How can I develop as a leader?
It’s a question we don’t necessarily say out loud, but it’s something we all think about – wishing there was a quick, easy three step guide to follow. In a way, there is. So here’s my take on three steps to help you develop as a leader.
The best place always to start is with God, to invite Him into all that we do. [Which I’ve posted about several times already in “Looking ahead to 2021” and “Transformation through the drip, drip effect“.]
So take a few minutes to pray – to ask God to come, what He thinks about how you can develop as a leader in this season.
There have been several times in my life where I’ve desperately wanted to know what God thought so I could make the ‘right’ decision, and He’s replied straight back “so what do you think?” Therefore ask yourself, how can I develop as a leader? What can I do to help myself grow in my leadership? Where do I think I need to develop?
Getting others opinions, especially those who have more experience or know us well is valuable input. It’s hard to see ourselves from a different perspective. We all have blind spots or things we don’t know we don’t know. But it can be scary too.
But first ask God, who you should ask (as some people won’t be helpful to ask in this season).
I remember when I was in a hard season and getting counselling. One of the tasks I was set was to ask those close to me what they thought I needed to grow in (my weakness’). Some responded saying I was brave to open myself up to others responses to this question – that they weren’t courageous enough to ask that kind of question. But I wanted to grow and hear from those close to me. Their replies were precious because they came from love and genuinely wanted to help me grow so I could be a better me. My humility in genuinely asking opened the way for them to be honest and caring in their response. In your asking – let them know you want to hear their constructive criticism because you want to grow and you value their opinion. How you ask will influence how they respond)
But I needed to initiate the conversation and ask them for their thoughts. It’s not something people usually offer out of the blue but does take courage to ask.
Asking your leader what you could do to develop your leadership skills is a sign of strength. Of wanting to grow and inviting them into the process is something all leaders long for those they’re leading to ask.
When asking others, it’s also good to give them a deadline of when you’d like to hear back from them by. Some can provide you with a good response off the top of their head because they’ve already got a few thoughts. But others need time to think or want to give their best thought-out answer – which is worth the wait. A deadline helps provide them with a timeframe of your expectations, and you don’t have to wait in wondering longer than necessary.
Be open to hear
The first choice you have after asking a question is how you hear their reply. Are you willing and open to hearing their honest response? Which comes hopefully out of love for you or at least a desire to see you change so it can help them more.
If you’re not sure what, for example, Bob means in his response, ask him for clarification. Or repeat back to Bob what you think you’ve heard, so you’re clear what he means – often when he hears it spoken back to him it helps.
Then write it down so you can look at it late and compare it with what others have said.
If you’re struggling to hear God’s voice – then take a look at my feature article: “Hindrances to hearing God’s voice.” Which can hopefully help you identify the issue.
Wait to analyse/respond
Don’t try to explain it or give an answer as to why it’s a weakness or area you need to grow in… Just write it down. If you’re quick to take it to heart (to take it personally) and decided you’ve failed because you’re not perfect. Please stop, wait – in that moment of hearing/ reading their response don’t take it inside yourself yet. See it as a suggestion on a piece of paper in front of you that needs to be considered in the mix of other’s opinions and most importantly – what God will say in response.
The truth can be hard to hear, it can be humbling even scary to find out. But if it’s the truth, then it’s the foundation place to start from. Often when people are sick, it’s a relief to be given a diagnosis. To give the unknown a name. Because then, and only then can treatment begin. The road to recovery and a plan of action can start.
Finding out the truth either about what weakness’ you have, or things you need to learn to become a better leader is very similar.
They have taken the time to think and respond – friends and other leaders are a blessing and such value to have in our lives.
You are loved for who you are, not for what you don’t know or struggle with. You are amazing for being you not for what you do. God doesn’t love you any less than before. Others might actually be more impressed by you because they see your hunger and willingness to face your fears/weakness’ and want to grow.
This step is about gathering information to find out what God, you and others think are areas you need to develop. They aren’t criticisms or judgements but ideas and opinions.
Now comes the action part. What to do with the information you’ve gathered.
Bring all the words you’ve heard God say, you’ve thought and what others have said and lay them before God. Asking God for His wisdom and discernment for what is important to look at now, in this current season. What should be put to one side, or even in the bin? As it’s not what God is asking you to focus on right now? Some of the suggestions may be painful to think about, or confirmation that yes, you know this part needs work. Or perhaps a surprise that you never thought of but is a great idea. Bring each one before God and decide if it’s one to act on now, keep for later or throw away.
Work it out with your leader
Ask your leader or mentor to sit down with you and go through the act on now and keep for later suggestions. Getting a trusted wise opinion is very important and helps you to keep it out in front of you (and not stabbing you in the heart).
Now, together with God and your leader/ mentor – work out which ones you need to make an action plan to start to implement in your life in this session (over the next few months).
Ask for each thing, “x” you want to develop.
- What do I need to learn more about “x”? Whether by reading a particular book, taking a class, doing a bible study, discussing more with my leader/ mentor…
- How can I apply this new knowledge in my life going forward?
- What lies have I believed that I need to find God’s truth in to change my thinking?
- What habit do I need to replace with a better, healthier one to change my automatic response to a more Christ-like one?
- Where do I need to give myself grace as I take time to grow in this area that’s new or hard for me?
Make a plan
With the answers you’ve got for the above questions, take each of the areas you want to develop. Make some action points of what you are going to do and when to make them a reality. (I’ll write soon a blog on SMART Goals, which will really help you with this). Be specific and realistic in what you’re asking of yourself. So you can actually achieve what you’re planning.
Commit to do
The doing side is where the rubber hits the road. You have to make conscious choices often when no-one else is around to do what you said you would do. This will take discipline but remember:
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 3:12-14 – NIV]
Ask God to help you do what you’ve said you will do.
Ask your leader to hold you accountable, so they will check in with you to see how it’s going and give feedback.
Step out in faith – you’ve got this – you are going to develop yourself so you can grow in your leadership! Go for it!
The Hebrews have an excellent word for this – SHAMA = to Hear & Obey. The Bible Project has a great little video explaining this, so check it out.
I know, in reality, it’s more than three things. But it’s three simple questions to ask yourself for each specific point you want to work on and then repeat.
Then after a few months of working on these things – ask for feedback. “How am I doing with “x”? What else could I do to further improve? What am I doing better in and need to give myself a pat on the back for? Hear their feedback and then make adjustments and keep doing.
Well done – you’re growing as a leader 🙂