Eight Facets of Brilliant Leadership
This is Part 2 in a two-part series, Eight Facets of Brilliant Leadership
Like diamonds, we as Christian leaders are called to reflect the Light and to shine the way for others. And like these rare, precious stones, we as leaders can radiate brilliance from eight facets: vision, integrity, motivation, discipleship, listening, prayer, attitude and servanthood. The first part of this series, we featured the first four of these eight facets. Here are the rest.
Facet 5: Listening
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey states the following as being the single most important principle in the field of interpersonal relations: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. It is our human nature to typically seek first to be understood. Many people are not listening with the intent to understand; they are simply being quiet while they formulate their rebuttal or reply.
Also, many of us are guilty of filtering everything through our own set of glasses – we read our own autobiography into other peoples’ lives (“Oh, I know exactly how you feel”, “I went through the very same thing. Let me tell you what happened to me.”) Then there are those who listen (often only in part) because they feel duty-bound to advise.
Very few of us practice empathetic listening, which is listening with the intent to understand. It means getting inside another person’s frame of reference. You look at the world the way they see it; you understand how they feel; you listen with more than your ears; you listen with your eyes and your heart as you search for feeling, meaning and behavior.
A person will always have difficulty as a leader if she doesn’t learn to listen to people. Foundational to that is that is a sincere desire to understand other people.
Diamonds are valuable – they are worth a good price because they are rare, desirable and highly treasured. Leaders who listen and who pray – leaders who communicate – are valuable to their followers, but they are also valuable to God. As we seek first to understand (then to be understood) we become very valuable to those we listen to because through our empathetic listening we communicate acceptance, affirmation and trust.
Facet 6: Prayer
We communicate in two dimensions:
- The horizontal dimension (with people)
- The vertical dimension (with God)
Within that vertical dimension of communicating with God, there is the element of God speaking to us – through His Word, through His Holy Spirit and the element of us speaking to God through prayer.
Oswald Sanders writes this about the leader and prayer: “Most of us find it hard to pray. We do not naturally delight in drawing near to God. We sometimes pay lip service to the delight and power of prayer. We call it indispensable; we know the Scriptures call for it. Yet we often fail to pray.”
Why don’t we pray? I think one of the most frequent excuses I hear is, “I’m too busy to pray!”
Jesus believed that prayer was a dominant and essential feature in His life by how He lived – He would pray through the night before important events and He would often withdraw to a lonely place to pray as normal routine. Determining and listening for His Father’s will was of utmost importance to Him. He delighted to be in the presence of His Father and He communicated with Him with His entire body, mind and spirit. Prayer was not a mental exercise for Jesus, but an outpouring of His whole self.
I am convinced that the key to learning the art of prayer is the Holy Spirit. I can read every book on prayer, attend prayer conferences, fast and pray, and seek all kinds of accountability, but until I seek the Holy Spirit as my teacher, my prayer life will never grow or develop. And as a spiritual leader, it is vital for me to communicate with God – to have His vision and direction, to gain His wisdom and insight.
Facet 7: Attitude
One of the greatest plusses that a leader can have is a positive attitude. A benchmark of maturity is taking personal responsibility for our attitudes.
We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it is a continual choice. Our attitudes do not run on automatic. People with bad attitudes are perpetually blaming everyone or everything else for their problems. It is highly improbable that a person with a bad attitude can continuously be a success. Once our minds are imprinted with negative thinking, our chances for long-term success diminish.
Every morning when we wake up, we choose what our attitude will be. Having the right attitude will be a big factor in setting the right atmosphere. It will bring about right responses from your followers. A leader’s attitude is “caught” more quickly than her actions.
Diamonds have a lasting quality – they endure. That is why they are chosen as gems for wedding rings. They stand the test and stress of everyday living. Their settings or mounts may wear down, but the diamonds themselves endure. They can even be passed down from one generation to another.
Facet 8: Servanthood
Combining the terms “leader” and “servant” brings us to a paradoxical term. Some people would regard it as a classic example of the proverbial square peg in a round hole: servant-leader. How can a leader who is driven to see a vision become reality, achieve that by taking on the role of a servant?
Our answer lies in the best biblical example we have of servant leadership – the person of Jesus Christ. Matthew 20:25-28 reads as follows:
“But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
By Christ’s example of servant leadership, this facet of servanthood involves:
- The basic requirement to place a high priority on people rather than programs, paperwork or committees. I find it quite ironic that Jesus Himself never set up one committee, never established any bylaws, never started a church and never wrote a book. Yet He changed the world. Jesus placed high value and priority on people. His ministry is basically a story of His involvement in the lives of people over three years. He spoke, He listened and He touched.
- Secondly, Jesus had an attitude of giving, of sacrifice and of humility. We are challenged as servant-leaders to have that same attitude of sacrifice and humility.
- A willingness to do any task we assign to another. One of the best ways to develop trust and understanding with our followers and to open the lines of communication, is to be willing to get our hands dirty.
- A desire to meet the needs of our followers. We need to have a desire to know our followers as individuals and be aware of their needs.
- A promptness to wash feet. The practice of foot washing in our culture doesn’t really paint any pictures about this ancient ritual. With all the beautification products and procedures available today, we have little idea how dirty and downright ugly feet can become. John 13:1-17 tells the story of what happened at the Last Supper.
It was Jesus’ last time with His disciples before His death. Normally, the foot-washing job was assigned to the lowest of servants. All 12 of the disciples were lounging around on their chaises with their dirty feet stuck in one another’s faces – but no one offered to wash them. So Jesus Himself wrapped a towel around his waist, and gently began the unpleasant task of washing those dirty, hard, calloused feet.
What does foot washing have to do with leading? Absolutely everything. Jesus commanded us to love one another and He modeled that love by being a servant, a lowly foot-washer. Caring is symbolic foot-washing. Caring is being sensitive to another’s needs or hurts or even unspoken longings for love. Caring is Jesus with skin on.
When there is a need on your part to literally wash someone’s feet or whether the need requires you to get involved in the grief, grime or pain of someone else’s life, remember Jesus’ words to us about foot washing: “You ought also to wash one another’s feet.”
As leaders, you are diamonds. You are valuable. You have such great potential to shine, to:
- Cast vision for your leadership
- Be a clear and open book
- Motivate and spur others on as you impact them up close
- Reproduce worthy leaders as your persevere in discovering and then developing their potential
- Seek first to understand then to be understood
- Desire and pursue an intimate relationship with God in prayer
- Have an attitude of joy and endure in your leadership
- Go and wash feet.