Usually, I don't like meetings. They score at the top of the list of "time-wasters" for leaders with a bias for action. But one meeting stands out in my mind. I am still feeling the impact of what I learned.
A number of years ago, a presentation was given by Jan Hettinga, Senior Pastor of Northshore Baptist church in Bothell and author of Follow Me. Jan's material was good; but when we got to the "interactive learning" section of our time, we took a quantum leap as far as interest and liveliness was concerned. Jan raised the issue of what makes a leader safe and unsafe to followers and to Kingdom effectiveness.
We generated a list of what constitutes UNSAFE LEADERS. From that came a list with SAFE LEADER characteristics. Here are some of the safe and unsafe traits of a leader that we discussed.
What Makes a Leader Unsafe?
We can also think of this as dangerous. What makes a leader dangerous or harmful to followers and to Biblical fruitfulness and effectiveness? I am reminded of the person who prayed: "Lord, save me from your followers." Could we not also pray, Lord, save me from some of your unsafe leaders?
- Won't give or share credit with others
- Can't receive correction
- Intentionally unaccountable
- Always has to be right
When we finished discussing each of them a bit, Jan looked at us with his steely eyes and said, "Gentlemen, this is us." I could be this type of leader except for the grace of God. I felt like I was sitting at the Last Supper and asking myself, "Lord, is it I?"
A number of years ago a friend shared a list of qualifications for future missionaries for his organization. He asked me what I thought. One item was missing from his list. I told him that the missing item was slowly but surely climbing to the top of my list of essential ingredients for an effective leader -- having a TEACHABLE SPIRIT.
Much of what you see on the above list stems from not being teachable. In Proverbs 5:12,13 NLT we read, "And you will say, how I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! Oh, why didn't I listen to my teachers? Why didn't I pay attention to those who gave me instruction?"
What Makes a Leader Safe?
After we had emotionally recovered a bit from the impact of the first list, up went a second list:
- Frequently ask those you lead what they think about an idea, proposal, concept
- Affirm others
- Place yourself under Biblical and human authority
- Give credit easily and readily
Nothing profoundly deep here. You've probably heard it before. But there is a big difference between knowing and doing. Maybe it's time for a little introspection. How are YOU doing? Are people safe or unsafe with your style of leadership? Has anybody you lead been praying, "Lord, save me from my leader?"