As I venture into this new leadership series, I will talk often about the wonderful resources I have come across over the years that have helped me develop leadership skills and successful practices for teams. But I will not only talk about helpful podcasts, books, and speakers—I will also talk about mistakes. I will talk about areas I have struggled and I will talk about what I have done wrong with the hopes that any of those missteps might help you grow as a leader.
I believe that as leaders we offer a beacon of light that others can look to for guidance. One remarkable detail about standing in the light is that it leaves you few places to hide. You can try, but usually transparent and humble find their way to you one way or another. Recognizing the value in those moments is crucial to learning to be a better leader. It is what helps you answer the questions about what keeps you from leading well.
While I cherish the unending supply of resources that bring me such valuable information and plan to herald my favorites from the rooftops throughout this series, the best resource guide I have comes from the greatest leader I know. Any desire I have to be a better leader must filter through the examination of the tools Jesus used to lead.
Jesus didn’t have the latest online course or study. He worked from a different toolbox—one that held everything He needed. If I want to be an effective, mission-minded, and humble leader, I must compare my leadership habits to His so I can illuminate the areas I need to work on. The first area I need to work on is prayer.
Fun fact: the greatest leader of all time knew there was real power in prayer.
No, this was not breaking news for me. I have known a long time that the most powerful tool I could use as a leader is prayer. I know what prayer can do. I know that God hears me when I pray. I know that He can move the mountains I pray about. I know that He can turn it all for good. I have seen answers to prayer with my own eyes. There is no doubt in my mind what prayer makes possible.
The question then is why is this not my first move as a leader? Why am I not on my knees constantly and consistently praying about the direction of my leadership and the mission? If I know what prayer is capable of, then why is prayer the thing I tend to leave behind?
This is an excellent question. And one I do not have the answer to. . . yet.
Hopefully, that wasn’t a let down in the blog post advice world. But as I mentioned earlier, admitting I don’t always have the answers is usually the most valuable place to start. The ball has to be in my court. Any investigation about existing barriers to good leadership, like why I forget to turn to prayer as a leadership tool, has to start with me.
The reality of leadership is that there is always room for improvement as long as we can admit the need for improvement exists. I cannot overcome barriers in my leadership unless I learn how to find the answers to excellent questions, and I cannot learn to find the answers to excellent questions without admitting there is a need for growth.
I must be perpetually learning how to be a better leader—there is no end game here. The moment I think I have all the answers, growth is over. Admitting to the gaps in my leadership forces me to find a way to fill the gaps. So, if I look to Jesus to find out which tools to use, then it would make sense to look to Jesus to see how and when and where and why he used them and then compare that to my practices.
Found the gap.
He prayed about everything. If I want to lead like Jesus, He would have me pray about everything.
He would have me pray before, during, and after a tough conversation. He would have me pray about the money that is not there and the money that is. He would have me pray about the person I just really can’t deal with anymore and the person I can’t do without. He would have me pray about the people whose lives were changed by what I lead and the people who hope for a changed life. He would have me pray about the paths I should not take and the direction I am headed. He would have me pray about all of it.
So, I know where the hole is and what should fill it. So why haven’t I? There is that question again.
Back to me. I am outstanding at worrying about things. I am really well practiced at talking about them, trying to manage them, and even creating a spreadsheet about them. I am terrible at remembering to reach for the one tool that requires 100% less energy and brings 100% more power. Why? Ego? Attitude? Busy schedule? Distraction? Self-sufficiency? Pride? Pick one. The really bad news is no matter which one gets in the way of remembering to pray, every time I forget the enemy has a party.
The enemy loves when I forget to use any tool in my tool bag. The enemy will let me stack up all the tools I want—all he has to do is keep me from using them. All he has to do is make me forget. All he has to do is keep me from answering the question.
And if I don’t answer the question of why I am not praying first as a leader, then I am the one holding back the power every time I don’t.
I cannot just use prayer for meals and meetings when it has the power to change everything in His reach, which is everything. I don’t want to hold anything back. I want to give every opportunity imaginable to any moment of leadership I am blessed with. I want to be at full power in all I do. But that means I need to tap into a power source that is beyond what I can do alone. The greatest leader of all time knew that. And remembered it.
It is time I remember it too.