Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Lead from Within

I've been thinking lately about what it means to be a good leader from within a group. For example, how can a student be a good student leader in their youth group? Or how can an experienced athlete help lead his or her team to success? How can an experienced employee help newer employees of the same rank succeed in their positions?

In these situations, the one with experience often has plenty to share with others but no (or little) official authority to teach or correct. If they're not careful, the others will just resent them and shut them out.

What's a believer to do?

Lead by example. James 3:13 says, Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. (ESV) Instead of confronting or correcting each other, it's our lives, our good conduct, that is to be the example for those around us. As people who are part of the group and not leading it officially, this will be our biggest opportunity to help those around us. If we jump into teaching or lecturing or correcting, we'll turn people off. Teaching is to be left for the official leaders.

That's not to say we can never speak. Sometimes, people will come (or be assigned) to us, or topics will come up in discussion. At those points, James has plenty of advice for us.

Pair meekness with wisdom. The two seem to rarely go together these days, but James 3:13 bonds the two together. How does this look? Meekness changes the delivery of any advice we do end up giving. We might word things more like, "Have you thought about...?" or "Consider trying..."

Consider your motives. The passage in James 3 goes on to give stern warnings about the dangers of jealousy, boasting, and selfish ambition, which seem to often be the motivation behind the bristle-worthy advice we all hate to get. If our motives are bad, we're headed for trouble. It's time to take a step back until we get our hearts in the right place.

Don't be set in your ways. James 3:17 says the kind of wisdom we're supposed to seek is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. If it's open to reason, that implies to me that wisdom isn't set in its ways where it doesn't need to be. So, when you're training a new employee and they ask, "Why don't you just--?" wisdom would stop to consider if that might actually be a better way to do things. Sometimes, it will be. Sometimes, it won't.

Avoid loud debates-even if someone disagrees with you. James 3:18 says, And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. Yup, it's possible that even if we're right, someone's going to disagree with us, but this verse tells me that we won't win them over by reasoning loudly.

Be patient. James used farming terms - harvest and sown - in referring to the good that comes from wisdom. Harvests take time. They're planted seed by seed. They're carefully watered and cared for. Be someone who's there for the long haul, caring and speaking truth with meekness and love and pure motives.

If my life is any indication, practicing these techniques is a lifetime endeavor--one I'm sure I won't perfect this side of heaven. But with God's help, I hope to get better and better!

What traits do you respect in the people who have helped you over the years, whether it was at church, work, or in sports?

Your Sister

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