Great leadership is about building positive, strong and cooperative relationships. This includes having a mentoring relationship, knowing the principles of great leadership and cultivating a strong inner life.
Leadership is a complex issue in the 21st century. The Christian leader faces constant challenges at home, work and in the church. An increasing number of Christian leaders, business owners and pastors are turning to mentors and coaches for development and assistance. And they are wise to do so, because the advantages are many.
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a mentor as “a wise, loyal, advisor or coach.” Practically speaking, a mentor is an individual with special gifts or knowledge that helps and guides another individual’s development. Mentoring is used in many settings. One of the most valuable assets the ministry can have is a good mentor. Why? Because Christian leaders are besieged with challenges. Who then do they turn to for counsel, verification and guidance?
Quite often confidentiality is a problem among peers. Many leaders and pastors do not have a wise or seasoned elder pastor or confidential authority figure to turn to in a time of discernment. Finding solace among peers or elected leaders can prove disappointing. A seasoned and professional mentor or coach is invaluable in helping guide and validate a leader’s choices and decisions with confidentiality.
Many have spent fortunes attending conferences and seminars that seldom have long-term results and lasting impact. Most offer inspiration that quickly fades away as reality rears its head again. I hope you are even now considering who should be your mentor, and who you can mentor.
Mentoring is a mutual relationship spurred by a shared element in which mentor and protégé jointly progress toward developing the protégé’s abilities in a field. This one-to-one relationship must be non-evaluative in order to provide the protégé with confidence to pursue his or her development. The mentor stands as an unbiased resource offering knowledge, insight and time to support the protégé in a noncritical manner.
The mentoring relationship often begins with the understanding that the mentor possesses attributes the protégé desires to acquire. From this initial understanding, the two can assess further goals and the strategies to achieve them. The mentor must allow the protégé to develop at his or her own pace while providing assistance when solicited. Providing guidance without commanding direction or action is a key in maintaining the mutual relationship. Mentors impart valuable knowledge based on their past successes and failures pertinent to the field.
Seven Principles of a Great Leader
There are seven principles that make good Christian leaders great. Knowing what they are and how to cultivate them is essential for success.
- Listen. It is imperative to be able to listen to not only what is being said, but also to what is not being said. This includes the general mood of your employees and peers.
- Trust yourself. Self-doubt is readily perceived by others and undermines their confidence in a leader. It can spread throughout an organization or church and lead to loss of focus, enthusiasm and trust in the overall mission. The ability to trust one’s self, feel and be perceived as exhibiting an internal, unwavering, confident steadiness, inspires confidence and optimism in and from others.
- Empower others. With power comes a feeling of responsibility that often makes leaders feel like they must do everything themselves. Unfortunately this often overwhelms them and under-powers the church. It also neglects the valuable resources and strengths that exist in the powerful synergy of individuals working together as a high performance team. A great leader knows and trusts the strengths of their members and how to nurture self-confidence in them so that everyone is able to fully express their creative potential.
- Be resilient. Resilience is the ability to ward off negativity. This involves cultivating inner emotional strengths and vitality to help weather any storm. Like the captain of a ship, a great leader must be able to steer the organization both in good and bad times, effortlessly and confidently without wavering emotionally.
- Make difficult emotional decisions. A leader’s decisions ultimately affect many other people as well as the vitality and integrity of the church or organization. A good leader knows how to make decisions that take into consideration the livelihood of all concerned.
- Take responsibility. Good leaders realize they have been charged with significant responsibility for the vitality of the group and ultimately for the lives of the members that are part of it. Too often the bottom line takes precedence over the fact that the members are the life-blood of the church and neglecting their welfare will severely cripple the church.
- Communicate effectively. Relationships that leave out the ability to communicate effectively are doomed to fail. Communication skills, however, start with the ability to be open and receptive to the attitudes, ideas and opinions of others, as well as the ability to empathize and understand another’s circumstances.
When these fundamental building blocks are in place the probability of conflicts, misunderstandings and lowered performance are significantly reduced. These seven principles of great leadership can be cultivated only by leaders who recognize that a strong and successful group depends on their courage and ability to develop themselves emotionally first. This means being able to perceive and appreciate the consequences of one’s decisions on the lives of others while at the same time having the inner strength, confidence and courage to move ahead for the good of all.
Five Principles of a Strong Inner Life
One of the key ways of building a strong inner life within you is to have a set of principles. These principles are what will keep you heading in the right direction and standing on solid ground. You can find some of the best principles in the Scriptures and other inspired writings. Make these principles part of your daily thinking process to ensure that they stay fresh in your mind.
There are five principles for building a strong inner life:
- Integrity. Integrity includes maintaining a personal vision beyond the need to be understood. Even if no one believes in the vision God has given you, integrity means staying true to what you know is right.
- Self-confidence. Self-confidence goes hand-in-hand with integrity and means being faithful to your truth; your truth is your message and your life is the channel that displays it. Not only do you need to be faithful to what you believe, but also to living out those beliefs. Each decision, each choice you make is a moment of self-definition.
- Clarity. Clarity means giving voice to your heart. Whereas the mind may, at times, seem blurry and confused, the heart always knows. A great leader is someone who has connected with the voice within and is willing to listen to it.
- Inner strength. Inner strength means to be strong in your vulnerability. The humanity part of us is the vulnerable one. Once you are willing to let others see you the way you truly are, there is nothing to hide anymore and strength emerges.
- Detachment/attachment. Finally, be detached from expectations, yet attached to the journey. While a vision propels you into the future, a great leader knows that nothing happens in the future that doesn’t begin in the now. The journey is made one step at a time.
Always remember to keep your inner life pure even when the outer life is not treating you kindly. You must remember that a major principle to having a strong inner life is not allowing the actions of others to affect your peace. Love your fellow man, but remember you are not responsible for his attitudes or actions. Keep your mind strong and firm. Maintain a gentle spirit. See everyone as equals and have compassion for others.
These are the fundamentals of success; they are the essential stones to growth and expansion. I encourage you, as a Christian leader, to let your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more!