Teachability

Posted on January 29, 2013 by

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Image courtesy of markuso/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of His disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray…” Luke 11:1

When Jesus chose the 12 who would follow Him, I don’t think He could have chosen a more surprising group.  These men who His future ministry would rest upon were “unschooled and untrained men” (Acts 4:13).  They bickered among themselves, and even struggled to understand His mission.  Yet Jesus saw the raw material inside them that would allow them to become strong pillars of His church.

Of all the character traits Jesus saw in the 12, one of the most significant had to be that they were teachable.  They had both the desire to grow and the recognition that they needed to grow.  As simple as it was for one of the disciples to ask, “Lord teach us to pray,” it revealed a heart that desired more, and this desire to learn was the groundwork that allowed Jesus to mold them into the men He could use.

How encouraging it is that as our Lord looks at us, He sees the raw material for us to become His leaders in this generation.  I’m convinced though, that for us to become the leaders of others that He knows we can be, we must have the same teachable spirit as the disciples.

“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”  Proverbs 9:9

A few months ago my 8 year old daughter was in the hospital with severe migraines.  On the last day we were there, the team of doctors came in for rounds.  One of the doctors, the head of the department and by all accounts a brilliant doctor, asked my daughter how her headache was, and she responded by saying it was gone.  My wife and I looked at each other with surprise and told him that she had just told us that it still hurt.  In our opinion, she just wanted to go home.  Even though we tried to tell him this numerous times, he discharged her a few hours later.  Soon after getting home, the headache was back at full strength again.  We sure wish he had listened to us.

It was a great lesson for me.  We can be brilliant, well researched, and accomplished, but if we do not ask questions, listen, and want to understand and learn, then it’s all worthless.  In 15 years of leading people who lead others, teachability is the characteristic that has come to the forefront as the most necessary trait that I look for in a leader.

What is teachability?

I used to think that being teachable was taking instruction and responding to it.  But that is only part of what it is to be teachable.  Like most things in life, being teachable begins with the heart.  I think teachability is having a heart that desires to learn and grow, and understanding that we can learn from everyone.  When we think we are sufficient in ourselves, we become stunted in our growth.  Believing in our own competency creates a barrier that keeps us from moving forward.

The best leaders I have seen are question askers, and they want to know two things.  First, they ask questions to get to know those they lead.  We always seem to want to figure out formulas for how to do things, but men and women aren’t math problems.  We can’t be fixed and figured out so easily.  We are complex products of the stories of our lives, and we lead others best by knowing them.  Second, they ask questions to grow.  “How did you do this?”  “What are the things you’ve learned in your time of leading others?”  “What would you do differently?”  Those who have come before us have a wealth of wisdom to offer us, if we would only ask.

Here are 3 things I’d encourage you to do.

1. Make sure you have a plan for your own personal and spiritual growth.  You can’t give people what you don’t have yourself.  Be teachable to God.

2. Begin to listen to people’s lives.  Ask questions to those you lead that will tell you who they are and what makes them tick.

3. Find people who have gone before you.  Ask them to guide you.  Sit at their feet and ask them what has helped them most in their journey.

“How can I unless someone guides me?” And he invited Phillip to come up and sit with him.  Acts 8:31

Don’t put a ceiling on your own leadership ability by being unteachable.  Keep growing.

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