. 

Reflect upon what you want or need regarding accountability. Consider the following: 

1. Lead by example and hold yourself accountable first.

As a leader, you set the attitude for the people you lead. They will follow your lead. If you are continuously showing up late for meetings, missing deadlines, and not owning up to your mistakes, the people you are leading will do the same. 

If you want the best out of the people you lead:

  • Complete your work or assignments by the timeline you agreed upon
  • Respect everyone’s time by showing up prepared and on time
  • Make the effort to support your team when needed. 

2. Work on your feedback skills.

One of the most important things you do as a leader is to provide feedback. Feedback is necessary, even when it is not easy to give.  Most people want to learn and grow personally and to improve and succeed professionally. So, even negative feedback is better than no feedback at all. When you offer feedback on a regular or continual basis (including positive feedback), it makes tough feedback much easier to give and receive. You also honor relationships and develop trust when people are not surprised by the feedback they are receiving. 

Brené Brown writes, “A leader is anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential. As a leader, your feedback comes from a place of genuinely wanting to help someone grow. Remember that “clear is kind.” Your feedback should not be ambiguous. 

3. Recognize that procrastination is not helpful

When you procrastinate providing feedback, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. People want feedback, healthy and frequent feedback. When there are issues, address them in a timely manner. They rarely resolve themselves. In fact, when you don’t address them, they usually get bigger. It is easier to deal with the issue as soon as possible for you, for the person to whom you are providing the feedback, and to the people who are depending on you as their leader.  Remind yourself of this often.

4. Make accountability a habit

Setting up a reminder to give and to ask for feedback as part of every meeting. This will help ensure that feedback flows consistently. Make time to meet with individuals on a regular basis for one-to-one conversation and use meetings as a way to celebrate the ongoing work of the people involved. Both the one-to-one meetings and the group meetings are opportunities to practice accountability by making it a habit. each meeting agenda 

5. Recognize and celebrate progress

The most motivating of all forms of feedback is praise for good work. Identify, celebrate, and learn from successes. It motivates people to do their best and creates responsibility role models for others to follow.

When Feedback is Difficult

When you find providing feedback, as an accountable leader difficult, consider finding a coach to assist you in your leader development. Your coach will help you:

  • Address successes, challenges, ideas for improvement, and ways to integrate ongoing learning and development.
  • Recognize development and growth opportunities for the people you lead. When you develop healthy relationships and stay in close contact with the people around you, you know where their gaps are and where the potential lies.
  • Develop empathy and compassion. When people feel cared for, they are more likely to be responsible. When they feel neglected, they are not motivated. Criticism and threats only discourage healthy relationships and accountability.
  • Provide positive feedback. Most people say the most memorable recognition they ever received was from a high-level leader. Remember, praise for good work is a powerful leadership tool. 

Model Accountability

As a leader, you can’t force people to develop a meaningful sense of accountability. But you can create the atmosphere that promotes commitment and responsibility by modeling accountability. Develop relationships, communicate clearly, and give frequent updates. 

So, how do you view the concept of accountability? The people around you are taking their cues from you.  What is one thing you will do this week to model accountable leadership? Maybe you can think of it this way, “How do I want to grow personally and improve professionally?” Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

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 connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Sara Thomas and I continue our discussion on Accountable Leadership. If you have not been a LeaderCast listener, you want to start with this one. Check out Episode 175 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. 

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 connect@transformingmission.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. 

Do your heart race and your muscles tense when you hear the word “accountability”? 

Does being accountable bring the image of someone looking over your shoulder keeping you in line when you miss a step or make a mistake? 

For some people, it means having assistance in keeping on the right path or doing the right things. For others, it means taking responsibility for their personal growth and being persons of integrity. As a leader, in addition to those things, it means taking responsibility for your decisions and for the decisions of the people entrusted to your care.

An Accountable Leader

As easy as it is to discuss accountability partners and accountability groups, which are good and necessary for personal growth and development, it is not always comfortable to be an accountable leader.   

What does being an accountable leader mean? 

