The first leadership role I remember being elected or selected to was president of my church youth group. I don’t think there were any formal duties and the biggest qualification, it seemed, was to not be afraid to get up front, tell everyone to be quiet, and make some announcements.
I attended a Junior college and decided to run for president of the student body my freshman year after being on campus all of two weeks. I lost the election by four votes. Later on in the school year, I started dating the girl on campus I’d been making eyes at for awhile. She told me she had voted against me because she thought “you liked yourself too much.” (Hint: We’ve been married for several years now, and we’re still working out that issue!) At the end of my freshman year, I was selected as president of the Baptist Student Union for the coming year. I realized this and other opportunities had come at least partially due to my “failure” at becoming student body president. Sometimes failure is just an arrow or key to another door.
Through this position I learned about working with a variety of people and had some great mentors, both on the Junior college campus and then at the four year school I attended. The BSU directors mentored, encouraged, challenged, and just plain helped me believe God could use me and wanted to. One of the biggest leadership truths I began to learn is that you can’t make everybody happy. So that can’t be your goal as a leader.
After I became Baptist Campus Minister at Henderson State University and then Arkansas State University, I began the practice of meeting weekly and individually with those who served in our leadership roles. We talked about personal things and how their leadership responsibilities were going. A few years back we did a survey of our leadership about what they thought mattered most out of all the ministries and opportunities we provided. I was shocked to find out, it was the individual weekly meetings! People want you to invest time into them.
Some Practical Steps to Take
If you’re interested in being a leader or are in a leadership role and want to improve, let me make a few suggestions:
– Connect with someone who will be a mentor, that’s someone who will encourage you and be honest at the same time.
– After each leadership opportunity or function, evaluate what happened and figure out what you can learn from it – good or bad.
– Remember, God called Moses from “the back side of the desert.” So, you probably aren’t hopeless either.
– Serving as a leader helps you learn more about God, others, and yourself. How can that be bad?
How to Recognize an Effective Leader
Look for these characteristics within yourself to help you determine where you are and how you can grow:
– Integrity (models / demonstrates what he / she says)
– Personal Discipline (studies, prepares, has a commitment to excellence)
– Courage (willing to take an unpopular stand when necessary)
And consider these skills
– Team Building (not a one-person show; willing to help others buy-in and share ownership)
– Task Focus (able to see what needs doing and keep the main thing the main thing)
– Team Member Development (helping each develop and enhance their unique God-given gifts and abilities)
What’s Your Role in Leadership?
You may be one of those people who others just naturally follow, or you might just be someone who’s willing to make yourself available for God to use. Personally, I think charisma is a little over-rated when it comes to leadership. If it comes easy to us, it’s easy to think it’s all about us and our getting the credit. Willingness and hard work are two characteristics that go a long way in helping someone become and remain a good leader.
Oh yeah, and not liking yourself too much is important too!
Arliss Dickerson is a leader in progress. He’s renown for his work in college ministry, and is a husband, father, grandfather, a poor but improving golfer, and an always-growing believer.