Over the years I have conducted dozens of interviews for open positions in companies where I worked, whether individually or as part of a panel. There were certain things that I was always watching for in every candidate: initiative, commitment, their attitude and words regarding prior employers and peers, and teachability. I looked for these things, over their technical qualifications and experience, because I knew that some things were easier to teach than others. Processes, procedural mastery, and quality easily thrive in soil that has been properly enriched with a spirit of teachability and humility. Progress and promotion come easier to those who are willing to commit the time and energy to grow and do better, even when it is uncomfortable or inconvenient to do so.
These are the people who are a joy to lead; but, as you may know, if you’ve ever served in a leadership position, not everyone is that way. A good and strong leader will seek to teach, strengthen, and encourage everyone they are responsible for guiding. I am no expert but in every leadership position, that I have ever been blessed enough to fill, I have tried to practice a few things above all others.
- It is important to surround yourself with people who know more than you do. We don’t learn or grow from those who have nothing to teach us. Our knowledge, experience, inspiration, and skills grow when we position ourselves with humility and teachability. It is even more so important to understand that you can learn something from EVERYONE you meet. We are all created so uniquely, by God, and His ability to teach us via every interaction (whether we believe it to be good or not) is limitless. He uses our friends as well as our foes to develop us. We only need ears to hear and eyes to see.
- Invest in others and they will invest in you. This is not an if/then statement. It’s an “AND” statement. People who believe that you value them (their time, priorities, dreams) will value you in return. Where this gets tricky is in defining “value”. Scripture teaches us that we are to love another, but that love doesn’t always mean that you do what everyone wants all the time. Sometimes it means that you value their future over their present. Sometimes it means that you are willing to set boundaries in the present so that others mature & learn in order to be greater and do better in the future. Hebrews chapter 12 reminds us that none of us enjoy “discipline” as it is happening but, when it is received, it ultimately results in peace and wholeness. It is rarely an instantaneous process and it can be uncomfortable on occasion. But investing in others, loving them, and encouraging them to learn more, grow stronger, and be better is the greatest investment a leader can make.
- Seek to work yourself out of a job. A person who wishes to stay put forever and hold tight to a title or position often becomes a consumer instead of a contributor. It takes practice to see the potential of those you lead and it takes, even more, discipline to develop it. Doing so, however, creates space and opportunity not only for those you are leading to grow, but also for YOU to grow. Raising up the successor to a position you currently fill does not make you disposable, it makes you valuable. It demonstrates that you not only have the strengths needed to handle the now but that you also have a vision for the future.
At the end of the day, the strength of a leader is ultimately found in their ability to follow. Throughout scripture, God used those whose hearts were positioned toward Him, not those whose were the most qualified. Jesus did the very same. All logic pointed to the religious leaders of the day to usher in the Son of God and help build His kingdom, but Jesus chose those with the least qualifications and the strongest will to be obedient even when it wasn’t easy. He chose men and women who were willing to put their own thoughts, feelings, and preferences aside to adopt His heart and mindset.If we, as human leaders, wish for character over qualification, how much more does God?
If we, as human leaders, wish for character over qualification, how much more does God?
Food for thought.