Well, it means being responsible for decisions made, actions taken, and assignments completed.  As a leader, it is important that you hold those with whom you are working accountable for their work. But it is just as important for you to be held accountable for your leadership. Thomas Paine wrote, “Anyone holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

Accountable leadership:

  • Builds trust – The most important result of trust is the development of relationships
  • Inspires confidence – When relationships are healthy, accountability provides the people with whom you are working the opportunity to grow in skills and confidence. Accountability is not to be used for controlling behavior.
  • Creates hope – When people are growing together, they are excited about moving toward a common goal together. Moving toward a common goal creates hope for the future. 

Four Characteristics of Accountable Leaders

With that in mind, let’s consider what it might mean for you to be an accountable leader. To be an accountable leader means:

1. You are a person of hope. 

You are leading the people entrusted to your care to the destination of trust, compassion, stability, and hope.

  • Focus on your purpose. Where are you going? It is necessary that you know the mission, the purpose, or the goal toward which you are leading the people. Your focus on the purpose will help you keep on the path when difficulties arise. 
  • Know and name your current reality. Where are you now? What is your context? It is necessary that you have a clear understanding of your starting point. If you don’t know where you are, how can you get to where you are going? As simple as it seems, it matters where you start. The more you know about the context, the more clearly you can focus upon your purpose. As important as it is to know the current reality, it is equally important to name the current reality for the people with whom you are working. Remember, clear is kind. If you are fuzzy about your context, you will have difficulty reaching your goal or achieving your purpose. 
  • Provide clarity on how you achieve your goal. Work with your people to develop the specific steps or actions you need to make it from where you are to where you want to be. What obstacles are in the way? What do you need to do to avoid or to address the obstacles?
  • Again, clear is kind. Be clear when answering questions. If you don’t know the answer, either work with your people to discover the answer or connect with someone who does know the answer. As the leader you are navigating the obstacles, so everyone arrives at the destination.
  • Meet the challenge of where you are going and make it a possibility. You know where you are, where you are going, and you are navigating the obstacles.  So, as you go, hold the purpose out in front, assist people to take the necessary steps to get there.  Provide manageable steps and celebrate each step when accomplished. 
  • Develop checkpoints, or places to check your progress, along the way. Hold yourself and your people accountable for meeting each step. At each checkpoint review and evaluate.  Keep the purpose, the goal, in front of you. Celebrate each step that gets you closer to your goal. Ask yourself and the people with whom you are working what has gone well, what have they learned, and what needs to improve to move forward. 

2. You are not afraid to be vulnerable

To be a person of hope, who leads toward the goal, you must risk trusting the people with whom you work. You must own up to your commitments and promises and answer to the decisions you have made. In other words, not throwing anyone under the bus.

On one hand, establish clear goals. Be vulnerable. When the goals are fuzzy, admit you have created confusion. Take responsibility for the frustration your fuzziness creates. Remember, it is difficult to be accountable when you don’t know what you are being accountable for.

On the other hand, be honest and constructive when you know that people you are depending upon are having difficulty moving toward your goal. If you know where you are, where you are going, and the steps to get there, be vulnerable enough to risk holding people accountable to their part of the work.

3. You ask for help when it is needed

Even though you are diligent in creating a clear path, there will be bumps along the way. Don’t ignore the obstacles by pushing through.  If you are not clear on how to proceed, ask for help.

So, don’t let your pride get in the way. It is okay to ask for help before you a situation a crisis. Jim Collins, in his book From Good To Great, says that Level 5 leaders put the team’s vision and goals above their own needs. Asking for help does not mean you are not accountable. In fact, it shows just the opposite. It shows you committed to the people you are leading as well as to the goal to which you are leading them. 

4. You provide honest and constructive feedback 

Believe it or not, this aspect of accountable leadership is often the most difficult. To get to where you are going means you must provide others the opportunity to be responsible in reaching your goal. The best way to do this is through honest and constructive feedback. Feedback allows the people with whom you are working to know how they are doing. Everyone wants to know the truth. Confirming with them that their work is hitting the mark is helpful. Helping someone see where they are falling short of expectations is also helpful. Honest feedback builds trust.

Constructive feedback provides for improvement.  This is one place keeping your focus upon the purpose is necessary. Provide feedback along the way in light of your goal. It should be a continuous process. It is while you are navigating the obstacles that people need to know what needs to be adjusted or when to pivot. When you provide honest and constructive feedback, you empower the people with whom you are working.  In fact, you are allowing everyone to be accountable. 

