I hear the same refrain everywhere I go: “I’m so busy, tired, exhausted, running on empty. I don’t think I can handle this any more. I don’t think I can keep this up much longer. Everything seems to be a top priority. I don’t know where to start!”
In the name of simplicity, let me share three top priorities for every leader. If you are one of the fortunate ones who has an agreed-upon ministry or job description, there is a good chance these are not currently on that description, but should be if you are to lead the way that Jesus intends for you to lead.
1. Regularly Listening To God
If you are like me, there many voices--other people in my life and some inside my own head--telling me to do this or that, be here or there, help this person or that person. Of all the voices that I need to listen and respond to, first is that of God himself. I need, with his grace, to live and lead for an audience of one.
“…and the sheep listen -to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…” John 10:3 (NIV)
“The Lord came and stood there, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel, Samuel.’ Then Samuel said, ‘Speak for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)
“Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.” Jeremiah 42:3 (NIV)
“Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.” Proverbs 3:6 (The Message)
Whatever your “spiritual disciplines” are, make them a consistent, regular part of your daily and weekly rhythms. Cut down on all the other noises around you so you can tune into what he is saying to you and live in responsive obedience.
2. Constantly Developing Leaders
Poor leaders do it all by themselves, good leaders invest in others to help them. If you are following a God-given, God-size vision, you would be a fool to try and do it by yourself. You would also cheat others out of using their God-given talents by doing it all yourself. All leaders, regardless of their roles and responsibilities, need to be constantly pouring into the next generation of leaders so that:
- You can focus on your unique contribution
- Others can maximize the total contribution that can be made
- Organizational morale will be high
I have never been involved with a church or Christian organization that had enough leaders. Maybe one exists out there somewhere, but I have never encountered it or read about it. Most everyone is looking for new leaders. This mandates being proactive, intentional, deliberate and prayerful in deciding whom to select, developing those you select and then deploying them in ministry. You will want to have both a philosophy and a pathway for leadership development. It will not happen accidentally. Every leader needs to be prayerfully looking around and focusing on a few future leaders.
“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others.” 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)
“But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” Exodus 18:21 (NIV)
3. Pacing Yourself
Years ago I would ask leaders how they were doing and I would hear: “I’m super busy.” Today when I ask, I hear: “I’m super tired.” Pacing is critical to longevity in leadership. We need to remember that we are in a marathon--not a 100 meter sprint. By his grace, discovering and maintaining a healthy balance between ministry, personal and family is paramount. Learning how to practice Sabbath as a principle-- not just a day--may save your life. Having times of intense engagement, intermingled with deliberate times of disengagement, will keep you physically, emotionally and mentally healthy.
“You chart the path ahead of me, and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment, you know where I am.” Psalm 138: 3 (The Living Bible)
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.” Matthew 11:28 (The Message)
“Energy, not time, is the fundamental currency of high performance. Without the right quantity, quality, focus and force of energy, we are compromised in any activity we undertake.”
“Performance, health and happiness are grounded in the skillful management of energy. Leaders are the stewards of organizational energy—in companies, organizations and even in families. They inspire or demoralize others first by how effectively they manage their own energy and next by how well they mobilize, focus, invest and renew the collective energy of those they lead." - ”The Power of Full Engagement” by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
+ Please make these three your top priorities so you can be a “Leader Who Lasts.”
- Listen regularly to God
- Constantly develop other leaders
- Intentionally pace yourself