This week, I was sitting with a bunch of friends discussing one of my favorite topics: leadership. (All right, there were only two of us sitting in the room; the rest were joining online from around the country and around the world.)
The conversation quickly turned to some great examples of leadership we’ve seen in the past, as well as some bad examples of leadership. I’m sure you’ve also been in those circumstances. You’ve had some leaders you aspired to be like, and you have probably worked for some leaders whose footsteps you will never follow.
As I look back over examples of leadership I’ve experienced, I think that leaders generally fall in one of five categories. I wrote this article today to describe these five categories and to help you become the type of leader that you really want to be.
Which one are you?
The unaware leader
Some people are just unaware that God has created them with innate leadership abilities. These unaware leaders are influencing people everywhere they go, but they are just not aware of how much of an impact they make when they leave the room.
I believe this is a leadership lesson the Apostle Paul was trying to teach in 2 Corinthians 2:16-17. Leaders leave a mark any time they leave a room. Whether you recognize it or not, if people are being impacted by you at all, then you are leading them. 2 Corinthians 2:16 describes it this way: “To some we are an aroma of death leading to death, but to others, an aroma of life leading to life.”
Some people are eager to listen to a particular leader, and others want nothing to do with following that same leader. This is the distinction that Paul is making in this Bible verse. If you are unaware or reluctant to call yourself a leader, here’s an article to help you learn how to influence others: Confessions of a reluctant leader.
The unhealthy leader
“Do as I say, not as I do.”
Have you ever heard that one? No one likes to be around this kind of hypocritical leader. We judge leaders based on their character, as well as on their accomplishments. A leader should both talk the talk AND walk the walk. The unhealthy leader is the type of person whose character doesn’t match the responsibilities given to him or her.
You know how much damage this type of leader can do to the people around them if you’ve worked for someone like this. Some of my longest-lasting leadership lessons were from working for people like this in the Church or the US Army.
By watching the wake of destruction leaders like this were leaving behind them, I made the commitment to be the type of leader that is worthy of following. It’s one of the reasons I wrote this article on why “follow me” leadership is so rare.
The unrelenting leader
This is the kind of leader that is undeterred and cannot be stopped by challenging circumstances. Let’s face it; every leader will face difficulties from time to time. Some leaders feel like all they do is face challenges and “put out fires”.
Unrelenting leaders do not allow difficult circumstances to get them off track. They know exactly what they’re trying to accomplish and are willing to focus all of their energy on achieving their goal, no matter how challenging the circumstances become.
Are you an unrelenting leader?
Are you the kind of person that can focus even when circumstances get really difficult around you? Are you the kind of leader that people know will not get deterred, no matter how difficult the circumstances become?
The unappreciated leader
Most leaders work behind the scenes. Therefore, unfortunately a lot of what these leaders do is unseen. Because the work is unseen, it is also unappreciated. Some of the greatest leaders on the planet have poured themselves into projects for months or years before this project showed any real results.
When it started to show results, then people started to understand and appreciate the work that leader was doing. Here is the dilemma: There were months or years of hard work before any results were visible. Therefore, the leader spent months or years passionately working on a project before getting any kind of praise or recognition for their efforts.
I believe this is one of the leadership challenges Paul was facing in 2 Corinthians 2:17. Some people wanted immediate results and were marketing the Word of God for profit. Paul made it clear that he was speaking with a sincere heart, and the heart of a leader always comes through over time.
However, sometimes the insincere leader who is marketing a message for a profit will almost always show immediate results, whereas the sincere leader usually has to put in a lot of hard work over a longer period before the results become visible.
To weather the challenges of being an under-appreciated leader, I believe a leader must have a passion for what he or she is doing. This passion will get you up early in the morning and help you stay at it late at night when there are no visible results for your hard work. It’s this passion that will help you handle the periods of time when you are under-appreciated as a leader.
Here’s an article that demonstrates the difference that leading with love makes: One tool every great leader needs.
The unstoppable leader
This is the kind of leader I aspire to be. I want to be the kind of person that is so focused and so committed that nothing and no one can get me off track. I am striving to become an unstoppable leader.
If you have become discouraged as a leader… please don’t give up. If you have become disappointed and are not seeing the results you had hoped for… don’t throw in the towel. Often, leadership success is simply a matter of staying with it a little bit longer than the competition.
I wrote this article today because leadership is one of my passions in life. I am passionate about helping men and women become unstoppable leaders in the church. In fact, that was the topic of my most recent message. You can check it out here.