Your Next Step

I’m not convinced you need an accountability partner or accountability group to become a courageous and effective leader. But I am convinced you need someone who you trust to give you honest and constructive feedback regarding your leadership.  I know you resist it. So do I. But to become the leader needed in today’s world, you and I must be courageous enough to risk becoming who God has created us to be. 

What one step will you take to grow in your leadership this week? If you want to be held accountable, let me know what step you are taking. Remember, who you are is how you lead. 

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 connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader.

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this week, Jessica Moffatt joins us in discussing Accountability and Courageous Leadership. If you have not been a LeaderCast listener, you want to start with this one. Check out Episode 173 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.  

How well do you know yourself? I know that question sounds foolish, but your ability to know and understand your emotions and reactions might be the most important trait you have as a leader. 

Even though some people say that integrity, communication, or compassion, are the most important characteristics of leadership, studies show that people who have great self-awareness are better leaders.  

Knowing Yourself

Self-awareness allows you to know your strengths and weaknesses. It helps you understand what triggers negative emotions and what brings you joy. When you have a healthy self-awareness, you can reflect on why you feel a certain way and to control how your feelings can turn into reactions. 

You can empathize with the people around you and to find ways to reach your goals in the midst of difficult situations and circumstances. Knowing yourself strengthens your ability to be vulnerable, which allows you to develop stronger relationships with the people entrusted to your care, whether they be family, friends, or colleagues. 

Fine Tuning

When you fine-tune your self-awareness abilities, you are more adaptable, and you can lead with greater confidence. Psychologist and author Sherrie Campbell, in her book Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person, writes, “Self-awareness keeps us grounded, attuned and focused…When leaders are grounded, they are able to be efficient and deliberate in staying on task and being attuned to those around them. Leaders who have the ability to control their minds and emotions help to guide those around them to develop their own self-knowledge and success.”

Learning to be aware of yourself isn’t always easy but it is one skill that can help you become a much more effective leader. So, how well do you know yourself? How do you know that you are self-aware or at least growing in self-awareness? 

Six Ways to Know You’re Growing

You know you are growing in self-awareness when:

1. You can identify your emotions and name what you are feeling.

Emotions, especially when they are negative, have a tendency to take over your mind and body without you realizing it. You actually lose rational thinking, become defensive, and damage relationships. 

When you can identify your emotions, you can begin to question what you need at that moment. Part of identifying your emotions is being able to name what you are feeling. Knowing how to name them and talk about them, with both yourself and with others, is a key to developing self-awareness.

Every day I experience a range of emotions. Sometimes, when I’m feeling frustrated, I get overly critical of myself and my work. Sometimes, when I’m tired, I am less generous with my colleagues and the people entrusted to my care. 

In the past, I was less aware of these feelings and would fall into an unhealthy work rage. Neither my frustration nor my critical reaction helped me feel better or fixed the actual problem. But, by improving my self-awareness, I have begun to understand what I’m feeling and how to address the actual things that trigger my emotions. 

You can check your emotions at any moment during the day. Ask yourself:

  • What emotions am I experiencing at the moment? There are at least 54 different emotions. Learn to identify them with more than the general, sad, glad, or mad categories. 
  • Am I listening to my body? Is my heart beating faster? Is my stomach churning? Am I losing my voice? Why is my body reacting as it is?
  • What causes or triggers some of my negative emotions?

2. You can identify your emotional triggers.

Just as you can know your emotions, you can know what triggers your emotional response. Instead of repressing or denying your emotions, you learn to bend and flex with them, adapting to your situation and processing your emotions before communicating with others. 

We each have our own coping mechanisms that protect us from the hurt, disappointment, and failure that we fear. Unknowingly, we develop these mechanisms from childhood and significant experiences. Being able to recognize when these coping mechanisms begin to take over your thinking and acting is an impactful example of self-awareness. 

Have you ever shut down or disengaged in a meeting? Have you ever been in a conversation when you felt irritated, frustrated, or angry? Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I’m not angry. I just feel deeply about this?” Healthy self-awareness knows what triggers your disengagement, frustration, or anger. 

What are your most common coping mechanisms? When do you get the most defensive in life? What coping mechanisms did you develop as a child that no longer serve you?

