If Leaders Are Learners, Common Practices

…then what are they EXPECTED to LEARN? If you are reading this, I assume you are a leader, in a leadership position or thinking about leadership in general. There are many books and articles on leadership and I will not try to copy and paste all of it here. I am trying to explore the art of leadership and what exactly leaders need to know to be effective. I will examine common practices of leaders, a few traits of leaders and what happens when a leader stops learning. In this post, I will be defining leadership from a Christian perspective, feel free to join the conversation and post your experiences in leadership in the comments section.

These are not exhaustive lists of leadership practices and traits. To begin the task of understanding leadership, I think the best place to start is a definition. Let’s look at a few:

“Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.” John C. Maxwell
“The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.” Peter Drucker
“Pointing others to the source of one’s conviction” Ryan Marcum

So, when thinking about leadership we can assume three things. First, a leader has influence. Second a leader has followers. And lastly, a leader has convictions. As a leader, who are you influencing, can you define your followers and do you have convictions that move you to not only better yourself but others as well. With these in mind, how do leaders learn to be leaders? Here are some practices used by leaders. Leaders must learn…

Common Practices: (ANYONE CAN DO THESE!) some practices overlap with traits.

Build solid relationships:
Leaders must have three relationships to be effective at what they do. First a leader must have a relationship with God. I understand that not all leaders are Christians, however to become the leader that God intended His followers to be, there must be a relationship. Second, a leader must have relationships with godly coaches and mentors. Find godly men/women around you that will invest in your life. Remember, God has called YOU to be the YOU he created not a replica of someone else. Early in my ministry I wanted to be the next Erwin McManus, now I want to simply be the Ryan God has created me to be. Lastly, a leader must have relationships with followers. If you don’t like people, they won’t like you. As believers we are called to love others. I have seen in church leadership the mentality of perception being the trump card. This is of Satan. When we look at the OT and the NT we see COMPASSION winning the battle of perception. Effective leaders have compassion for all in all situations.

Spiritual Disciplines:
Leaders must practice the spiritual disciplines, such as, prayer, journaling, scripture memorization etc. When a leader knows where his/her strength comes from, he/she will be better equipped to guide others to the source of their strength. If you don’t connect with God on a daily basis you will experience what some pastors/ministers call, burn-out. If pastors and ministers neglect their relationship with God they will become apathetic and lazy when preparing messages and other pastoral duties. Stay focused on the things of God first, and everything else will fall into place.

Time Management:
Leaders learn to manage their time wisely. When a leader has a source of conviction, he/she will be able to prioritize the “to do” lists of life. We are called to Love God and Love people, make disciples of all nations. From the Great Commandment and Great Commission we can prioritize everything that comes into our lives. Human beings cannot make time; rather we can take time from the un-important things and make room for the important things God has called us to.

Leaders are Learners: The motivation behind this post. Leaders learn everything they can about what they want to lead. If you want to be a leader in the field of mathematics, then you learn math. And if you want to be a leader in Youth Ministry you find a youth pastor to sit under or school that has a field in youth ministry and learn everything you can. Here is a quote from a long-time Youth Pastor:
“if you are to be a leader you have to be a reader. You may have to read books, culture, people, history or the world, but to effectively lead in the kingdom; you have to be a reader.” Steve Coleman (Youth Pastor, First Baptist Church, Richmond Ky.)

Leaders practice effective communication: The more you communicate the better you get at it. How do you practice communication? The simplest way is to stand in front of a full-length mirror and give a message. Observe your mannerisms; take notes on the positive and negative. Record yourself on video giving a message and play it back and take notes on positive/negative quirks you have. Also, allow a friend to watch it and do the same, without you there. Speak in front of friends, who will give you constructive feedback, not yes men. The only way to get better is to PRACTICE! Note: Even leaders who are gifted to teach still need to learn how to be effective at teaching.

Remember this is an on-going list, if you have another practice add it in the comments. The next post will be Character traits of a leader.

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