Leadership! Now, that is a big word. It is hard to define the word leadership with one word. Just like the alphabet has 26 letters, it takes all of these letters to be able to form sentences and, create imagery that can connect with a reader. Leadership is the same way. In this article, we are going to use the alphabet and it’s 26 letters to describe and expand our understanding of this age-old pursuit.
A is for ATTITUDE – Your attitude is the thermostat of your environment! Wherever you set your attitude as the leader, will be where your followers also set their attitude. If you are positive, you will have a positive environment. If you are negative, then your coworkers will repeat the same. My wife, constantly repeats to her staff that we will be, “Positive, Persistent, Problem-solvers!” Guess what? You will hardly ever not find her staff displaying this triple “P” disposition. We must model the way for those around us! Proverbs 18:21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue.
B is for BEST EFFORT – Leadership can easily be spelled W-O-R-K. Some people feel that being the “leader” removes them from the responsibility of doing the hard work. They feel they can stand in the balcony and watch everyone down below scurry and get things done. Whatever a leader does in moderation, the followers will do in excess. If you are constantly taking it easy, then the people around you will do so in excess. However, if you set the bar high they will also follow your example. Colossians 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the LORD, and not unto men.
C is for COOPERATION – Most areas of leadership are connected to a larger mission. You must be willing to cooperate with all of the other teams that are involved in your mission. It’s not about you! When you win, everyone wins! When you lose, everyone loses! Leaders must be cooperative and work with everyone involved in order to be successful. Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. 10. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
D is for DREAMER – Leaders are dreamers. You are more than a manager that is simply maintaining your life. You are a thinker. A dreamer. An idea generator. Harriet Tubman stated, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” So, go ahead, get your notepad out and begin to dream. Write down every thought and idea that God gives you, then act! Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
E is for ENCOURAGEMENT – As a leader, you can rule with an iron fist or you can open your hand and encourage those around you. Fear can motivate people for a while, but encouragement will keep people loyal to their leader. Encouragement is not a weakness, it is wisdom! As a leader, you should make a practice of encouraging someone around you every single day. This will help create a positive atmosphere. Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
F is for FRIENDSHIP – My father, RJ Morehead always told us boys that, “NO MAN IS AN ISLAND!” Even though we had a smaller church and at times did not have our own youth group, dad made sure that we connected with a neighboring youth group. We would ride with them on their bus to youth camps and other district events. Dad made sure that we NEVER missed an event. You must be INTENTIONAL in order to have lasting friendships in your leadership. Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.
G is for GOALS – Along with being a dreamer you also need goals. Think of the dream as the picture and goals as a picture frame. Goals create boundaries, borders, and protection for your dreams. So whatever your ultimate dream may be, sit down and create some goals towards the completion of your dream so that one day you will be able to display your completed work in life’s gallery. Habakkuk 2:2 And the LORD answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it.
H is for HOPE – My wife, Dr. Bobbi Morehead, loves quoting Napoleon Bonaparte’s, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” She is a leader that embraces this mantra! Romans 15:13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Wrapped into the essence of hope is joy, peace and the Holy Ghost. If we can inspire hope into those around us, we can truly be transformational leaders!
I is for INTEGRITY – There is a lot of talking within this generation about authenticity. Being real. Spencer Johnson, author of The One Minute Manager and Who Moved My Cheese?, wrote, “INTEGRITY is telling MYSELF the truth. HONESTY is telling the truth to OTHER PEOPLE (emphasis mine).” Self-talk matters! We must be saying (living, acting, doing) the same things to ourselves (PRIVATELY) that we say to everyone else (PUBLICALLY). Proverbs 11:3 The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity (NIV).
