Leading people is tiring. If you've ever been in a position of influence, I'm sure you'd agree. At times, it is stressful, lonely, and people are exposed to your flaws continuously. It's kind of like the old African proverb says: "It is the monkey that climbs the tree the highest, where everyone sees his rear." So true.
A few years ago I stood in front of a room full of young people, who were all learning a lot about leadership at the time. At they time, they didn't know that the senior leadership team I was part of had just made some seriously difficult decisions. While they were staring at me with eager eyes to learn, I told them, "If you think you want to lead, you don't. If you think leading is glamorous, it isn't. If you think leadership is where it's at, it's not."
Some are called to lead. If that is you, do it wholeheartedly. But beware; there are many pitfalls ahead, and some of them can be devastating.
I'm re-reading a book I've had for quite some time, "The Ascent of a Leader." It is a great book stressing the importance that lasting influence doesn't come from titles or positions, but from the people we become. In it, he references a study done by a Fuller Seminary professor, Dr. J. Robert Clinton. Dr. Clinton conducted extensive research about leaders, and found that more than 70% of them don't finish well.
He bases this statistic on six criteria, which were gleaned from common traits among the leaders studied. They are:
1. They lose their learning posture. This is a temptation for many. I've caught myself wondering at times if I will one day "arrive." In other words, will I get to the place where I can sit back and teach, rather than continuing to learn. Leaders that lose their way stop listening and growing.
2. The attractiveness of their character wanes. It becomes obvious to those around that something is wrong. Unfortunately, it is the leader who is often the last one to admit it.
3. They stop living by their convictions. I'm sure with each year under your belt, it becomes easier to rationalize "cutting corners," whatever that might be. Instead of letting your convictions be sharpened by the work of the Spirit, the declining leaders allows the sharp edge of conviction to be sanded down to a place where the convictions are hard to notice.
4. They fail to leave behind ultimate contributions. Some leaders choose to focus on those things that don't really matter. Maybe it is an issue of pettiness, where the leaders prick at people, in an effort to remember the power they have. Such leadership eventually proves hollow.
5. They stop walking in an awareness of their influence. Satan is a liar, and twists reality in an effort to destroy us. For many leaders, they begin to find it difficult to differentiate between truth and lies. And believe it or not, no matter how much influence one has, it can always be downplayed in one's mind to appear as nothing.
6. They lose their once vibrant relationship with God. Leaders get busy, rushed, and try to squeeze a relationship with an Almighty God into one that consists of checklists. They lose their first love, and replace it with love affairs with all the wrong things.
A few of these points hit me square between the eyes. In some ways, I'm glad I've sensed a certain amount of dissatisfaction at times, most likely because I was beginning to drift in one of more of these areas. I want to finish well. Because I do, I will focus on small course corrections along they way.
Do these resonate with you, and are there other areas you think should be on this list?
If you liked this post, check out Kevin's personal blog, Following to Lead, where he regularly writes on following, leading, fostering and family.
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About Kevin East
Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
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