3. You can define and live by your own values and beliefs.

Many times, the need to belong and to be liked is stronger than who you really are or what you value or believe. You feel so much pressure to fit in with the people around you that you set aside your own values and beliefs. You know you are self-aware when you can step back and ask yourself, “Am I being true to myself at this moment?”

It is difficult to ignore all the messages about what you should believe. But the more you develop your self-awareness and determine your core values, the more you can be the leader needed for this time. 

What are your core values? When have you tried to please others? When have you based your decision more on the expectations of others rather than your own? 

4. You can identify and affirm your strengths.

Sometimes it is intimidating to take a self-assessment or to be evaluated because you are afraid of what you might find out about yourself. Self-awareness is shown in knowing both your strengths and your shortcomings, owning them for yourself, and living into your strengths and getting help with your weaknesses. 

No one of us is perfect. Even the most successful person you know has a list of shortcomings that they had to overcome to achieve their success. Self-awareness is about identifying your strengths and your weaknesses but finding a way to live into your strengths.

By possessing this self-awareness, you can become a more effective leader. You find strategies and support for your weaknesses, while simultaneously letting your strengths flourish.

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How can you redesign your life or environment to emphasize your strengths?

5. You can celebrate what brings you joy.

With a healthy self-awareness, you can identify what brings you joy and make joy a priority in your life. Too often, you know what makes you happy, but you push it off because there are too many important things to do. 

The discipline to commit to what brings you joy is not always easy. So, possessing the self-awareness to realize what gives you joy is important. Give yourself the opportunity to live into and celebrate what brings you joy. 

What gives you joy? How often do you celebrate the joy in your everyday life? What do you put above your joy, and why?

6. You know what you need in your relationships.

It sounds simple, but it is actually complicated. Relationships are too important not to take into account regarding self-awareness. Too often we limit the potential for healthy and empowering relationships because we have either limited our understanding of relationships or we are afraid of vulnerability. When you don’t have a clear understanding of what you need, you end up in frustrating and unfulfilling situations. Healthy self-awareness helps you identify who you need to be for the people around you.  

Imagine if you knew exactly what you wanted from a friend, a colleague, a partner, or family member. If you know what you want or need, then you know how to communicate when you are struggling, lost, or sad in these relationships. 

What do you value most in a friendship? How often are you able to express what you need from the people in your life?

Your Turn

So, how well do you know yourself? Becoming self-aware is not as easy as flipping a switch or attending a seminar. It takes time, attention, reflection, and practice. But the more you pause and think about what you feel, want, and need, the more you will experience the life-changing benefits of self-awareness. 

Becoming self-aware is critical to your own leadership growth. Don’t let your lack of self-knowledge stagnate your influence. Know yourself.

Take Action

Take 5 minutes at the end of the day to reflect upon the situations and circumstances of the day. Reflect upon one or two of the following (no particular order):

  • The meetings you attended
  • The people with whom you had interaction
  • What emotions did you experience? 
  • Was anything said or done that triggered a negative response from you?
  • When did you have to stand on your values or beliefs? Did you give in?
  • When were you aware of your strengths or weaknesses? How did you respond? 
  • When did you experience joy?
  • How did you cultivate relationships today? 
  • Who do you need to contact to express appreciation for helping you become more who you created to be?
  • Who do you need to contact to ask forgiveness for your lack of self-awareness?

Remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 
Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about self-awareness. This week we have a conversation with Rae Lynn Schleif. She shares stories that will inspire and challenge your life and leadership. Check out Episode 169 – Self-Awareness in Different Seasons of Life and Ministry. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together

When making a list of the most important qualities of a leader, you might include vision, courage, integrity, focus, organizational skills, and the ability to communicate clearly. Each of these qualities, along with a dozen others, are needed by leaders and wanted by followers. But according to those who study leadership, the quality that should be at the top of the list isn’t any of these obvious characteristics. The most important ability a leader should have is self-awareness.

Self-awareness 

Self-awareness often gets overlooked because we see the consequences of it, but we don’t identify it as the cause of those consequences. For example, we all want leaders who are good listeners, who can see both sides of an argument, and who know when to delegate and when to take a more hands-on approach. The skill behind each of those capabilities is self-awareness.

Regardless of how much you know, how many workshops you have taken or seminars you have attended, the very heart and soul of your leadership grows out of your understanding of who you are and why you are a leader.

Who Are You?

