Perfect or Growing Leaders? Three Tips To Get You There.

The expectation that we are all highly functioning leaders, at all times, has to die. I certainly don’t want my volunteers trying to live up to that impossible expectation, so we tell our leaders and volunteers that our expectation for them is that they aren’t perfect, just growing. 

Yet, when it comes to the expectations I place on myself, it boils down to perfect or bust. Thus ensues the feelings of inadequacy, the self-doubt, the anxiety, depression, frustration and anger that seem to work themselves into my ministry schedule and trickle into my home too often. When you are in ministry, grace is something easily dispensed on others but hard to give oneself.

Maybe you are like me and you have really bad days, make big leadership blunders, get in your own way, trip over yourself, say the wrong things to the wrong people, mess up your sermon, go through seasons where you question your calling, giftedness or ability. Let’s admit it together, though we desperately try, we aren’t perfect.

I think there is value in letting go of our self-imposed expectation to be perfect leaders, functioning at high levels all the time. Instead, like Paul, let’s boast in our weakness, for His grace is sufficient for us and His strength is made perfect in weakness. Our task isn’t to be perfect leaders. Our task is to be growing leaders.

As leaders we need to constantly be growing and developing. So how do we focus on being a growing leader in a challenging, fast changing culture. It is easy to get sidelined in our own personal development. To help myself continue to be a growing leader I try to apply a few principles that help me continue my development in new and fun ways. 

If you want to develop and improve your leadership, try the three things listed below.

1.  STEP OUT OF YOUR MINISTRY CONTEXT TO HELP OTHER LEADERS 

There was a time, not too long ago, where I would never have spent time with a group of pastors. I skipped conferences, avoided phone calls and generally felt like I didn’t fit in with all of my other colleagues. Part pride, part insecurity and part immaturity had me operating as a Lead Pastor in relative isolation. As we all know, that simply is not healthy. I stiff-armed other pastors until a few of them ignored my stiff arms and accepted and loved me as I was. 

Those men showed me that I was valued, had a lot to offer and that I needed other pastors in my life. I am so grateful for those pastors who were loving examples of Christ to me. I needed them and I still do. They taught me to step out of my comfort zone and use my gifts outside of my own ministry context.

Strive to add value to others in every context and it will make you a better leader. I still want to retreat into isolation sometimes, but I know that I continue to grow as a leader by being willing to serve other leaders. If you want to grow as a leader, abandon isolation, step out of your comfort zone and serve leaders with the goal of adding value to others. 

How can you serve someone outside of your ministry context and add value to their life today?

2. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH GROWING LEADERS

Context plays a big role in your leadership development. Our context is an incredible predictor of our direction. If you find yourself in an unhealthy context, it is likely affecting you in unhealthy ways. On the contrary, if you find yourself in a healthy context with highly functioning motivated people, it will be hard to remain uninspired. 

My guess is that you probably spend a lot of time with your family. Great. You probably spend some time with your staff.  Also great. Maybe you have a mentor or two. Awesome. You probably also have a friend and maybe that friend is also a colleague. This is all good. Those are great ways to spend your time, but don’t stop there. 

If you want to become a better leader, surround yourself with other growing leaders. Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Surrounding yourself with high-level leaders helps you grow as a leader. You will learn so much from watching, listening and dialoguing with people who are thinking big and have been down the road a little further than you.   

Don’t know where to start? Here are three options:

  • Go to a leadership conference and develop relationships with others who attend. If you are in our district this one is incredible: EDA Move Leadership Conference.
  • Join a mastermind group. A mastermind group is a peer mentoring concept used to help members solve problems and accomplish big things with input and advice from the other members of the group. I have benefited greatly from being a part of one. There are not a lot of options out there for pastors, but if you have more questions about a mastermind group for pastors or church leaders email me (thejoshott@gmail.com). Our district cluster groups often function as a mastermind group (contact Jack Kroeze for more info) and David Boerema has a group for Next-Gen Leaders.
  • Find a leadership coach. Having a coach has benefited my church, my personal ministry and my life at home. If Tom Brady still has a personal throwing coach, I am guessing we are never too successful to seek some coaching.

3.  ADOPT THE LEADERSHIP SCAVENGER MINDSET.

Scavengers grab nourishment whenever they can from wherever they can. Scavengers are constantly searching for opportunities to fill their bellies with nourishment that will convert into energy they can expend on their journey and survive the changing seasons. If they don’t eat, they die. 

Be a leadership scavenger. Be hungry. Never stop learning. Tear what you can apart, dissect it and use what you can apply to your context. Constantly look for opportunities to grow and learn. The seasons change so fast in our technology driven world. Be prepared for the season around the corner by being a leadership scavenger. Adopting this mindset means that we can learn something from everyone (even the most difficult people in your ministry). Approach everything with the humility of a student and the hunger of a scavenger.

What opportunities can you grab right now to learn and grow from? Is there a library on your way home? If so, leave work 10 minutes early and grab a book for entrepreneurs and read it tonight. Download a leadership podcast and spend your commute listening. What are some questions about ministry you have been pondering lately? Email someone that question right now! Maybe they can’t help, but just maybe they will have an idea or perspective that could change everything. 

What about you? How do you stay focused on being a growing leader?

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Joshua Ott
Josh Ott is lead pastor at Grace Free Church in Cressona, PA. He is also a speaker, coach and creator of the The Speaking Course for Pastors, Speakers and Church Leaders.

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