This is my contribution as 1 of 15 posts in RE-think: Campus Crusade’s 3rd Annual Blogference, running April 13-15, 2010. Please join the conversation.
Before you stick a “Leader” name badge on the next disciple who can share the Four Spiritual Laws without a single mistake, take heed. He can follow the process with excellence. But is he a leader? In our movement, we like to call everyone a “leader.” But then we’re stuck with how to separate the Leaders from the leaders. I’ve been interested in the process of developing Leaders for several years.
The author of Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts has given me handles for some thoughts I’ve been wrestling with recently. His concern is that we train people to be world-class hoop jumpers who can achieve any goal set before them, pass any test, climb every mountain. Thought to be creating leaders, organizations are actually creating followers and bureaucrats–people who know how to achieve excellence within an existing system. Leaders, in contrast, are people who have the moral courage to develop their own ideas and argue for them even when they aren’t popular.
Christ Himself, a leader par excellence, frequently withdrew to focus His thoughts. The solitude of prayer and reflection is where strength, wisdom, and courage needed to lead well is refined.
This is the essence of self-directed leadership development. Concentrated, intentional time to think. To pray. To reflect. Slowing down. Developing and clarifying ideas in writing. Sharing those ideas with trusted others to see how they sound out loud. Asking–and answering–the hard questions.
I found such a time today while washing my cars. I received a message this morning from a friend telling me he would not lead his part of our organization to join a common direction we are pursuing. I found that the solitude of two hours working on my cars to be a very fruitful time to understand his thoughts and to refine my own. I’m now much better prepared to interact with him because I’m clearer about why I believe this direction is the best.
Memorizing facts and performing well are exemplary traits. But if our quest for achievement isn’t tempered with periods of quiet reflection on what we are actually trying to achieve, have we simply jumped another hoop and successfully failed to lead?
[This post was greatly improved through the excellent help of Karin Tome, who assists me in my Leadership in many ways.]