WHAT MAKES A GREAT LEADER?

Leadership is like a many-faceted diamond. To define leadership in small and simple terms is to remove the beautiful complexity of the diamond, and replace with with a sheet of glass. We want easy definitions of leadership so we can lock in and press forward, but inso-doing, we take something that is beyond three-dimensional and make it flat and lifeless and powerless.

In these thoughts, I’m taking the diamond of leadership, making an observation about the view through one cut edge, then turning it for another view. And I’m just scratching the surface of what many others have already discovered about what it means to be a great leader.

Most leaders protect themselves and their interests. Great leaders cover those around them, and move their organizations forward underneath the safety of that covering.

Many leaders are trying to figure out their own purpose and calling. Great leaders are discovering that their greatest purpose and calling is to help those around them figure it all out.

Many leaders create friendships so the job gets done. Great leaders create jobs so the friendships get done.

Many leaders coerce. Great leaders invite.

Many leaders believe the ends justify the means. Great leaders focus on treating the means with integrity and honesty and love, then allowing God to create the best end possible.

Many leaders believe that the size or their organization matters most. Great leaders believe that the size of every team member’s heart matters most.

Many leaders try and remove the tension of not knowing. Great leaders learn to dance in the middle of that tension.

Many leaders hide their weaknesses. Great leaders confess them.

Many leaders have core values that serve the organization. Great leaders help people to fully embrace what it means to live and breathe and find life within those core values.

Many leaders talk first. Great leaders listen first.

Many leaders control. Great leaders trust.

I suppose that If leadership is getting the people around you to do your bidding, then Hitler was a great leader. But if leadership is pouring into others so they discover the best way they can pour into a needy world, then Jesus stands atop the leadership boards.

For in Jesus, we find Someone who both loved and challenged people fiercely. We find someone who always invited people into something that was far bigger than themselves – something He called “the kingdom” – and we experience a man who alone offered the keys to that door’s unlocking. We see a leader who lived for the glory of His Father, but who created a band of rejects to help a dying world see that glory.

And I just can’t get beyond the fact that, over and over and over again, we only see and hear invitational language on the lips of Jesus, never coercion and guilt and pressure. Jesus came because He loved the world so much, but that love never lost its invitational nature to either follow Him with everything, or not.

I want to be more like Jesus, and let any leadership I offer to my family or church or organization flow from there. And I never ever want to abandon the multi-faceted diamond of leadership in favor of something that fits into a few simple catch phrases, but lakes the oxygen away from the soul of anything I lead today.

THE SACRED IMPRINT

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GaryMo Written by:

  • Ryan Holck

    Gary, love your thoughts here.

    Especially… “Many leaders believe the ends justify the means. Great leaders focus on treating the means with integrity and honesty and love, then allowing God to create the best end possible.”

    I’m not sure I fully understand this one though. Can you unpack it for me?
    “Many leaders create friendships so the job gets done. Great leaders create jobs so the friendships get done.”

    • Ryan – Thanks for your kind words. I might reword this one to communicate more clearly what was on my heart when I wrote it. What I wanted to express is how some leaders fake friendship to get the job done. But great leaders honestly invest in real friendships, and the job gets done BECAUSE of those friendships.

  • Oluwatoyin Fadeyibi

    So much here! — I love how you unpacked it in such a practical way. How Jesus led has been on my radar for a while now..this is another reminder that I should get to reading the book that I purchased by Michael Yourself- The leadership style of Jesus.

    • Thank you so much! Any insight here comes mostly from leaders who have poured grace into my life, but also from some leaders who have stripped it away. I should pick up that book too. Thanks for the recommendation. GM.