Extraordinary leaders give their followers an example to follow, a purpose to live for, and values to live by. They do it by continually learning about three things. They become an example to follow by learning about who they are. They define a purpose to live for by learning about why they are here. They offer meaningful values by learning about what is most important. In the next three posts I want to talk about these critical areas of leadership learning.
- What do leaders have to learn about who they are?
Leaders have to learn their unique personal identity. This is hard in a culture of conformity, but it’s extremely important. When God made human beings, he made us in his own image, designing us to be reflections of his character. No single individual can reflect God’s whole character so God made us each unique, able to reflect a small part of who God is. Dr. Rama Balakrishnan of Stanford University’s Department of Genetics says of the potential number of unique individuals: “The total number of possibilities will be 4300 which to me is something like zillions.” This limitless variety allows each person to be unique, and it’s absolutely critical that we embrace this uniqueness and become who God made us to be.
- Why do we need to learn it?
Learning my personal identity allows me to lead from the most powerful position possible, from who I am. Anything else is a poor substitute, an inferior copy, and an energy drainer. Leading from who I am is the only way I can be authentic with other people. Authenticity builds trust, trust develops influence, and influence is leadership. There are other ways to build influence, but none is as potent as being the unique person God made me to be.
- How do we go about learning it?
Learning who I am involves more than just my mind. It has to include my heart as well because when what I know in my mind gets assimilated into my heart, I become who God designed me to be. How does this happen? Moving knowledge from the head to the heart requires three ingredients:
- Challenging Circumstances: Heart learning happens best when we go through troubles. I wish that weren’t the case, but it is.
- Time for Reflection: Prayer, journaling, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines move what we know in our heads to our hearts.
- Supportive Community: Having a small group of people around to support us during times of trouble gives us the strength to do the heart learning needed to become who God made us to be. It’s why small groups are leadership factories.
Leadership learning begins with knowing who I am, allowing me to become an example for others to follow.