J is for JOYFUL – Joy is contagious! If you are a joyful leader, there is a high probability that people around you will be joyful. Try this as a case study – begin laughing and then talk negatively about someone. It is hard to do. When we are joyful we tend to have joyful actions. Infuse a spirit of joy in your work environment and measure the results. Remember, we are the thermostat! Nehemiah 8:10 Neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
K is for KIND – I have learned that kindness begets kindness. While working with high school and middle school students in this generation, I have picked up on a disturbing trend. They continually tell me they will not give respect until they are respected. That is a difficult way to lead as a leader. This is very subjective. How can you tell whether or not you have been respected? Who is worthy of your respect? I have found it easier to simply give everyone an equal amount of respect no matter what. Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.
L is for LISTENING – True leadership is not a dictatorship. There is a Japanese proverb that states, “None of us are as smart as all of us.” Meaning no matter how smart any of us are, we still need the input of the people around us. If you truly want to gain the respect of your team members, TRULY LISTEN next time they place an idea on the table. Embrase the popular phrase, “God gave you two ears and only one mouth for a reason – to listen.” James 1:19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
M is for MAJOR ON THE MAJORS – It has often been said, “Don’t Major on the Minors.” Simply put, author TF Tenny‘s words, “Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing.” Too many people major in the minors and get distracted on what God has called them to do. They major on the critics, crowds, and the cash. The apostle Paul was extremely clear on his objectives when he stated, “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified ( 1 Corinthians 2:2).”
N is for NEVER GIVE UP – Sir Winston Churchill gave one of the greatest speeches in history with six words, “Never, never, never, never, give up!” As a leader, you will have countless opportunities to quit. You will encounter dire circumstances. At times the price of leadership will seem too high. People will betray you. You’ll never have enough resources. However, you must persevere! LEADERS ALWAYS FIND A WAY. You must never give up! 2 Corinthians 4:8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.
O is for OPPORTUNITIES – There is a lot of discussion in leadership right now about leaders knowing when to say no. All of this talk is generated by an idea of balance. While I do understand the necessity for balance, my leadership has expanded by my willingness to say yes to random opportunities. It is amazing to look back at my life and notice times where I have said yes to opportunities that I wasn’t even qualified for that God used 10 and 15 years later to open new opportunities for me. This is not to say you should jeopardize your family or your health, but you should get out of your comfort zone and say yes to opportunities that will stretch you! Proverbs 18:16 A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.
P is for PLAN – I often jokingly say my life motto is, “Over prepare then wing it.” When I was in college my model was simply, “Wing it.” That did not turn out so well. America Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, stated, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” A good leader creates a solid plan, remains flexible to accommodate all the changes that inevitably will come, and then executes the plan. Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (NIV).
Q is for QUALITY WORK – It generally takes more time to do less work. I realize that sounds a little strange at first, however, by the time you re-do the work you were supposed to do in the first place, you will generally invest more time on all the redos. Leaders do things right, leaders do things well. Colossians 3:23 “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.
R is for RESPONSIBILITY – USE IT OR LOSE IT – Jesus, the world’s greatest storyteller, tells of a mighty businessman that is leaving for a foreign country. He divides some of his fortunes with his three most trusted employees. Upon his return, he learns that two of them have increased his fortune. The third, however, out of fear, hid and buried his treasure. The leader was very angry and took the talent away and gave it to the one who had increased the most. I have met many people who, out of fear, have hidden their God-given talents. Talents of academics, music, art, writing or a host of other abilities. No matter what creative talents you have been given, you are responsible to use and practice these talents. Just like the parable that Jesus gave, if we are not responsible and don’t use our talents, we can lose them. I have also witnessed people with just a little bit of talent who surrendered it to God and He multiplied it greatly! Matthew 25:23 His LORD said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy LORD.
S is for SUCCESS – Playing the right way is more important than winning. However, if you play the right way it is likely that you will win often. Some people chase success in leadership, however, if you will instill the right character traits, and proper work ethic, in time you will achieve success in leadership! Fundamentals matter. Learning the basics matter. The end does not always justify the means. It is imperative that you build on the right foundation! Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
T is for TEAMWORK – I challenge you to turn your “ME” into “WE’
- TALK – You can’t simply make decisions and solve problems by yourself. You must have the trust to lay your idea on the table and TALK IT OUT.
