Do you feel like you’re called to lead, but are uncomfortable thinking of yourself in that way? Or maybe you’re naturally charismatic, but lack the depth to back up your gifts. Whatever the case, leadership is not for the chosen few that stand in front of audiences of thousands. It is something many are called to and it takes myriad forms. Here are a few tips to help you embrace the leadership mantle whether you’re feeling it or not.
1. Begin Now
Here’s the thing. Talk to anyone who is living their dream – I mean really out there doing what they feel called to do everyday. They will tell you that they are not fully formed. They are a work in progress. They are learning things daily and often find themselves needing to seek advice from others who are wiser than they are. Those who become great learn to step out in faith, study relentlessly, & labor intensively. They are not waiting for their ship to come in, but are building opportunities daily. They are pressing towards the mark, knowing that when we are “faithful in a few things, we become the master over many things.”
Just today, I was at a school and was practicing between lessons. The band director came to me afterwards and said, “It was so refreshing to hear you practice. Even after all these years and your accomplishments, you just spent the last hour playing scales and long tones without ever playing a piece of music. I wish my kids could understand that and would practice that way.” I thought to myself, ‘I play all those things because I need them. I’ve not yet arrived. I still have so much to work on and learn.’ Maybe others don’t see it that way, but I do. Does that mean I’m not out there teaching and playing? Of course I am, but I didn’t wait to be fully perfected to begin. If musicians did that, there would be no one to play music for us anywhere, ever!
2. Don’t Assume That You’re Not Good Enough
I think many of us are paralyzed by our fears that we are not worthy to be someone of value. We determine that we aren’t able to be used for good, because we’ve done too much bad stuff or because we’re still holding onto some things we shouldn’t.
Look at the Bible for moment. Moses was a murderer and God used him. Sarah (the wife of Abraham) laughed at God and he still made her the mother of many nations. Peter denied that he even knew Christ, and yet God then used him DAYS LATER to begin building his church. Not only does God use imperfect people at some point in their lives, he uses imperfect people shortly after they have really been a screwup!
I think that we think of leadership all wrong, assuming that great leaders are forging ahead with everyone trailing behind them, but as Ghandi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Leading is servanthood. So it’s not for the fabulous, the perfect, and all those other Shiny Happy People. It’s for those that feel the call to live a life that is in and of itself a message to others. A changed life. A transformed life. A life that GIVES life.
3. Teach to Learn
Are you hungry to get better? To go deeper? To find the next level of your craft or spiritual walk? There is no better teacher than teaching. There is no greater catalyst for in-depth study than being faced with real problems to solve, real quandaries to address, and real people needing answers. In the last year alone, I have had the opportunity to teach over 25 young horn players and let me tell you, they are all different. They have different needs & their needs challenge me. They send me to Youtube looking up masterclasses on tone production. They send me to my own practice room trying out different exercises and techniques. They send me deeper into a craft I have spent almost 30 years perfecting. They challenge me to make it fun, relevant and interesting. They remind me how important failure is to learning. They remind me that as the great Mickey Mouse said, “To laugh at yourself is to love yourself.”
If you are hoping to go deeper in your spiritual walk, begin to teach others what you know, even if all you’ve really got down is the story of salvation. Find an outlet that propels you into the study of The Word. If you’re like me, you’ll do more when you have a looming deadline, or a regular meeting you are preparing for. Find a mentor and bounce your ideas off of them. Get their feedback on what you’re reading. Allow them to push you, question you, and refine your thinking. Don’t be afraid of their criticism.
4. Lead by Lifting Others
Lao Tzu said, “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” Let me say it another way. You know a great leader by how well things can function when he/she is not around. Leaders equip others, build others up, finding ways to allow others to grow and shine brightly. Leaders praise when praise is due. Leaders assume the best, not the worst. Great leaders spend more energy building capacity around them than they do on building capacity in themselves. As the CEO of a Fortune 500 company said, “Every great leader has a generosity gene.” Don’t have one? Cultivate yours. Spend your days adding value to others & watch how your influence grows.
One final note. In the end, leading is nothing more than submitting to your call. I think many of us feel a pull to do something that matters, but we spend much of our lives waiting for that moment when lightening will strike and suddenly we will be in a position of authority. We think that then, all the sudden, we will be called into leadership. Let me tell you folks, that’s not how it happens. We must lead from where we are. We must pursue the calling on our lives daily, even if it feels vague and unsure. As you pursue it and pursue Him, I promise it will all become clear.