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3 Big Early Leadership Ah Ha’s!

There are a ton of books on leadership development, vision, delegation, moving from intern to executive and plenty of others with catchy titles. I recommend reading a lot of them. However, in my experience nothing pushes our leadership ahead like the pressure or urgency of a big project. Reading is great, but having to deliver creates the pressure where real growth happens.

Interest to learn is present when there is urgency to deliver.

The urgent question I was recently asked was, “How do I grow in administration” or related, “How do I get organized in a way that builds stuff?” This is a great question that all leaders, pastors included, will eventually run into. The breakthrough happens differently for everyone. For me, it was when I could no longer personally be involved in executing every area of the ministry I was running. I could no longer simply work longer hours because we launched a second site with identical service times. I had to build high-capacity teams and was now hungry to learn.

Here is very practical advice I was given and pass along:

1) Write it down

If it isn’t written down you can’t effectively pass it on. I’m not talking about massive “how to” manuals, but rather a few key processes, values and plans that allow for delegation. For me this practically means I have a whiteboard in my office. I use shapes, pictures and words in various combinations. Do what works for you. The point is connecting where you are to where you want to be. This is project management 101 and there is much to learn from that discipline. Start with the end, then move back while outlining the connecting steps in the process. If there is a step that is complicated or confusing – fix it. If you are a visionary leader, this is the process of moving what is in your head onto paper. You can involve others in this process or go at it solo.

You don’t have to be administratively gifted to do this. You do have to be disciplined to put pen to paper. Start small. This is a big step that opens a whole world of growth.

2) Think ahead, farther ahead

When I was responsible for a group of 25 students and a few leaders gathering together on a Saturday night my “advance planning” was looking at the month ahead and many times just a few days. Why bother planning next month? Today has enough trouble of its own!

Well, the group grew. I was soon responsible for a ministry with dozens of small groups, monthly events, multiple locations, multiple services, live student bands, a café, and camps with hundreds of students. Parent expectations, safety considerations, large budgets, interns, staff and a growing leadership team could no longer be managed thinking week to week.

To recruit the kind of leaders needed I had no other option than thinking many months in advance. Hiring staff and managing interns pushes the planning out even farther. The point…think ahead, way ahead. Some of the best ministry launches take place with planning that starts a year in advance.

3) Ask for input, then shut up

The advantage of writing things down and thinking ahead is that you get the opportunity to get input before implementation. Careful, if you ask for input then be ready for it. If you shut it down or get defensive people will quickly learn it isn’t safe to give you honest feedback. However, if you shut up, listen, take notes and ask a few different people then you will find a goldmine of information. You now have a glimpse of how your plan will land with people. Adjust accordingly, clarify confusion, fix problems, address concerns and give credit to those who help you. This step maybe the hardest. It requires humility to not take things personally and to remain open. This is a lifelong lesson. You can read more about feedback here.

These are three practices that I continually come back to no matter the size of the project, team or industry. Growing in these areas will move us to consider further questions: How do I avoid micromanagement? How do I focus on what only I can do? How do I effectively delegate? Step into these areas and see your leadership begin to morph and these conversations start to make more sense as you interact with others desiring to lead like Jesus. Jesus sent out 72 and debriefed with them, Jesus invested in 12 disciples, Jesus empowered 120 men and women with the Holy Spirit to share the gospel, plant churches, and impact the world. Step into these areas and see your world expand as you invite people to join you in impacting the world around you.

Q. Who do I know that I can ask, “How do you do these three practices in your work?” Consider texting them asking for time to get their input.

Q. What idea have you been tossing around that needs to be written down? Who can you?


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