Let’s think of this way.  What do you think about when you reflect upon the question, “Who am I?” Do you describe what you do? Do you identify yourself with your occupation or a position you hold? Do you identify yourself with the friends and family, or what you have accomplished?  

You might say, “I am the CEO of my own company and I live with my family in Upper Arlington.” Or “I am a student at The Ohio State University, and I am graduating with honors.” Or I might say, “I am a district superintendent in the United Methodist Church, and I oversee 120 churches in central Ohio.”  

Each of the statements are true, but none of the three statements identifies who you are or who I am. The reality is you are not what you do or produce. You are not the positions you hold, the degrees you have earned, or the money you have made. Yet, for most of us, we rarely take the time to reflect upon the real nature of our existence, of who we are, and how we are perceived by the people around us.

Self-awareness Begins with Who You Are

Self-awareness is about learning to understand why you feel what you feel and why you respond or react the way you do. Once you begin to understand yourself and your actions you then can change things about yourself. As you begin to understand yourself you have the opportunity to become the leader you were created to be. 

Having clarity about who you are and who you want to be is empowering. It gives you the confidence and courage needed to make the changes.

Describe Yourself

If you are still with me, try this little exercise. Think about describing yourself to another person without mentioning anything about the external things that are in your life. Don’t mention what you do, positions you hold, your friends, family, degrees, etc. Focus only on yourself. Reflect upon how you feel and how you respond or react to the people around you. Identify your strengths, what you do well, and what you don’t like doing at all.

This might not be an easy exercise, if self-reflection is not a part of your daily routine. You might get caught up in irrational thoughts and beliefs and begin to tell yourself that this exercise is foolish or a waste of time. You know, both might be true, but the story you are telling yourself affects the way you perceive yourself as well as affects your feelings and actions toward being a leader.   

If self-reflection is a part of your daily routine, you might begin to understand your thoughts and actions in a way that helps you better relate to and empathize with the people around you, especially the people entrusted to your care.

You Are a Child of God 

When you better understand yourself, you are able to experience yourself as a unique human being, a child of God. And in all humility, you can admit that you are good in who God created you to be. You become aware of what you are good at doing while accepting what you still must learn to become a whole and complete human being. This includes admitting when you don’t have the answers or taking the responsibility of your mistakes.

Too often, many of us operate on the belief that we must appear as though we know everything all the time. When you are not sure of who you are, you become intimidated when someone questions your ability or challenges your leadership. 

If you are honest with yourself, you will admit that really the opposite is true. Because whether you acknowledge your weaknesses or not, everyone still sees them. You highlight your weaknesses when you try to hide them. This is one of the pitfalls of poor leadership. In trying to hide your weaknesses you create the perception of a lack of integrity and lack of self-awareness.

Leader, Know Yourself

As a leader who is self-aware, you know yourself. You know who you are and from where you come.  You know your strengths and weaknesses. You know what you hold as valuable. You are aware of your personality traits, interests, talents, and skills. Becoming self-aware is a process that occurs through intentionally reflecting upon who you are and how you relate to others.

So, are you ready to make some time for self-reflection? 

First, think about the story you tell yourself about who you are. 

Use these questions: 

  • What events have been most impactful or defining in your life? Identify at least three. 
  • What emotions, values, strengths, mistakes do you observe. Are you able to name them and to own them?
  • What words do you use to describe your feelings and behavior?  
  • What have you learned about yourself that can make you a better leader? 

Self Reflection

Your reflections will be both positive and negative. The events you name might be the loss of a loved one, a job opportunity that challenged your capabilities and self-perception, or witnessing a key social or political event. Take your time to feel what you feel. Name it and own it. It is who you are or at least has helped shape who you are.

Second, ask a trusted friend, colleague, mentor, or coach to assist you in the following:

  • To listen to your reflection upon the insights and lessons you have learned.
  • To give you feedback to gauge the accuracy of the self-information you gather.

Use these questions to help with your conversation:

  • If you had to tell this person your story, what would you include? 
  • Ask this person how they perceive you? What emotions, values, strengths, or mistakes do they see in you? How do these match, or not match, with the ones you identified? 

This exercise can be a powerful way to discover what you have to offer as well as what might be hidden deep within. Becoming more aware of who you are and how you respond or react will help inform your path towards self-awareness and growth.

