A note from Kelly King: It seems like the Lord is continually reminding me that the ways God allows me to lead are not the result of my own efforts, but the path He has allowed me to steward. If there is a consistent theme for my leadership this year, it is that my primary role is to lead like a servant. In today’s article, you’ll meet one of LifeWay’s new trainers, Lesley Hildreth. You can meet Lesley in 2020 at a new event, our Leadership Forum on the West Coast. Plan now to attend on February 20-21 in Irvine, California.
Has God placed you in a leadership role? Perhaps you look at the responsibilities around you and want to shrink back. Maybe you see the potential and are eager to dive in. Today I want to suggest three healthy habits for all Christian leaders. This is not a “to-do-list.” We all have too many of those. Instead, I want to suggest three priorities that each leader should seek to cultivate in her life.
Keep Your Eyes on Jesus.
In our pursuit to become great leaders, it is tempting to look solely to other successful leaders as models to improve leadership skills. Learning from others is not a bad thing, but it is important to remember that as a Christian leader, we need to fix our eyes on the One who created us and called us for this purpose.
As we focus on Jesus, our style of leadership changes. He leads as a servant. He put the needs of others ahead of His own. He taught others about faith in God and equipped them to serve faithfully. Consider these words by Crawford Loritts in his book, Leadership As An Identity, “Your authority to lead is directly related to your ability to serve. When you have washed feet, the people you lead will know that you value them.” Keeping our eyes on Jesus will serve as a reminder of the type of leader we should strive to be.
Pray for and Seek Wisdom from God.
James 1:5 says, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” What are you currently asking God for? Leaders are decision-makers and need to be in tune with God. We should seek to hear God’s voice above all other voices and circumstances in our lives. Do you have a regular rhythm of going to the Father for wisdom about making decisions? We lead and make decisions best when they come from the abundance of God’s presence in our lives. As we saturate our lives with God’s Word, we can lead with confidence, resting in the knowledge that His Word brings life to those around us.
Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” John Piper notes: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom not only in the sense that it is the first step in a wise way to live, but also in the sense that all the latter characteristics of wisdom flow from the fear of the Lord like a river flows from a spring.” Leaders who fear the Lord are humble, depend on God for everything, and do not take credit for what God does.
Learn To Value and Lean in to Healthy Criticism.
Let’s face it: no one likes criticism, but we all have blind spots and need others to help us grow and mature as leaders. It is wise for leaders to have a good support network for counsel and guidance in these areas. Proverbs 27:6 reminds us, “The wounds of a friend are trustworthy, but the kisses of an enemy are excessive.” We all need the kind of friends who will help make us better by helping us see where we need to grow.
In order to get the most out of healthy criticism, it is also important for us to not be too easily offended. Keep these words from Charles Spurgeon in mind: “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him, for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” If we desire growth, then we must put pride to death and learn to welcome and receive healthy criticism.
We were created to live in community. God created us with the need to lean into Him as well as others. Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” We need one another to both encourage and challenge us in our walks with Christ and in our leadership as we use the gifts He has given us. When a critique or negative comment is given, ask yourself if there’s even a small part that can help improve your leadership. For example: Did the critique start with, “I love the way you…” or “You did a good job, but…” Then ask yourself, “What can I learn from the hurtful/hard parts?” Take the time to lean into this question because we can always learn something from even the harshest criticisms.
However, even though it is important to look to criticism as God’s tool for making you a stronger leader, it is important to not let it feed your insecurities. Remember that people who push us make us think deeper, work harder, and help us grow. Their words may be hard to hear, but when they are spoken in truth and with love, they can help us mature in our faith and in our leadership. Be willing to listen for truth, take on the attitude of a learner, and lean in to the wisdom that is being given.
Leadership is difficult and sometimes thankless. It is important to remember that you lead because God called you and provided the opportunity. Lead to serve others and only lead to please an audience of One—the only One who deserves to receive glory.
Lesley is the Women’s Discipleship Director for the Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina. She is responsible for the discipleship of over 6,000 women spread over ten campuses and spends the majority of her time developing and equipping leaders who share the task of making disciples. Before this role, Lesley was the Assistant Director of Women’s Life at Southeastern Seminary where she received her MA in Christian Studies. She also served eight years with her family with the International Mission Board in Western Europe and Central Asia. She has a passion to see all women participating in God’s mission, using their gifts to serve the church, further His kingdom, and bring God glory. She is married and has two adult children and one grandson.