While I was being promoted in the Air Force I was also maturing in my faith and ascended to my current position in the church. Of course, I had to rely on positional leadership when the task at hand was important or urgent enough. However, my preferred method of leadership is personal leadership. Several years ago a mentor of mine asked me, “What is your ‘life verse’?” He explained that a life verse is the foundational verse we press into that propels a person into action. I prayed over that question and landed on John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” It is the kind of love for others that causes us to pick up our cross everyday to do God’s will and is the foundation for the following observations I have made over time on how to develop personal leadership:
It Takes Time: The first thing we need to remember is that developing the influence needed to use personal leadership takes time. It is important that we assess the organization, it’s culture, and the people working within the organization. Before I even began in my current role my boss told me, “It takes time to build teams. Don’t get discouraged, it could be a year before your team is operating effectively.” I really leaned into that advice, especially early on in my current role, and would try to rally a group of people to accomplish a task and found that I was the only one to show up. Fast forward one year and because I have invested in relationships effective teams are now being formed.
Invest in Those You Lead: As leaders, we need to take the time, energy, and effort it takes to invest in those we lead. Take time to get to know the people on your team; their life stories, what energizes them, etc. Learn the skill sets they bring to the team and align them with the organization’s needs. Work to make every team member feel like a valued member of the team. When we take the time to learn about them they begin to trust us and we learn to trust them and then we know when and how to empower them.
Trust and Empower: We need to give our team members the opportunity to fail. It doesn’t take that much effort to trust and empower people when we are all succeeding. However, building trust and the ability to empower people is forged in how a person responds to failure. As leaders we need to approach failure as an opportunity to learn and create accountability. In contrast, we need to celebrate our teams and their successes.
Celebrate Success: It is critically important to celebrate our teams and the success they achieve. God created us as emotional people and we can make emotional deposits in our work relationships by recognizing the success our teams. This can be as simple as hardy handshake and thank you or a more elaborate celebration with formal recognition.
As you review the observations I made over time you will note that it can take time and sacrifice for a leader to invest in their team members. It will take time and sacrifice to develop the ability to trust and empower the team with tasks at hand. And that it will take time and sacrifice to celebrate the success of your teams. However, when the foundation of our leadership is routed in the words and actions of Jesus Christ we are well on our way to developing an effective personal leadership style.