Who Can Lead? The Beginning of My Leadership Seminar for Tonight
I’m preparing my points for the seminar tonight, and ended up typing up my first two points in full. For those who can’t attend, I thought I’d post them here for you. And for those who are able to attend, this gives you a bit of a flavor of some of the things I’ll be talking about:
[Why I'm Talking About Leadership and Not Productivity Per Se]
When Bethlehem first contacted me about leading this seminar, they asked if I would talk about productivity in relation to short-term missions teams. My response, though, was to ask if I could talk about leadership instead. They said, that’s fine.
But here’s the question: when they asked me to talk about productivity, and I said let’s talk about leadership, was I taking things off in a totally different direction? Are you not going to learning anything about productivity as a result?
The answer is no. Here’s why.
Recently a friend of mine who pastors down in Iowa emailed me, asking for the top book on productivity I would recommend to a busy pastor. I responded to him with a book on leadership, not productivity. Here’s what I said in the email to him explaining why:
For a busy pastor, with just one book that I can recommend, I would actually recommend a book on leadership, because even if you get productivity down well, your efforts only scale widely through leadership. Personal productivity is necessary to make one’s leadership as effective as it should be, but personal productivity hits a dead end without leadership.
That’s why the title of this seminar is multiplying our productivity through biblical leadership. Productivity is important. But if you want to have the maximum impact, you need to not only be personally productive. You have to lead. Leadership multiplies your productivity.
[By the way, the book on leadership I recommended for him was The Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley. Stanley “gets it” when it comes to leadership, and as a pastor he has a biblical point of view that explicitly informs his thinking. And, like everything else Andy Stanley writes, it’s an enjoyable read.]
Who Should Lead?
Now, the first question we need to ask is simple and basic, but the answer is not obvious. The question is: who can lead? Or, perhaps better, who should lead?
Mark Sanborn is another good leadership author that I’ve benefited from greatly. I like Mark’s work a lot because he emphasizes that the role of the leader is first of all to serve others, not advance himself or herself. He really underscores the point that the aim of leadership is to promote the good of others, which I think is radically biblical and central to the nature of not only good leadership, but effective leadership.
Now, Mark has a book called You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader, and that’s the first point I want to make about who can lead.
The first and most important thing to know is that leadership is not first about your formal title or role. It’s not first about being told that you are charged with a formal position of leadership. Rather, you can lead from wherever you are. Further, not only can you lead from wherever you are; you should lead from wherever you are. This is because leadership is, first of all, influence. That needs to be nuanced a bit, and I will do so later in this seminar, but in the first place, leadership is positive influence, and we are all to be a positive influence for good.
If you take a formal leadership class, they will also talk about this. Standard leadership theory today points out that there are different types of authority. One such type is formal authority—the authority of your position. But this is not the only type of authority. In fact, it is actually the weakest type.
Don’t get me wrong: having a formal position of leadership is a good and important thing, and a critical responsibility to steward well. But it is not the only type of authority, it is not the only type of leadership. There is also authority that comes from your expertise, which can exist fully independent of any formal role, and the authority that comes from having made a positive difference in the lives of others.
There are other types of authority as well, but the point is: you don’t need a formal title to be a leader. Further, even if you do have a formal title, the essence of leadership is that people follow you because they want to, not because they have to. I would go so far as to say that you can actually have a formal title of “leader” and yet not be a leader if you aren’t stewarding your position well and if people are only following you because they have to—because they are afraid they will lose their jobs, for example, or suffer other consequences—rather than out of respect and esteem and confidence that you are leading and the right direction, seeking to do them good, and competent to do so.
So, regardless of your particular role or position, you can lead. You don’t need a title to be a leader.