7 Non-Negotiables for Leaders

If you were to assess your personal leadership ability, how would you assess yourself today?

Over 40 years in church leadership, (with continual learning,) has taught me that I know less about leadership than I think I do, which only deepens my commitment to keep learning and practicing leadership.

It’s similar to my walk with God, the more I know Him, the more I realize I’ve only scratched the surface of this profound and intimate relationship. And I’m fired up to know Jesus more and walk with Him more closely.

The same is true with leadership. We become better leaders but culture changes, COVID-19 happens, global political and economic patterns change, etc., and all this impacts how we interpret the leadership principles we know and put them into practice. How are you growing?

Leadership is not a linear or black-and-white process. It’s nuanced, artful, and ever-changing. The core principles may remain the same, but how we practice them evolves. It’s our responsibility to continue to learn and grow.

7 Essential Requirements for All Good Leaders

What are the big-picture essential requirements of our leadership in general?
Which ones are you strong in, and which ones need improvement?

1) A growing sense of self-awareness

If it’s true that culture changes, we grow and learn, fail and succeed, and relationships either improve or decline, then it’s also true that self-awareness is not a point-in-time arrival, but a continuing process.

Our most foundational self, made in the image of God, created on purpose for a purpose remains consistent. Yet, the process of personal maturation combined with the changing world around us impacts how we see ourselves in relationships with others. We must keep growing in our sense of self-awareness.

There is also the element of faith that makes it possible for our flaws to be redeemed and made useful for the sake of loving people and leading them well.

  • How do you see yourself today compared to a year ago?
  • How do you perceive others see and relate to you compared to a year ago?

2) An eagerness to practice leadership

I enjoy playing guitar but I don’t practice so I don’t get better. I’ve become more of a guitar collector than player.

We can collect leadership knowledge but without putting it to practice, we don’t become a better leader.

When it comes to becoming a good guitar player, you have to practice what you can’t do until you can. Like a really difficult chord, that you just can’t play. You work on it and work on it until you can.

As leaders it’s important that we identify our specific leadership gap(s), and related skills we do not yet possess, so we can practice them in real ministry until we can.

Otherwise, we’re in danger of doing the same things in the same ways, over and over again. We don’t make progress, we just get tired.

  • What specific leadership growth gap and related skills are you working on?
  • Do you have a coach to help you?

3) A healthy desire to learn from mistakes

All leaders make mistakes. When you are out in front and taking new territory, missteps are part of the journey. If you aren’t making mistakes you probably aren’t truly leading.

No one wants to make mistakes, that would be a strange desire, but it’s a healthy desire to learn from your mistakes. What are you learning so far this year?

A healthy staff culture that embraces leadership development gives permission to make mistakes. Maybe lots of mistakes and even a big one or two. But they don’t give permission to make the same mistake twice. Do you know why?

Because repeating mistakes indicates you are not learning from your mistakes and that changes the game entirely.

  • What was the most recent leadership mistake you made?
  • What did you learn from this mistake?

For more on this topic and how to handle your mistakes, see this post.

4) A true willingness to take risks

No church plant ever became a thriving local church without the leader(s) taking risks. And when risk-taking stops, that often signals the potential decline of any church.

Taking wise risks includes a combination of prudence and courage. Good judgment and discernment are needed along with stepping into the unknown without all the answers.

That’s the definition of a good risk, isn’t it? You did your homework, talked with God, and sought wise counsel, but in the end, we can’t guarantee the results, but we still must take responsibility for the results. That is the essence of leadership – repeated again and again.

Risks vary greatly from a building project where the church’s financial health is on the line, to a difficult conversation where a relationship is at stake, but they all matter.

A specific decision is always at the epicenter of taking a risk. Again, do your homework, but don’t stall or procrastinate once you know all you can know. It’s time to decide and make a decision. If you make a mistake in the process, learn from it and keep going.

  • What is the most recent risk you have taken; how did it go?
  • What risk are you considering now?

5) A genuine care and concern for people

Professional people exhaustion is a common workplace experience. For example, it’s possible for a Golf Pro, after teaching students all week, to have no desire for even a conversation with an aspiring golfer on their days off.

The Golf Pro loves golf and people but can reach a point where the exhaustion begins to win out over genuine care and concern for people.

The same is true, if not more so, for those of us in vocational ministry.

Be careful not to run so hard and so long that your love for people gets lost in the busyness of ministry.

Take time to get some rest, replenish your soul, and enjoy something fun on a regular basis. That’s not selfish, its so you can continue to give yourself away for the good of others.

There are usually signals and warning signs if you are pushing too hard and running on the edge. Do you know what they are for you? Be mindful and live wisely, so you can genuinely care about those you serve.

  • Is your heart still warm toward people?
  • Are you happy to give your time to others?

6) A consistent pattern of healthy habits

Character requires a lifetime to develop but can be damaged or nearly destroyed in a moment. Stay on your guard, and allow advisors and friends to speak into your life.

Talent may get you in the door, but character keeps you in the room.

Pressure is the great enemy of character. We all have limits to the amount of pressure we can sustain as a leader. The key is to know your limits and practice healthy pressure-relief habits.

Good habits help you:

  • Keep your emotions in check
  • Keep your body in shape
  • Keep your words uplifting
  • Keep your heart truthful
  • Keep your thoughts productive

Healthy habits help form good character and good character helps you sustain good habits.

  • What one good habit do you need to strengthen?
  • What one unhealthy habit do you need to break?

7) A deep trust in and dependence upon God

Yes, I’ve saved the most important for last. I’m glad you are still reading.

As a spiritual leader in the church, nothing is more important than your trust in God and living dependent upon Him.

There is great beauty and truth in the fact that God’s wisdom, power, and favor are available to all spiritual leaders regardless of church size, education, gifting, or talent. God’s love and kindness is available for all who seek it.

That is the one condition, we need to pursue God’s presence and power.

The invitation to an intimate relationship is clear. Prayer is the best avenue, and I’ve learned that some of the best time in prayer is spent in silence, waiting, and listening. Praying through Scripture is deeply meaningful as well.

God has promised to be with us – such an incredible gift.

  • How are you pursuing God today?
  • In what specific ways do you fully trust Him?

Read more from Dan Reiland »

This article originally appeared on DanReiland.com and is reposted here by permission.

Dan Reiland
Dan Reilandhttp://danreiland.com

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and the author of several books including Confident Leader! Become One, Stay One (Thomas Nelson).