“The foundation for your future is determined by the choices you make today.” George Lockhart
Thinking 15-20 years into the future is not something that may come very naturally. Living in a society of instant coffee, microwaving, and texting technology can make even the most patient of leaders lose their hair! However, there is no shortcut to effective spiritual leadership. I’d like to offer the following 7 things to help you impact the future.
“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews 12:11
It’s difficult to start out with a character trait as harsh as this one but in order to be a leader there must be discipline. Personal, financial, and spiritual disciplines must be embraced by every leader and practiced throughout every facet of life. This quality must be practiced each day to effectively achieve the greatest potential within. For any student desiring to become an effective leader, discipline is one of the first character traits that will set you apart from everyone else.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5: 13-16
Jesus has called us to be agents of change. We are to create an atmosphere of change everywhere we are. It’s not that we just make something happen as much as something happens because we are there. Light doesn’t ‘make” darkness leave. Darkness leaves because there is light. Simply being there is enough to cause the change. Are you that kind of leader?
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16
As a leader, it is imperative that time is taken to look back over and through situations to learn and glean lessons God is working into your life. Living a fast-paced life makes this difficult but God desires for us to look and learn and this is hardly ever done without stopping! One of Satan’s greatest tools is to get us so wrapped up at warp speed that we have no clue where we are heading. Taking Sabbath, vacations and small respites even throughout the day to focus and recalibrate are essential to arriving at God’s desired destination.
There is no word more hated or more necessary than work. It is easy for the leader to feel as though he is exempt from work. This mentality can destroy everything the leader has “worked” for. It is through work that the leader continues to achieve and maintain a healthy relationship with employees and staff. A good working relationship allows the leader to gain respect of others, stay in tune with others and ultimately accomplish
more. “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. John 9:4
Leaders must do their due diligence to work hard. Moreover leaders should work smarter! Leaders learn from the mistakes of others, they study and prepare for work and they facilitate a good working environment. Leaders understand that work takes work and they do all they can to make sure that the most work within a time frame is accomplished.
Regardless of who you are or your tenure of leadership, adaptation allows the leader to remain a leader for longer. Someone once said, “if you don’t bend you will break.” Adaptation is one attribute that cannot be ignored in the name of tradition or fear. The leader must be willing to adapt and be able to assist others in adaptation. One can only do so by being flexible in schedules, concepts and ideas.
Just as inflexibility can be a hindrance, let me warn against change for change sake. Adaptation means learning how to flex, shift, mold, bend and shape a ministry. The leader must be attentive to the right timing for adapting and adopting new systems, rules and operations. Adopting without adapting to your own culture and people will lead to abandonment- you’ll be standing alone.
For many leaders, significance is traded for importance. Leaders can fall into the trap of feeling that importance is what really matters. However, importance only strokes leader’s ego. Significance on the other hand, focuses the leader on others and compels the leader to make sacrifices necessary for the success of others. I have long valued the quote: “The cost of significance isn’t cheap; if it were it wouldn’t be significant.” Leaders are willing to surrender being important people to realizing that people are of most importance, which in turn leads to significance.
A great leader comes to a point when they realize that their lives must be invested in future leaders. Leaders must at some point quit trying to build a “following” to building other leaders. Leaders must train and equip other leaders who will eventually leave to lead other ministries.
Influence requires time well spent. A leader cannot effectively influence people they are not around or with. Influence demands attention, detail and much, much time in a shared journey.
A leader who learns to add these 7 traits to their character will not only be light years ahead of their peers but will also radically affect the future. Boldly Go!