The Leader You Were Created to Be

Some people spend lots of money to go through this process. All I am attempting to do is to assist you to become the leader you were created to be. If you choose to enter a time of self-reflection, know that you are not alone. It will not be easy, and it might be painful, but you will develop the most important quality needed in leaders today. Your positive impact will live on far after you have completed your work at this time in history. Who you are is how you lead! 

Remember that Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out LeaderCast. On the podcast this month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about self-awareness. This week we highlight five aspects of self-awareness that are essential for courageous, Christ-centered leaders in daily life. Check out Episode 167 – 5 Aspects of Self-Awareness. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together

How are you doing today? Since I last checked, you have celebrated the hope of Advent and the joy Christmas. You ended the unbelievable year of 2020 and started a new year with expectation and resolve. I am assuming the events of the past week were not part of your plan for the new year. So, I am checking on you. How are you doing? 

With the COVID pandemic and racial unrest as present realities, I don’t need to go over all the events of the past week. But from the funeral service for Andre Hill, to the Stand Your Ground bill that was passed by the state legislature, to the domestic terrorism at the Capitol in Washington, it has been one emotional roller coaster.  

How Do You Lead in Times Like These?

I understand if you are feeling angry, disappointed, afraid, frustrated, and weary.  I say I understand because those are the emotions I felt last week and continue to wrestle with today. I have talked with colleagues and friends who are feeling the same. With all this stuff, piled onto what you were already navigating, enough is enough. There is even a penalty in football for piling on.

So, how do you lead in the midst of the times in which we are living? Last week I asked the question, “wouldn’t it feel good to be in your sweet spot, to be in the groove where you are your most effective and are making your greatest impact, and at the same time living a joy filled life?” 

Sure, we all want that. Well, it starts with becoming who you are created to be. Who you are is how you lead.  Even in the middle of pandemics, racial unrest, and political violence.  Who you are is how you lead.

Check In on Emotions, Voice Your Grief

Last week, when I was getting angry and feeling helpless and weary, I called a few friends to talk about what was happening and to voice my grief.  I have found that a few good friends, who love and accept me for who I am, help me think clearly and to speak responsibly. 

At the time I was feeling that my writing in response to racial injustice, the pandemic, and the political climate, was not making much difference. But through those conversations, prayer, and reflection, I have decided I needed to share what I am learning regarding courageous leadership. It is my hope these insights will assist you as a leader at this point and time in history. 

Who Are You?

The big question for me is, do you know at your core who you are? This is a question of values. As a follower of Jesus, how do you differentiate yourself when you encounter people of different values?  Your answer is revealed in the way you lead when you either respond or react to people with whom you disagree. 

Who you are is the way you lead.

When you know and honor your values, life is good. Even in the midst of uncertainty and turmoil, you have a place to stand. But if you don’t know and understand your values, you will be shaped by the values of others. 

I’m going out on a limb here to say, part of what you have experienced over the past several days and weeks are values contrary to your own. So, how do you lead in such conflict? 

Know your values. 

As an example, as a follower of Jesus, one of your core values might be love (I certainly hope it is). Now, I’m not talking about warm and fuzzy feelings centered on romance or friendship. Although both are important, I’m talking about love, regardless of feelings, that is centered in the well-being of others  

It is the love that takes others seriously. It is centered in action. It works for the good of others even in the midst of disagreement and misunderstanding. It is vulnerable, empathetic, and listens.  It provides a caring and safe place for all people to develop relationships and to become who God created them to be. (For more on the value of love in leadership, read “Lead With Love” October 13, 2020 at www.transformingmission.org/blog or listen to Episodes 131 and 132 of LeaderCast, “Love as You  Have Been Love” August 3, 2020 and “God’s Love for the World” August 5, 2020 at www.transformingmission.org/podcast). 

Know current reality. 

In other words, be truthful about your context. Over the past several weeks, we have experienced different expressions of hatred. From the shooting of an unarmed black man to the acts of violence at the Capitol, hatred is at the root of such actions. I know that is a strong word, but what I have learned is hatred is a value expressed by some people today. 

As a follower of Jesus, hatred is not on your radar. You don’t even like talking about hatred. But hatred is part of our current reality. So, how do you lead in the midst of hatred?

