Being a leader is a calling, often a very uncomfortable one.
Recently, I have read several books and articles about leadership that have caused me to reflect on my own thoughts and assumptions about what characteristics a “good leader” would have.
With my present role as an interim director of a nonprofit organization and as an ordained minister in the church, I have spent a lot of time wondering about this type of thing. Two things really stick out for me in my reading:
1. There is no one characteristic or strength that predetermines a person’s success as a strong leader.
My previous assumption was that there must be certain characteristics that enable a person to take on a leadership role and do it well, such as being charismatic, a visionary or one who is organized and knows how to be strategic.
These characteristics may be a part of many strong leaders’ styles or strengths, but it certainly does not guarantee any level of success to their leading others.
Tom Rath, in his book “Strengths Finder 2.0,” tells us it is not the natural strengths, even well-developed ones, which determine any level of success.
What makes a leader truly great is that this person has an awareness of his or her natural gifts, has developed them well and has surrounded himself or herself with a team of persons that creates a well-rounded set of strengths to develop a healthy organization.
2. “As disciples of Christ, we are called to truth-telling and mission ministry.”
This statement comes from William Willimon’s recent blog post, “Ministry As Difficult As It Ought To Be,” which reflects on preparing persons in seminary for present-day ministry. He states that as “salt and light” in our world, a congregation is not about soothing the wants and needs of their own church members.
Our society has become very fast-paced and consumptive, which has caused us to become very tired and narcissistic along the way.
Many pastors of our congregations have become caregivers to help those who are weary, tired and self-focused within the congregation.
Willimon’s comment is that, as ministers of the gospel, we are not called to help others feel better. We are called to speak the truth in love and to serve the poor and underserved.
For most of us, this will take us out of our comfort zone by calling us to share what we don’t want to share. Being Christ’s hands and feet in our culture and extending the love of Christ can be very disconcerting, at best.
So, what have I learned?
Being the leader or pastor does not mean I am a better person than another or more important in what I am doing. It does not mean that I don’t need to get my hands dirty at the grass-roots level.
It does mean that I am called to move beyond my own comfort zone and to call others out of theirs as well, whether this is for the congregation, the community or the world.
As leaders, we have both the privilege and the responsibility to help others move beyond themselves into the world that is around them.
A strong leader helps others to grow beyond what they think they know or can do through developing strengths, providing opportunities, encouraging accountability and living as an example of loving others.
Martha Beahm is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates. She blogs at Empowering Authenticity. A version of this column first appeared in Pinnacle’s May e-newsletter and is used with permission.