When most of us hear the word leadership, we usually think of political officials, CEOs, military commanders, or even athletes. While it's true that you need good leadership skills to excel at these occupations, leadership is a valuable skill that everyone from any vocation or background can use for their benefit and the benefit of others.
As pastors, youth pastors, children's pastors, and church leaders of any kind, we are no exception. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of many church pastors and leaders is that we depend on the gift that God gives us. We should be! What I mean is we rely on it without taking the responsibility to develop the gift He has given. God's part is to gift the gift. Our part is to develop how we live and use the gift.
While God gives us leadership as a gift, effectively living in leadership doesn't come naturally for most of us. Like any spiritual gifts and talents, we need to grow in understanding and development. You can use several methods to build and refine your leadership skills. (While I don't list it, it should go without saying that as pastors, we should be praying about it daily.)
Discover and develop the leadership gift God has placed in you! Try these techniques to boost your leadership skills:
1. Strive for excellence.
Part of being a successful leader is your ability to set the bar for others. You can be a good role model by constantly seeking ways to improve yourself and aspire to excellence. This is not only true of our spiritual growth as Pastors and Church leaders but in other areas of our lives. After all, to indeed be a follower of Jesus is to live as a living sacrifice. (Romans 12:2)
A hallmark of leadership is excellence. Work on honing your existing skills and developing new ones. Our God is a God of excellence, and he deserves our best. One key element in this is not to compare. Looking at a church that is ten times your size and thinking that that is what excellence looks like will be discouraging. Look within your context and your call. How can you make your leadership a hallmark of excellence by honing your existing skills and developing new ones? How can you be the best you can be right where you are now?
2. Focus on your vision and set goals.
Consider what you want to accomplish in different areas of your life. Set goals that will help you to achieve your vision.
I love to talk with other Pastors about vision. Clear vision is so vital for our congregations as we lead them. Vison shows them where we are leading them. One of the questions I hear most from Pastors is, "how often should I speak on vision?" My answer is always, "if you spoke last weekend and did not speak on the vision, you are not speaking on it enough!"
Are you saying we should speak on vision every week? I'm telling you that you should talk about your vision every time you speak. Be it in a sermon, a board or Elders meeting, a small group, or any gathering. Leadership is nothing more and nothing less than taking people on the journey of vision. When God has given you a clear vision, don't lose focus. Don't let your people lose focus.
Set goals where you are able to periodically measure your performance and progress.
Break up larger goals into smaller ones to celebrate your successes and maintain motivation.
Learn to identify and use all of your resources. In the pursuit of your goals, always identify and use all of your resources. When making plans to reach your goal, always work with the resources you have in your current circumstances, rather than developing plans based on resources and circumstances that you wish were available.
Smaller more attainable goals will help you stay on course with your vision. However, when discussing or working toward those goals, remember to always tie them to the vision and where you are headed.
Be willing to refine your plans and ultimate goals based on your progress and dreams.
3. Develop your people skills.
Leaders are known for their ability to inspire others to work towards a shared vision and goals. To be successful at inspiring others to work with you, develop your people skills and emotional intelligence. Like all leadership skills, developing people skills is perpetual. If you think you have arrived with your people skills, you are probably further off the mark than you could imagine.
Learn how to listen. Pastor and church leaders, we should be great at this. But we often get caught in the trap of telling rather than listening. Listening helps to establish a connection and build camaraderie and trust, so others are more likely to follow your lead and help you.
Help others to be their best. Part of being a good leader is motivating others towards positive change.
Seek input from others when discussing goals and plans to live out your vision. You cannot, and God did not intend for you to do this alone. That is the opposite of leadership. It's easy to tell when a Pastor or leader has done the work of goals and planning in their office by themselves. It's usually not good. (The same is true with sermon prep) Give others a stake in the results by seeking their opinion. They'll be more motivated to help you.
4. Be passionate and maintain a positive attitude.
Most of us take cues from others in social situations. You are a leader, so you should be aware and conscious that others will often take their cues from you. As a leader, you can teach others to have a positive attitude and be passionate about their efforts by doing so yourself. Keep them focused on having the attitude of Jesus rather than having the perspective of culture and all of this earth's circumstances.
Maintaining a Christlike attitude and giving your best effort will help energize the entire team so everyone can accomplish more, regardless of the circumstances.
Let me end with this question: do you have leadership development on your schedule? I don't mean just the occasional leadership conference. I mean, is it a part of your weekly or daily schedule? Do you plan for it? If not, you should prioritize it by getting it on the calendar and letting nothing steal that time. As a Pastor or church leader, you may feel too busy to schedule a time to develop and grow in your leadership. However, if that is where you are in your thinking and scheduling, you probably need to set aside time to do so more than most. The more time you spend developing and growing as a leader, the more time you will have, and the vision of your ministry will move forward at a much greater pace.
Taking the time to develop your leadership skills can radically increase the success you experience in all areas of your life. God has done His part by giving you the gift of leadership. Now let's do your part and develop and hone your leadership skills to achieve the vision and goals God has given you and your ministry. You will enjoy being a ministry leader at a much higher leer and enjoy a more satisfying life. And the people you lead will do the same!