Leading Amid Hatred

Hatred is a sustained feeling of intense dislike for another person or a group of persons. It is shown in an ongoing hostility that uses up emotional energy. When someone has hatred for another person, they often spend much of their time fixated on their anger, contempt, or dislike of the other person.

Some researchers believe we all have the capacity to hate, while other researchers believe true hatred is uncommon. What is clear is that hatred tends to emerge as a learned emotion that flourishes in the absence of compassion. 

As we have discussed in the past, compassion is one of the characteristics people look for in their leaders. If hatred flourishes in the absence of compassion, then hatred as little to do with courageous leadership. Who you are is how you lead.

Don’t Allow Hatred to Take Over

When you let hatred in, hatred takes over. For example, on September 11, 2001, our culture normalized hatred when we collectively said, “someone has to pay for what has happened.” I don’t disagree. But what we did was to set our sights upon everyone related to the Islamic religion. Instead of holding a few extremists responsible, we placed our hatred toward all Moslems.  

As a country, we were unified in our resolve to bring to justice the perpetrator of the events. We invaded other countries. We became suspicious of anyone who dressed differently and talked with an accent, especially on airplanes. When we found and killed Osama Bin Laden, our hatred did not go away. We redirected our hatred toward persons around us. To maintain such feelings, we put people, objects of our hatred, into categories like immigrants, blacks, Mexicans, etc. Without even realizing it, we placed ourselves in positions of supremacy and privilege.  To maintain such positions, we could not let go of our hatred. Or maybe a better way to say it is, we let our hatred hang onto us. Once you let hatred in, hatred doesn’t care.

So, out of our hatred, we have given normalcy to standing your ground, getting back what is rightfully yours, and making sure no one gets anything you don’t get first. The words “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” are words on a page. There is little courageous leadership without vulnerability and empathy. Who you are is how you lead. 

Continue the Exploration

Know your values and be honest about your current reality. I’ll pick up at this point next week. Until then, look deep within yourself and discover what value motivates you.  

Make an honest assessment of your current reality. To navigate the waters of conflicting values, you need to know yourself and know your context. Who you are is how you lead.  

Please know you are not alone. Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you with insights and resources in becoming a courageous leader. 

Check out our LeaderCast podcast. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.

Happy New Year!

I want to start with these words for this new year, “Who you are is how you lead.” 

You are now asking, “what does that mean?” Let’s think of this way. How often have you heard someone say about a person who is happy, joy filled, clicking on all cylinders, “She was born to do this” or “He was born to do that.” Those words are often spoken about persons who are being who they were created to be. They have a purpose in who they are and how they live, work, and play.   

Focus on Your Purpose

As you step into this new year, you have the opportunity to focus upon your purpose for living, loving, and leading. Why are you doing what you are doing? What is your purpose as a leader? As a parent? Or as a colleague? As a human being? 

Your purpose grows out of the essence of who you are. It is the natural flow of your strengths and talents as they are related to the people you serve and to the context in which you are living and working.  Too often people inhibit or ignore this flow, but it is always there. It is what you do because it is who you are. How it gets lived out depends on your ability to recognize it, claim it, and live into it.    

What is Your Purpose?

Contrary to what some people think, your purpose is not a list of accomplishments, education, experience, and skills you have gathered in your life. It is not a professional title, limited to your current job or assignment. Each of these things are important and might assist you in living out your purpose, but none of these things define who you are. 

Your purpose is who you were created to be. Paul came close to defining purpose in his letter to the Ephesians when he wrote, “we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives” (Ephesians 2:10 CEB).  You have been created for a purpose. 

In her book, Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, Amy Sherman writes that purpose in leadership is significantly related to leader effectiveness. She points out that purpose is found in the center of God’s priorities, personal gifts and passions, and the world’s needs. 

What is a Leader’s Purpose?

With that in mind and using Brene Brown’s definition of leadership, your purpose, as a leader, is about taking responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and processes and then developing that potential. Living out your purpose and how it relates to the people you serve transforms the world. 

My purpose is to assist you in becoming the person you are created to be. Whether you are a leader, parent, preacher, or pastor, I find great joy and satisfaction is assisting you to use your strengths and talents in the context in which you are living and working. 

So, what is your purpose? I know someone, because of who he is, naturally finds ways to affirm and encourage the people around him. He actively engages in ways to help people live into their potential.  When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, he bought coffee mugs, with these words “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made” on the mugs and gave them out to the people whom he supervises. I am sure he was not trying to make a statement but was naturally offering himself in helping the people around him live into their full potential.  

