Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Moving from Poor Leadership to Good Leadership

This post from the Harvard Business Review entitled How Poor Leaders Become Good Leaders describes how 71 business leaders moved from being mediocre leaders to...well...good ones. A few highlights, and my comments:
3. They began to encourage others to do more and to be better. Some leaders believe that if they minimize challenges to their team and expect less of their people, subordinates will see them as better leaders. This is wrong! Fewer challenges is the opposite of what a work group or organization needs. When leaders challenge their direct reports to do more and be better they thought they could be, the leaders are actually perceived to be better themselves.
I'm an idealist of sorts, and tend to believe the best of people. (Maybe that's why I love youth ministry!). So I tend to have high expectations of others, particularly those I lead. I've got a paradigm for Pygmalion youth ministry: I believe that when expectations are placed on a person or group of people, they tend to live up to those expectations, whether positive or negative. Encourage people to do more and be better, and they tend to actually do it!
5. They recognized that they were role models and needed to set a good example. It frequently happens that leaders unintentionally (or unknowingly) ask others to do things they don't do themselves. This never works. Many of our 71 leaders were surprised to discover that they were perceived as hypocritical. They learned to walk their talk (or at least to "stumble the mumble").
I'm learning to practice what I preach as a leader. In one of the last conversations I had with the awesome lead pastor at Red Mountain Community Church, he gave me this exhortation: "Joel, you're a great communicator and a gifted leader. Now, go be a practitioner of the ideas you preach." Those words have stuck with me.
7. They learned to recognize when change was needed. More generally, our successful leaders were those who learned to willingly support and embrace change, and encourage others to do so, as well. How? Essentially, by becoming more proactive — that is, by doing a better job of spotting new trends, opportunities, and potential problems early.
As a leader only four months into my new role as pastor of student ministries, I'm trying to navigate how to make significant and valuable changes in my ministry in a timely and proactive way. I've seen leaders do a variety of practices when it comes to change in a new context: change things slowly and subtly, doing nothing new in the first year; change things quickly and dramatically right off the bat, swiftly moving in the direction God is leading them; a mixture of fast/slow. In any case, there needs to be Spirit-filled discernment and practical wisdom in making any systemic changes. It's all part of leading up, and I'm literally learning how to practice what I preach in the book.

(Read the rest of the HBR leadership practices here. HT to Kara Powell for posting the link.)

Which of the leadership practices resonates with you the most? What practice do you need to focus on in this next season?

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