Five Areas for Growth

Posted on February 7, 2012 by

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In a recent blog post on Forbes.com, contributor Mike Myatt1 challenged readers to focus on five areas for leadership development. These 5 topics (Family, White Space, Listening, Unlearning, Engagement, and a bonus area-Reading) are not the typical categories you read about in the literature.  I found it intriguing and challenging to consider these as I might not have otherwise done so.

Myatt begins with a strong assertion on the importance of family.  “If your focus is on family, your career won’t suffer, it will flourish.  Get this wrong and not only will your family suffer, but so will you as you someday mourn the loss of what could have been, but cannot be recovered.”  I have spoken with leaders who have lead ministry for years who openly share about the unnecessary toll leadership took on their families.  Bob Mitchell , Young Life’s 3rd President once shared with that a regret he carries is overlooking his own family as he threw himself into Young Life ministry.  In similar fashion, I heard a Q&A session in which Chuck Colson urged young men to invest in the legacy of their children.  He went so far as to say that our children are the only true legacy we leave.

“Smart leaders don’t fill their calendars with useless activities; they strategically plan for white space allowing then to focus on highest and best use endeavors.  Leading doesn’t always mean doing.  In fact, most often times it means pulling back and creating white space so that others can do.”  Have you considered creating a regular time of reflection and thinking about your leadership?

“Want to become a better leader?  Stop talking and start listening.  Being a leader should not be viewed as a license to increase volume of rhetoric.”  We often teach YL leaders the simple relational principle of listening.  As a leaders, we must listen to those we lead.

“The smartest people I know are the most willing to change their minds.  They don’t want to be right, they want the right outcome – they want to learn, grow, develop, and mature.”  My first assignment as an Asst Work Crew Boss was a formative experience in life.  I was bemoaning the inadequate leadership of my fellow WC bosses.  If I weren’t a strong (i.e. loud, persistent, and pushy) leader, nothing would get accomplished on the work crew – or so I thought.  I was tired of covering for them, of resolving all the issues, and disciplining the high school friends.  A close friend who was on the assignment with me challenged my definition of leadership.  He reminded me that Jesus spoke of serving; he challenged me to serving rather than “direct” the other bosses and work crew in general.  Consequently, I took a different approach with them.  As I sought to serve them, the issues seemed to lose intensity, and our friendships grew.  The impact on the work crew was visible.  More importantly, I unlearned an inadequate definition of leadership.

“Smart leaders spend their time starting or advancing conversations, not avoiding or ending them.  The more you engage others, the better leader you’ll become.”  Of course you must be available, emotionally and physically, to those whom you lead.   In relational ministry, this can be a challenge.  We need time to be with people.  We need to return phone calls.  We need to initiate not just in contact work, but with adults (e.g. committee, donors, and community leaders) and those we develop as leaders.  I would submit that engagement incorporates white space & listening among many other skills.

The bonus category offered by Myatt is reading.  “My message today is a simple one – if you want to improve your station in life, as well as the lives around you – read more.  The greatest leaders throughout history have been nothing short of relentless in their pursuit of knowledge.”  General Mastin Robeson (Retired USMC) challenged me to read a variety of sources – Wall Street Journal, NY Times, Washington Post, and the Economist for example.  He taught me that humility goes hand in hand with being a life long learner and seeking to understand others’ points of view.

Myatt’s post presented a challenge worthy of our consideration.  Perhaps these 5 topics will provide you with a focus to your continued leadership development in 2012.

1. Mike Myatt, 5 Leadership tips for 2012, Dec 22, 2011. http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2011/12/22/5-leadership-focus-areas-for-2012/

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Posted in: Leadership