By Keith Elgin
For the past few years, I’ve been on staff at Vine Church, a new church community right outside of Washington, D.C. At the same time, I have my own band that travels to play music or lead worship at conferences and venues in the Eastern U.S. As time has passed, our church community has evolved; Our worship team has expanded; Our community involvement has increased; I’ve received more notoriety as a musician; We’ve played on bigger stages; And so on. But I’m constantly asking myself how true success is measured or attained.
I keep coming back to vision and relationships.
I’m not sure if there is a term as “relational leadership” as it relates to this, but that’s the type of leader I want to be. And that’s the type of leader Jesus was and is (and is to come?)
Over the past year, I’ve been keeping notes of things I learn as a leader. Not all of them will apply to everyone in everyway. But the ideas and concepts are important, whether you’re a church leader, CEO, quarterback, lead singer, office manager, doctor, etc.
1 – KEEP THE VISION IN FRONT.
Know who you’re called to be (both as a leader and as a church community) and it will make decisions and actions easier. I don’t think anyone is called or sets out to be a big jerk. And I don’t think anyone sets out to get off line from where they’re headed. But it can happen easily if you aren’t constantly recalling the vision to yourself and your team.
[You may have to pass up on good opportunities or ideas.]
2 – KEEP PEOPLE FIRST.
Of course when you’re the leader there are times where you have to lead/make tough decisions/hold people accountable. But if they are important to you they will feel important to you. If you set out to make them feel important so that they will work harder, they will sniff that out and know that they are just cogs in your church machine. That is not only offensive, but counterproductive to the vision. Instead – actually care about them and what’s going on in their life and they’ll likely want to be on your team. Then together you can pursue the vision.
3 – MAKE OTHER PEOPLE’s PURPOSE YOUR PURPOSE.
If you are interested in how people can serve your purpose, you and they will be frustrated. If you help them figure out their purpose (both personally and as part of the team), they will be loyal and you’ll both end up fulfilled. And this unity will propel the vision forward and draw other people in.
4 – LEADERS ARE ONLY AS GOOD AS THEIR TEAM.
It might sound a little cliche, but we have to constantly remember that leaders are only as good as the team around them. Nobody can do things completely alone. Everything is a team effort. Make sure you continually remember that and state it to everyone. Look at someone successful and 100% chance they have a team around them.
[Think of famous athletes we know by a single nickname: RGIII or Lebron. Or think of an athlete that competes alone – like Tiger Woods. Or a solo musician – like Johnny Cash. They are mentioned by name, usually by themselves and many times are in front of people by themselves. But RGIII wouldn’t be who he is without his family, coaches, offensive line, etc. Lebron didn’t win a ring until he teamed up with Wade and Bosh. Tiger has coaches, doctors, caddies, etc. Johnny has a band, producers, promoters, etc.]
5a- RECEIVE CRITICISM.
5b- DEFLECT PRAISE
Take the criticism and deflect the praise. That is part of leadership responsibility. Give criticism to your team privately but give them praise publicly. When someone tells you a song or event missed the mark, take responsibility. Whether you planned it or not is irrelevant. When someone comes up after the worship service to talk about how great you sounded, be thankful, but give a simple reminder that it has a lot to do with the guitar riff and bass groove.
[This was never more apparent to me than during Kevin Durant’s MVP speech. He reached the individual pinnacle of his sport, yet he spent the entire 27 minute speech deflecting the praise onto everyone but himself. See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxVAOoQeNJ8 ]
6 – IT’S BETTER TO DISCUSS THAN TO DISCOVER.
My friend Brandon said this to me one time and it was revolutionary to my relationship to my leadership style. If you have discussions up front about things, people won’t have different expectations. The responsibility is on you to be honest, as the leader. If you are not, and somebody has unmet expectations, and therefore is hurt/angry/upset, you can blame yourself. When you set expectations up front and make sure people are on the same page from the beginning, it will set you up for success in the long run.
[It will also make #7 and #8 easier]
7 – BE OPENMINDED.
People are different, have different experiences, etc. Have an open mind as a leader. Or you’ll only attract people like yourself. You might like it, but it’s not what the world needs and will not breed success. Life is a continual journey. We will never stop being refined. People are dynamic so leadership will be dynamic. So staying openminded is the only option.
8 – BE PATIENT.
Waiting is key. Quick reactions to solve problems are sometimes necessary, but making the right decision outweighs making the fast one. It might not be fun or feel good to have something hanging over you, but experiencing that over a short period of time is far better than making a decision that temporarily lifts the weight, but causes more trouble in the future.
9 – BE PRESENT.
The future is now. Yes God holds the world in His hands. Yes Alpha and Omega, but the Kingdom is at hand now. The Kingdom is present. We cannot control everything external going on around us, but we do have control over our present attitude and therefore reality. We always look forward to where we see the vision taking us, where the strategy will work, reaching the next goal, etc. But if we aren’t present, none of that will matter. How does the now relate to the future? How am I being shaped today in this moment?
10 – KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Many times we make leadership too complicated and overthink it. This list might even confuse you. Keeping it simple (#1 – knowing who you’re called to be and #2 – prioritize people) will not diminish importance, just confusion.
Are there some I’ve missed? What have you learned that you can share?