I love lists. I love articles and blog posts that include lists of one thing and another. The Bible is big on lists. There are lists of things to avoid, list of things to do and lists of leadership qualities (I Timothy 3; Titus 1 and I Peter 5.) There are lists concerning the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) and lists of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
I love lists of ideas, attributes, warnings and commands as they help me know what God’s desires are for me and how he would have me live my life--both as a follower and as a leader. As I am led by him, empowered by Him and seek to honor him, I want to pay attention to what is in all these lists, so I can trust the Holy Spirit for ongoing personal transformation.
I have been a Christian for 53 years and in vocational Christian ministry for 45 years. I have given a great deal of thought to what is on all the lists in the Bible where the Lord expresses his desires for us.
There is one indispensable quality that I would put at the top of all of the lists when it comes to leaders.
That one indispensable quality is being teachable
Having the mind-set of a life-long learner…being open to learn from anyone at anytime on any topic. With His help, being teachable sets us up for growing in all the other areas of our walk with the Lord.
I have met very old Christians who are still teachable and I have met very young Christians who are not. I have met some very humble leaders and I have met some very arrogant leaders who have a hard time listening to anyone but himself or herself!
I remember shortly after I was married, I was starting to memorize Proverbs 13:10 in the King James, “Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.” Due to my poor handwriting, my wife, Susan, thought the P was a B and asked why the Bible would say only by “bride” cometh contention. We both had a good laugh.
Here is Proverbs 13:10 in the ESV: “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”
Wisdom, from God’s perspective, lies in knowing how to take advice.
If there is one book in the Bible that majors in teachability, it would be the book of Proverbs.
Here are two of my favorites verses on being teachable from Proverbs:
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2 ESV)
“And you say, how I hated discipline and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to instructors.” (Proverb 5:12,13 ESV)
When I’m thinking of investing in a potential leader, having a teachable spirit is the number one quality I’m looking for. When I see a true hunger to learn and grow and a genuine humility that is willing to be taught, confronted or corrected, there is no limit to what that leader can learn or how much influence that leader can have for the kingdom.
I have met a few leaders who wanted to learn, but didn’t want to be taught. They wanted to learn on their own and were not really open to having anyone else speak into their lives. It’s sad, to say the least.
If a leader is not teachable he/she won’t continue to hear from God (and others) and continue to grow and mature into the kind of follower and leader God desires.
This unteachable leader will eventually fall into other sins and disqualify him/herself. If a person is truly teachable, God can get through to each leader on every other issue or sin.
If the leader is truly teachable, then other people will have permission and freedom to speak into his/her life and which will lead to more growth, which honors Jesus.
Warren Myers was one of my early coaches who went to be with Jesus at the age of 78. Warren had spent his life studying the Bible and knew it and lived it better than any man I have ever known. He was not perfect by any means, but when it was clear he had sinned, he was quick to own it and ask for forgiveness from the lord and from anyone he had sinned against.
We connected just a few months before he went to be with Jesus. We were having lunch together in Colorado Springs. He asked me (he always asked lots of questions) what Jesus had been recently making clear to me. As I began to share he took notes on what I was saying for his own personal growth. I couldn’t believe it…at 78, still growing, still learning--even from one of his disciples.
Are you truly teachable? Can you be confronted without bristling or making excuses for yourself? Do you ask questions when you are with others or are you quick to tell everyone your opinion on the topic at hand? Are you reading books that facilitate your ongoing maturity and influence for the kingdom?
In short, are you growing in “The Indispensable Quality Every Leader Needs to Possess?”
I met a career missionary at LAX and drove him to his destination. He had been working on a list of characteristics to look for in potential missionary candidates for his organization. He read his list to me asking what I thought. I told him that all of the qualities were excellent, but I felt there was one that was missing. He didn’t have being teachable on his life. He quickly added it.
Recently I watched a 30-second video clip from a leader on what he thought was a leader’s greatest fault.
Following that clip, and for several weeks running, various leaders from around the country would be weighing in on what, in their opinion, would be a leader’s greatest fault.
What do you think a leader’s greatest fault would be?
Would it be:
- Sexual impurity?
- Ministry idolatry?
- Financial mismanagement?
- Lack of honesty/integrity?
After many years of thinking and praying about this, my answer would be:
Not being teachable!
The same trait I mentioned to the career missionary. Maybe it’s true that some things never change.
Dave, you can’t be serious in saying that teachability is more important than all other leadership qualities and traits?
Yes I am.
If a leader is walking with Jesus but is not teachable he/she won’t continue to hear from God (and others) and continue to grow and mature.
This unteachable leader will eventually fall into other sins and disqualify him/herself. If a person is truly teachable, God can get through to them on every other issue or sin. If the leader is truly teachable, then other people will have permission and freedom to speak into his/her life.
How would you recognize a truly teachable leader?
I believe the answer is simple. He/she is asking more questions than giving more answers. He/she is listening more than talking. It’s not by accident that we have two ears and one mouth. The leader learns more and the follower grows in confidence by digging deeper to answer insightful questions.
One of the signs of a truly great leader is that he/she is not only continuing to learn and grow personally but helping others grow by encouraging them to think deeply and respond to well thought-through questions. It takes more work to come up with good questions rather than to give our good opinions on someone else’s question.
A reading through the gospels is revealing when looking at all the questions Jesus asked. He was always trying to help his disciples by asking insightful questions. If you are truly in possession of the prince of charter traits, you will be asking more questions of everyone, thereby demonstrating that you truly are a life-long learner.