The Need to Inspire

In anything a leader does, he or she must inspire those around them. In the toughest situations or the darkest of nights, a leader who is still courageous and inspiring can give new hope to followers.

Be Inspirational, Be like sunlight coming through the clouds

Be Inspirational, Be like sunlight coming through the clouds

I remember one time when I was at a youth camp. We were planning to play some outdoor games all afternoon. Games like kickball, tag, and dodge ball. However, a few hours before the whole camp was going to take part in these games, it started to rain. And it kept raining. I, along with almost everyone else, was disheartened and frustrated. Now we would probably have to sit inside and play boring inside games or something equally  unexciting.

Yet the youth leader of the camp was unfazed and recognized the situation. He immediately announced that we would still be doing games outside, but they would be games suited for wet weather. He proceeded to talk these games up so much that everyone in the camp was soon even more excited about these new wet weather games than the other games we had planned. Even today I still remember all the games we played that day and the fun everyone had because of one inspiring leader.

A leader who can look at a situation, change plans, and then inspire others to follow is a great leader. It is not easy at times to throw out plans and come up with something new, but it is necessary to do in certain situations.

So how can you do a better job of inspiring people? The next time when your plans do not work out very well, try to be flexible and change, and then be excited about the new direction you are heading. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to follow an inspirational leader who is genuinely excited about leading.

photo by B Tal

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7 Reasons why leaders fail

failure comes in many forms

failure comes in many forms

Photo by greekadman

Many leaders fail every day. They fail for lots of reasons. But there are seven key reasons that you should know to help you avoid failing as a leader.

1. They Lose sight of their vision – when a leader stops setting goals and forgets their vision they will soon fail. They fail simply because they have no objective, no reason for leading. Every leader must have a reason for leading. As soon as the objective is accomplished, or the leader stops making goals, the leader will be unnecessary. So always be aiming for a goal, and always have a vision of what you want to do in the future and where you are leading.

2. They fail to communicate their vision and goals to others – as important as it is to have a vision, it is also important to effectively communicate that vision with those under you. If a leader stops communicating, their followers will become disconnected and will soon quit following. Always be clear and communicate often what your goals are with those under you. Make sure they understand what you are saying and what you want from them. Clarify anything that might be unclear, go above and beyond to ensure you are effectively communicating.

3. They try to work on their weaknesses more than their strengths – we were each created with certain strengths and weaknesses. When a leader starts to try to do things they aren’t good at, they will fail. A leader must recognize their strengths and weaknesses, and then use their strengths and avoid their weaknesses. There will be times when you might have to do something that is not a strength.  That is fine, you just do not want the bulk of your life or work to be focused on areas that you are weak in.

4. They have weak team members around them – the people a leader brings around them will have a great impact on the effectiveness of that leader. Many good leaders have failed simply because they gathered incompetent team members around them. To avoid this, carefully evaluate each person you hire or bring in to work with. Be sure that they are a good team member. And, of course, make sure you set the example by always learning and always increasing your abilities and effectiveness.  Hire slow and fire fast.  You do not want to make a bad hiring decision so take it slow. Once you realize that you need to let a member of the team go make sure you make it happen fast.  If you are have worked with a person and tried to find areas of strength where they could add to the team and that still does work make the firing decision quickly.

5. They become prideful or headstrong – when a leader stops taking suggesting, stops listening to council, and starts doing everything on their own, it is only a matter of time before they make a bad choice and ruin themselves. Every leader needs to take advice from others; every leader needs people around them to give council and help. Pride is often a key reason behind ignoring others advice. When you become prideful, you think you are better and smarter than everyone else. Do not go down this path, instead, have a good mentor or friend who can keep you humble and on track.

6. They do too much – a leader must know what they can handle and what they need to pass on to others. When a leader takes on every task, they become busy and ineffective at accomplishing any task well. They do a lot of work, but it is all poor quality. Eventually, a leader heading down this path will become tired, stressed, and burned out. To steer clear of this, carefully look at every task you accept. Ask yourself if you can devote the necessary time to do a good job. if you can not then delegate or just say no. it is better to be focused and accomplish a few tasks very well then to do a lot of jobs poorly.

7. They do not keep their relationship with God fresh – if a leader stops relying on God, stops connecting to God, they will run into difficult times and have nothing to turn to, no one to help them. If you are experiencing tough times in your relationship with God continue to pursue his heart.  Many times leaders do not want to draw near to God unless they feel like it.  Draw near to God and the feelings will follow.  Just this morning I was reading 2 Chronicles 312:31b  ”God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart.”  As people grow in their relationship with God it seems that everyone goes through a season where things are not as easy, fun or fruitful.  Usually these times are tests to see if the leader will renew his hunger and thirst for the Lord.  Let your dry time be a stepping stone to a fresh experience of your relationship with God.

If you have any other thoughts on why leaders fail please feel free to leave a comment.

Leadership and Humility

Humility and Leadership rarely are associated together but a leader must learn to be humble

Humility and Leadership rarely are associated together but a leader must learn to be humble

photo by BUR?BLUE

When you do a word association with humility, leadership probably does not pop into your head. A leader should be great, glorious, and confident right? If their confidence leads them to be prideful well then so be it.  It’s probably OK for someone to be a little prideful if they have earned the right to be prideful.   Well not according to Jesus and many others in recent history who have studied truly great leaders.

Take a look at the example Jesus left for us at the last supper. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus did something extraordinary; He got up, got a towel and water, and began to wash the feet of each of His followers. In that time only a servant, and the humblest of servants at that, washed people’s feet. Yet Jesus did this to show us what a leader should really look like. He showed us that a leader needs to be thinking and serving those who follow them. They need to put their follower’s needs ahead of their own. A leader has incredible responsibility, and one of them is to make sure that the needs of those entrusted to him or her are taken care of.

When a leader is humble and takes time to look after the needs of those following them, then the followers will be more willing and able to follow and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the goal at hand.

Especially today, humility is not a popular trait.  Somehow William Bennet left it out of his best seller The Book of Virtues.  Maybe there were not enough stories of a humble protagonist, or maybe humility does not sell.  :-)   If a leader does not continue to pursue humility it is likely they will soon become prideful and fall into traps caused by the sin of pride.  A humble leader accepts the council of others and grows from it.

I once heard the phrase that humility is not thinking less of yourself it is not thinking of yourself at all.  President’s Lincoln and Reagan both modeled this characteristic of humility well.  Nancy Reagan said of President Reagan that he had no ego.  He was not concerned about himself.  Though many great leaders are attributed with the quote “You can get a lot done if you don’t care who gets the credit.”  It was certainly an opinion that Reagan voiced often and probably helped to keep him humble as he made his way up the ladder of success.

If you want to pursue humility it helps to keep your focus on Christ who was humble despite being God.  It helps to give away all the credit you can.  It also helps to receive encouragement and praise with a simple “Thank You.” or “Praise God.”  A false humility that says, “Oh it was nothing.”  Simply causes the giver of the praise to have to offer more or justify their original statement, whereas a thank you or focus on God causes the attention to go back to that person or to God.