- EXPECTATIONS – You can only EXPECT what you INSPECT. Team members must hold each other accountable.
- ATTITUDE – The ATTITUDE of the leader determines the ALTITUDE of the team.
- MOTIVATION – A leader is one who KNOWS the way, GOES the way and SHOWS the way – John C. Maxwell
Leviticus 26:7 And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. 8. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
U is for UPLIFT – A trap of leadership is to focus on ourselves instead of those around us. Leaders can build people by uplifting them. In his book, “Winning With People,” John C. Maxwell states, “One of the most valuable lessons in winning with people is the 30-Second Rule: within the first thirty seconds of a conversation, say something encouraging to a person.” He continues, “The 30-second rule gives people the triple-a treatment of Attention, Affirmation, and Appreciation.” Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
V is for VALUE – Dr. John C. Maxwell stated, “SUCCESS is when I add value to MYSELF. SIGNIFICANCE is when I add value to OTHERS.” In another instance, Maxwell insisted, “You should always bring something to the table every time you meet with someone.” I love this and have tried to live by this mantra. When I meet with a pastor, friend or family member, I try to see how I can add something of value to their life. The catch here is that in order to give value away you have to possess it personally. I Timothy 1:5-7 instructs us, “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6. And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7. And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.“
W is for WIN – In his book, “Making Vision Stick,” Andy Stanley states, “To make vision stick, a leader needs to pause long enough to CELEBRATE THE WINS ALONG THE WAY.” He continues, “What’s celebrated is repeated.”
- CELEBRATE THE WIN – Hold a party and have everyone share “good things” about your past event.
- COMMUNICATE THE WIN – Place the “good things” on social media and in your organization’s newsletter.
Don’t rush too quickly to the next event. Stop. Wait. Celebrate. 1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
X IS FOR – EXCELLENCE – Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might. Ecclesiastes 9:10 is my “ministry life verse.” In this passage, we find four very specific types of hands that every leader must have in order to be successful and to strive for excellence.
- 1) WILLING HANDS – WHATSOEVER – If you are willing to do the small things God will make you ruler over many (Matthew 25:23)!
- 2) INITIATIVE HANDS – FINDETH TO DO – In leadership, we must have a “WHAT’S NEXT” attitude.
- 3) ACTIVE HANDS – DO IT – If you are going to be successful in leadership, at any level, you must be active.
- 4) PASSIONATE HANDS – MIGHT – Like the old children’s song -Hokey Pokey- you must put, “Your whole self in”
Successful leaders strive for excellence! So, whatever stage of leadership you are currently in, just jump in and get your hands dirty for the Kingdom of Christ!
Y is for YOU – Leadership is YOU! You are the only leader that you can ever be. You will not be successful leading like anyone else. You must be YOU! We need your imagination and creativity. We need your personality, experience, and dreams – we need you! Psalm 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
Z is for ZEBRA – (Everything is to blend together) Effective leaders are multi-dimensional leaders. You need numerous dimensions in which you are able to work with many different people and skillsets. As a leader, you must be able to be a zebra and blend numerous personalities and agendas into one vision. Diversity of thought breads ingenuity. 1 Corinthians 12:12-13 For example, the body is one unit and yet has many parts. As all the parts form one body, so it is with Christ. By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.
Leadership expert Max DePree wrote, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.” In this post, I have tried to define the reality of leadership. I have given you 26 principles on which leadership can be built. Much more can be layered upon these principles, but every leader must have a starting point. I say thank you to everyone who has read the entirety of this post. I say thank you to every leader I’ve worked alongside, as well as everyone who has followed my leadership. Now is the fun part! We get to go out into this world, get our hands dirty and serve everyone we meet and help lead them to a greater future!