I love spending time mentoring and getting to know young leaders. They inspire me, excite me, and keep me from getting too old. They aren’t perfect and yet are generally very receptive to advice and new ideas. I feel better about myself and the future when I am spending time with young leaders. I’m a realist, I understand I cannot mentor everybody, so I am very selective about who I personally invest in. But sometimes I worry about these folks. I worry that they automatically look up to people who are “Important” and/or sell a lot of merchandise. I worry that they are attracted to famous and successful people and may strive only to be just that: Famous and successful. And frankly, that’s a really shallow path of existence. So, as an act of public service, I give you: Five Leaders I WANT to follow. (NEXT UP: Five Leaders You Should NOT Follow.)
1. A leader with passion. Passionate leaders are inspiring. Personalities dictate how that passion is manifested and expressed, but you can generally feel it when you’re in the same room with a passionate leader. Don’t get me wrong, a leader can be passionate for all the wrong things. In churches, leaders can be sidetracked with getting more people sitting in seats on a Sunday morning, or getting sucked into politics, instead of making the message of Jesus their primary focus. But leaders who are passionate tend to recruit devoted followers to their cause. Passion drives us and keeps us focused. Leaders without passion don’t inspire people and tend to get pretty gimmicky. What are you most passionate about?
2. A leader that listens. Listening to your team is the mark of a great leader. As a leader, it is easy to get impatient when our team members are not as passionate about something as we are. We can easily be so passionate for our agenda that we can miss teachable moments for our crews, and squash feedback/questions because it looks like it will slow us down. You aren’t always going to have consensus, and at times leaders have to make unpopular decisions. But steamrolling everyone as a part of organizational culture will kill morale, deflate spirits, and send your best and brightest young minds packing for greener pastures. Sometimes listening to the overly critical, unpolished and immature inexperienced young team member will help you recognize raw talent. Listen to your team members, just make sure you have the right people on your team. Are you listening to me?
3. A leader that loves people. A leader who loves people is great to be around. I’ll give them more grace than someone who is really good at tasks but not so compassionate or caring towards individuals. We tend to overvalue personal appearance and hype, and undervalue someone who treats others the way Jesus did. I won’t always know how to best care for my team, but I will try to as best as I know how. I think we have plenty of leaders already that don’t have a love for other people. Who needs another one? Does your team think you love people? In what ways specifically are you loving others?
4. A leader with humility. Everyone is just sick of blatant arrogance. And phony humility won’t cut it; folks generally see through that. It is ok to be aware of your strengths and be confident in your direction. But just don’t ever believe you’re as awesome as everyone tells you. It is just as bad as believing you truly suck as much as your enemies say you do. Humility enables us to surround ourselves with the right mix of people. A lack of humility causes us to surround ourselves with people who stroke our ego and simply follow our agenda. In what areas do you believe you display the most humility? Which areas would your team members identify if asked about you anonymously?
5. A leader with a sense of vision. Vision is more than a goal, it is inspiration. Vision has things like exciting goals, outcomes worth dreaming about, and a future worth working for. An inspiring vision helps make all the hard work getting there meaningful and critical in the eyes of your team. A lack of vision causes our focus to shift to the monotony of the task at hand, with no reward in sight. A great vision is transforming an entire community or neighborhood. A lack of vision focuses us on making a bunch of phone calls and spreadsheets. A great vision creates something new and gives of glimpse of it off in the distance. A lack of vision causes our focus to shift on doing a bunch of work for the sake of doing work. A great vision motivates, inspires, and keeps a team focused together. A lack of vision is like unplugging a fan on a hot summer day. Things get stale and uncomfortable. What is your vision and how are you inspiring your team with it?
Bonus: This stuff all works together. Inspire people with your vision and drive it with your passion. Invest in their development and earn their respect by listening. Encourage them and mold them by loving other people. Show some humility so they understand leadership isn’t about sheer dominance (that’s not leadership, that is manipulation). These are all leadership qualities that are worth following.
NEXT UP: Five Leaders You Should NOT Follow.