I have been thinking a lot about leadership lately, and I am convinced that an organization rises and falls with its leader. As I heard recently, the organization even takes on the personality of its leader over time. A good leader makes for a good organization, and a bad leader can ruin even the best of organizations. This being the case, as a pastor I must do my best to become not just a good leader but a great leader. I am not just charged to lead any organization, I am called to shepherd the flock of God. The call to pastor is a call to lead.
I do not take this call lightly. I am not however a take charge kind of person, but that in no way means that I am not a leader. You don’t have to be this ultra demanding power figure that takes over every room he walks into to be a good leader. My Pawpaw told me just the other day that leadership was not just knowing where to go, but that it was knowing where to go and getting people to go with you. The leader is not a leader of principles and strategies, but of people. Therefore, being demanding and powerful is not necessary. However, what is necessary is learning to get people to follow you. That takes more than brute force, that takes real skill. That is the leadership I am trying to learn, and in this process I have discovered a few things I wasn’t expecting to find.
1.When it comes down to it, leadership is about making decisions.
Over Christmas break my family and I were driving to the St. Louis Missouri area to visit Lauren’s parents. The trip was supposed to take about six hours, but it took more than ten. We hit the worst city wide traffic scenario in St. Louis history. The roads froze over in a matter of minutes, and it was right at rush hour. The major highways were backed up and they began to close. Some people, after a many hours, decided it was better to walk, so they abandoned their cars completely. We stopped counting how many wrecks we saw, because there were so many. Needless to say, I was stressed. I’m pretty sure I made more decisions in that journey than I have in my entire life. In fact, we had three different GPS systems going to ensure we got the best alternate routes when a road would close. Every few minutes I was given three different options for a possible new route, and I had to decide on the spot which one would be both fast and safe.It was quite the nightmare.
Those stressful moments taught me more about leadership than any classroom could. I was having to make decisions in real time that effected my whole family, and I made some good ones and some not so good ones. I began to realize that leadership was filled with those kinds of decisions. The leader listens to multiple opinions and views and then takes all that information into account to make his final decision. Despite the variety of voices a leader may hear, the decision falls on him. It comes to the point where he just has to decide what he believes is best. To be a good leader I have to learn to make good decisions.
2. When it comes down to it, the leader’s decisions impact EVERYONE.
During those traumatic hours of driving I realized that with every wrong turn I made I was taking my entire family with me. Obviously they were in the car with me, but really think about it. If I made a turn onto a road that was more dangerous than the other options, I didn’t just put myself in a bad position, I put my entire family at risk. Not only that, but every minute our arrival time got later and later, making Lauren’s family have to push dinner time further and further back. Every turn I made was impacting the schedule of at least 8 people.
The pastor’s decisions impact a lot more than just 8 people, they impact the entire congregation and really the entire community. If he leads well, his church will be healthier, and they will begin to positively impact the community, but if he leads poorly the opposite is true. This further makes the case for good leadership in the pastorate, and it’s not just dinner schedules we are talking about here, it is the very work of the Lord our God.
3. When it comes down to it, blame falls on the leader.
Believe it or not there were more voices in the car than just the annoying GPS system’s yelling in my ear. There was also the sweet but slightly frightening voice of my wife. Let’s just say that Nancy the navigator was not the only one in the car with an opinion about which routes were the best. A few times I made some driving decisions that did not turn out so well, and “recalculating” was not the only word I could hear. When it came down to it, blame fell on me.
Notice that when something goes wrong in our country the president is to blame like he really has anything to do with the day to day happenings of our lives, but nevertheless he is to blame, because he is the leader. Whether pastors like it or not, we are to blame when things don’t go well. Sometimes the blame is undeserved and misplaced, but regardless, it always comes our way. I have observed that good leaders don’t pass that blame to someone else, but they take it anyway. I want to be that kind of leader.
I have hundreds more leadership lessons to learn, and I hope that I soak them all in to be the best leader I can be. How can you become a better leader?