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Friday, August 27, 2010

Leadership Essentials

10 A good leader motivates,
   doesn't mislead, doesn't exploit. 
(Proverbs 16:10)

This proverb contains a wealth of advice for those who are fulfilling some role as a leader.  Now, before you stop reading, think about this - you are a leader in some capacity in your life.  You may not be the "boss" at work, or the "pastor" of the local church, but you do lead by the example you set, the vision you create, etc.  So, let's look at what the writer has to say about some characteristics of leadership that will make us better "leaders" in the world where we have influence.

The first aspect of leadership brought into focus is the ability to motivate others.  When we imply that someone is able to 'motivate' others, we are indicating that that individual possesses the traits that bring out the desired actions in those they are leading without coercing them and in a non-threatening manner.  There is an ability to provide some kind of incentive so that the outcome or action is desirable.

The writer also focuses on two characteristics that are NOT a part of a leader's traits - being misleading or exploiting others.  To mislead someone is to deliberately give some direction that will lead to ruinous results.  When we are exploiting someone, we are taking advantage of them, perhaps by requiring an action that will benefit US more than it will the other person.  

11 God cares about honesty in the workplace;
   your business is his business. 
(Proverbs 16:11)

The second trait of an excellent leader leads us into an examination of how we act in the workplace.  One thing I learned early in my career is that there are appointed leaders and then there are informal leaders.  Some get paid to lead, while others just possess significant influence over others, leading without the title.  A good leader exhibits honesty in their dealings - motivating others through that openness and transparency.  

We cannot skip over this reminder that our business is God's business - whether it is in the workplace, the home, etc.  Whatever we do or exemplify is what others will equate to God's reputation.  It is important to present God well through out actions and our speech.  

12 Good leaders abhor wrongdoing of all kinds;
   sound leadership has a moral foundation. 
(Proverbs 16:12)

A moral foundation gives us a good footing for the business of life that we conduct on a daily basis.  Even if we find ourselves as homemakers, not in pursuit of a career outside of the walls of our homes, we are still leaders who need a strong moral foundation.  A moral foundation in our lives encourages and supports right behavior and ethical choices in others.

The standard is set high and the leader is the one who sets that standard!  In what is modeled, we find that others will reproduce those qualities.  Verse 13 reminds us that a good leaders is able to cultivate others - through honest speech and advice that is solid.  Honesty is cultivated - even when failure is the topic of conversation - honesty must be cultivated.  A good leader makes it safe to share, even when the failure must be addressed.

Two other verses provide us with some significant character traits that we may want to consider (Proverbs 16:14-15).  We find that an intemperate leader has no moderation in satisfying his or her own appetites or passions - there is a habitual pursuit of things which fulfill selfish appetites.  Yet, a good-tempered leader invigorates lives like a spring of fresh water and sunshine on a warm day.  

The benefit of spring rain is its ability to refresh and nourish for growth.  A leader nourishes the growth of others by both the example they set and the advice they offer.  The advantage of sunshine after the tender rain is that of allowing seeds to grow to their full maturity.  As a leader, we either encourage growth or squelch it before it even has a solid root.

There you have it...leadership 101 in just a couple of short verses.  Amazing how God is able to cram so much into such a short passage.  People have written books on the principles of leadership - it took God just a couple of simple verses to say it all!