We All Lead All The Time

Posted on November 2, 2011 by

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In 1967, J.Oswald Sanders wrote that “Leadership is influence…”1, and, since that time, many authors and speakers have expanded on his thoughts. The idea is simple, and when applied helps us to quickly evaluate our effectiveness as leaders. Look around and ask the question, “Who is following me?” The answer to the question does not immediately offer specifics on the quality or impact of our leadership but it does, however, reveal if someone is a leader. If no one is following, may I suggest that you are not an effective leader, or more specifically that you are overlooking opportunities to lead.

“Everyone is a leader, and everyone is leading all the time – sometimes in immediate, dramatic , and obvious ways, more often in subtle, hard-to-measure ways, but leading nonetheless.”2 Author Chris Lowney (a former Jesuit brother and Wall Street executive) penned these words as part of his book “Heroic Leadership.” We all have opportunities to lead every day. Think of the number of people you encounter daily in the course of “doing ministry.” Are you floating past people and only engaging when you get to the high school for contact work? Are you paying attention to anyone else at the school beside the kids who come to club or campaigners?

In Young Life, we have the opportunity in all that we do to develop leadership in younger staff, volunteer leaders, committee, and campaigners kids.  Leading leaders is the primary function of a staff person.  Interestingly as an organization, Young Life has grown to acknowledge the significance of volunteer leaders in ministry growth; so significant is the role that we rarely refer to leaders as “volunteer” leaders. We simply call them leaders being sensitive to the fact that the term “volunteer” may unintentionally communicate that the volunteers are not as influential or as important as the staff.  This is not a new idea;  the Reformers emphasized the “Priesthood of all believers.” They recognized that no one man was equipped to care for all the needs, and lead all the functions of a local church. Likewise, in Vatican II publications, leaders of the Roman Catholic Church espoused the “Priesthood of the faithful.” Even today, many churches include similar verbiage in their Sunday bulletins (i.e. “Every member a minister”).  The challenge for us is, “Do we live this out?”

As you grow in your own leadership, do you lead not only from upfront but also in your daily life? Do you recognize the people around you as you go about your daily business? Do you greet people when you buy coffee in the morning? Do you acknowledge your server at lunch? Do you talk to the janitor when you are doing contact work? Do you bring others along who may observe you engaging others in meaningful conversations. The truth is that you are always influencing everyone that you are around.  The question really becomes “what and who are you influencing them toward?” As ministers of the Gospel, we should all aspire to influence people toward Christ.  Eph 3:20 says we are “God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do the works He set out for us to do.” He has made you and wants you to live and lead faithfully wherever you are. Do not wait to arrive at a certain level or attain a particular position to have an impact on people. Lead now. Lead where you are.

“Leadership is defined not by the scale of the opportunity but by the quality of the response.”3 And that response is your faithfulness to lead in whatever opportunity the Lord has laid before you. Remember that leadership is not limited to or captured simply in a title or a position. It is more of a posture of influencing people, and we all influence people all the time. What kind of influence are you having?

1. Spiritual Leadership; J.Oswald Sanders, The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, Chicago IL, 1967.
2. Heroic Leadership: Best Practices From a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World; Chris Lowney, Loyola Press, Chicago Illinois, 2003
3. Ibid.

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Posted in: Leadership