So, what is your purpose? 

How are you living your purpose in relationship to the people around you and the context in which you live and work. Here are five reasons your purpose helps you become the leader you are created to be. 

Purpose motivates.

Many of us talk of what we do as our calling, as our vocation. What does that mean to you? Are you called to an institution, a business, a particular way of life, or to being who you are created to be?  These examples are not mutually exclusive, but it matters where you start. 

So, what if you lived your life, related to people, and led from being who you are created to be? Would your life, relationships, work be more creative, more satisfying, more impactful? When you pursue your work with purpose it becomes a reservoir of energy, joy, and well-being that keeps you moving forward when facing challenges and adversity. 

Purpose empowers.

Your purpose empowers you to strive for something bigger than yourself. It is not about a position in a hierarchy or about having power over people. It is about sharing and giving power to others. Just as your purpose is being who you were created to be, you assist others in becoming who they were created to be. In this way, purpose is bigger than you. It includes the people entrusted to your card.

Purpose makes you courageous and resilient.

It energizes you to take risks by facing your challenges and fears with stability and hope. It calls you to grow and to be more vulnerable, more courageous, and more resilient than you thought was possible. The ability to take risks is a key to effective leadership. It is required to lead into and through any situation. Having a bigger purpose is what motivates you to put yourself outside of your comfort zone. 

Purpose helps you engage others. 

When you live into your purpose and assist others to live into their purpose, you build engagement. People go the extra mile because their hearts, as well as their minds, are engaged. Effective leaders inspire action through a contagious sense of purpose. 

Purpose helps you navigate obstacles and uncertainty.

Your purpose allows you to be decisive and courageous and empathic and hopeful in service of a bigger cause. When you are living out of your purpose, you make a unique impact upon the lives of the people around you. You contribute to making the world better. It shows up in your decisions, how you face challenges, how you relate to others. However it shows up, when you identify your purpose, you are energized, and you are able to lead through whatever obstacles and uncertainty you face.   

Your Next Steps

So, as you step into this new year, here is what you do. Set aside 10 minutes to answer these questions and to do the following: 

Step 1

Answer these questions: What brings you joy in life? What do you enjoy doing that helps you come alive? What are the experiences that energize you at work, at home, in life?

Purpose comes from your heart, your intuition, and from your emotions. It moves you because you are one with who God created you to be, one with yourself, and one with the people around you.

You might have to take extra time to truly answer this question. But when you come to an understanding of your purpose, you will be blessed beyond measure.

Step 2

Take notes on your reflection. Make mental notes if you don’t write them down.

What are those experiences that energize you at work, at home, in life? Reflect upon the common themes. What are you doing? Who are you being? What strengths are you exercising? What do people seek you out for? What are the challenges you have faced? What inner resources have you developed to overcome those challenges? Who are you drawn to help? 

Step 3

What leadership legacy do you want to leave? What lasting impact do you want to make? In your family? In your work? In your life?

Reflect on and seriously consider what the ideal world would look like if you were in charge? How do you want your contributions to be remembered? A leader with purpose makes a world changing impact when he/she leads out of their purpose.

For me, a perfect world is where everyone is becoming who God created them to be in their relationships with one another. It is your sense of purpose that moves you from being a transactional leader to a transformational leader. 

Step 4

Now find a trusted friend or colleague and share with them your work. Invite them on the journey with you so you can become more the leader you have been created to be. 

Wow! That seems like a lot at the beginning of the year. But, wouldn’t it feel good to be in your sweet spot, where you are your most effective and are making your greatest impact, and at the same time living a joy filled life? It starts with becoming who you are created to be. The question is, what is your purpose? Only you know the answer.

Sara Thomas and I are with you in your leadership journey. When we can be of encouragement or help to you, contact us at connect@transformingmission.org. We are ready to assist you in becoming the leader you are created to be. Don’t hesitate to call as we seek to give insights and resources to assist you in becoming a courageous leader.

Check out our LeaderCast podcast. This month, Sara and I are talking with leaders about purpose. This is one resource you will want to have as you navigate the challenges of 2021. Remember, who you are is how you lead. Let’s face what is coming together.