“As long as I am still here I intend to keep sending these reminders to you, hoping to impress them so clearly upon you that you will remember them long after I have gone." 2 Peter 1:14,15 (The Living Bible)
Jesus, it occurs to me to that this is what I’m all about with leaders I have the privilege of influencing and impacting. I want to continue to remind them of a few solid principles that will enable them to complete their race.
Here are a few of those solid principles which I want to pass on to the next generation of leaders that, I hope, they will remember long after I’m gone so that they are indeed “Leaders Who Last.”
1. Keep Jesus and his gospel central in all you do
Jesus is your life (Colossians 3:4), not your success, your fruitfulness or your influence. It’s so easy to substitute something else or someone else for Jesus. Calvin said that our hearts are idol factories. We want Jesus and his gospel to be foundational to who we are and what we do. Our value and worth is not based on what we accomplish or how respected or popular we are but on what Jesus has done for us, and our standing with him because of his death and resurrection.
I love Psalm 142:5 in the NLT in this regard: “Then I pray to you O Lord. I say, you are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.” This helps me to stay focused on Jesus and not something or someone else as my place of refuge or what I really want in life.
2. Live and minister for an audience of one
Who are you really working and living for? It’s so easy to become a man-pleaser (Galatians 1:10) and attempt to give people what they want instead of what they need. It’s too easy to try and keep people happy and not upset or offend them. By his grace, lovingly do the God-pleasing, God-honoring thing and let the chips fall where they may. In the last analysis, you stand before God and God alone. The question to ask is what would Jesus have me do--not what will protect my job or popularity.
3. Pace yourself for the long haul
Too many leaders are moving at an unsustainable pace which will eventually catch up with them and those they lead. The racetrack is littered with exhausted and spent leaders who forgot the length of the race they were in.
Remember, you are in a long-distance race--not a 100 meter race. Rhythms of work and rest, practicing Sabbath as principle and not just a day is key to stewarding your time and physical body in a God-honoring way.
4. Build a team and don’t try to do it all by yourself
Too many leaders I have worked with or coached try to do too much themselves and have a difficult time delegating and trusting others with decision-making authority. Delegate or suffocate--it’s that simple! Exodus 18 is a must-read on this topic. All leaders need a complementary team around them to carry out their God-given vision. Some people will actually do a better job than you would, if given the opportunity. There are too many insecure and controlling leaders who won’t share ministry!
5. Stay focused on your “Few Themes"
This is from C.S. Lewis who said that everyone is composed of a “Few Themes.” Most leaders will only be really good at one or two things. Even Michael Jordan was supremely great only at playing basketball. He was okay at golf and baseball but not great. He wasn’t even a particularly great basketball coach or owner. Identify your key passion and stay focused on that and learn to say no to other things. Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” is excellent on this idea of becoming really good at one thing.
6. Always keep the ”Big Rocks” in mind and plan your work around these
Identify the things that will keep you healthy and strong and then plan your work around those things. Most leaders plan their work first and then try to fit in the things that will keep them strong and healthy. The most important things wind up getting the “leftovers.”
Do it the other way around. Ministry and work will expand and eat up most of your time. Don’t let that happen to you. Set reasonable boundaries around your work hours by allowing adequate and generous amounts of time for Jesus, family, sleeping, eating and exercising. Please don’t sacrifice these on the altar of work/ministry. The needs will always exceed the resources! All work and no play/rest/relationships will make Jack not only a dull boy, but eventually a sick (or dead) boy!