Leading and Communicating

If you want to be a good leader, you have to be able to communicate. It’s not just a skill to learn, but it’s a discipline to apply.

 

 

 

We know that there are 4 basic ways to communicate:

#1) SPEAKING

#2) LISTENING

#3) WRITING

#4) READING

Another form of communication that might not fit in the above list would be any “non-verbal” communication we do with body language, but let’s focus on the 4 above.

As a Leader:

*SPEAKING is essential. Speaking enables you to share your vision, your passion, your direction and to lead your team by inspiring them to action. We need to learn to speak clearly and how to use the right words to motivate the people around us.

Mike Myatt makes this point on Forbes.com:

“When you speak, know what you’re talking about.” He goes on to simply say that if you don’t possess the subject matter expertise needed, others won’t listen. You should be sure that you know what you’re talking about, or bring in the experts to help you! Don’t try to fake it. Others will see right through that.

*LISTENING is foundational. Many times, leaders spend twice as much time talking as they do listening. I’ve been reminded by others many times that God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason!  Why is this so difficult to understand?

Neil Petch writes on Entrepreneur.com:

“Take the time to understand the situation before commenting.” He goes on to discuss the need for leaders to try to understand what is really going on instead of diving into new territory, making a lot of assumptions.

*WRITING is universal. With the growth of e-mail, Twitter and other social media, we use writing to communicate quickly and globally.

On Inc.com, the team writes about e-mail communication:

“E-mail has transformed communication, but many users of e-mail technology pay attention to basic rules of grammar and format when composing letters.” The article goes on to talk about how lazy we have gotten in our communication, and how unprofessional it is.

There are wonderful tools built into your computer that will check for spelling and grammar, yet we are often moving so fast that we don’t take the time to proof read our communication, to check to ensure that we’re saying what we want to say, and to say it clearly. We choose “quick communication” over “good communication”.

*READING is empowering. We read to learn and to gather information. We read to listen to others as they share their ideas in print. We read to connect to people around the world.

skillsyouneed.com talks about reading:

“Learning, therefore, comes about not from reading and remembering details, but from developing your understanding of the meaning of the details, and to engage with your ideas and opinions and rethink them in a positive and constructive way.”

Don’t read just to get through the text or the assignment. Read to be challenged in the way you think and form your opinions. Allow time to process what you’re reading.

I want to challenge you in your communication. If you want to be an effective leader, you need to learn to master the 4 communication mediums explained above, as well as others! Often one of the above comes more naturally than the others, so we rely on that. As a leader, learn to use all 4. Your team, your direct reports, your constituents, even your family and friends will appreciate it.

Be a Leader that Communicates!

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Communication

This is a word used to describe someone who has something to say, or thinks he does. At least, he or she has something they want other people to hear. When they speak, they are a ‘communicator’.

The Dictionary says that the word is a noun, an action word, and describes someone who in skilled in conveying information or ideas.

Other common words for a communicator may be informant, speaker, broadcaster or announcer. A communicator could also be seen as an alarmist, or a persuader or an affirmer. I suppose they could also be an author, a signer, a comforter, a respondent, or a presenter. I know one who is a gossiper and another who is a rambler. They come in all shapes and sizes.

But, here, in this space, we want to talk about leaders who are communicators. And, truth be told, there are some who are great and others who are terrible. All leaders have something they want or need to say, so how can we help you so people will hear and understand?

There you are…leader. You are called on to communicate, to be a communicator. The audience may be a large crowd or a small group. It may be donors giving money or staff spending money. You may have a message to both. It could be just one individual. Maybe even a child.

Let me tell you five differences between a great and a terrible communicator.

  1. A great communicator will speak in a language people understand. If they are speaking to children, they will use illustrations familiar to children. They will know their audience and speak so they understand. For them preparation is part of the excitement.

A terrible communicator expects the listener to make the necessary adjustments to understand. They speak to impress not to be understood. They just assume they are understood.

  1. A great communicator will also know that the only way you will know if they understand what you have said is to allow feedback or questions. If they don’t understand you, your communication is lost.

A terrible communicator will assume that everyone understands all that he said and will grow impatient if there appears to be people who ‘just don’t get it’.

  1. A great communicator will minimize the distractions. They know it doesn’t take much to distract a person’s mind and if their mind is distracted, the message is lost.

A terrible communicator will not even realize that he or she is competing for the person’s attention and thoughts, and will plow ahead thinking they are doing the job. Maybe something they are doing will even offer the distraction.

  1. A great communicator will make sure they say what they mean and mean what they say. They won’t ramble. They will prepare. They won’t confuse the listener with too many things at once. If it is important, they know that they need to say it clearly and simply.

A terrible communicator will keep talking and repeating until they run out of things to say. Then they will get frustrated when the people don’t understand or respond what was said.

  1. A great communicator will use a suitable voice for the occasion. They will try to reflect kindness and care. If it is bad or harsh news, they will be gentle and genuine. Looking the other person in the eye and leaving room for response.

A terrible communicator says what he came to say, perhaps even adding some anger if it is bad or harsh news, and immediately leaves to show authority.

If God has called you to be a communicator, be the best one you can be.

God, the author of communication, says a communicator should not be corrupt or dishonest. Their communication should be encouraging and edifying. (Ephesians 4:29)

God also said that the words of our mouth and the thoughts behind them should be acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14), and, that a good communicator is like a golden apple (Proverbs 25:11)

 

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I’ve Lost My Vision!

The year was 2010. I had just come through a major life transition in that I changed the organization I was working with, I changed my address by moving to a different country, our family was in transition with kids going to college and starting new schools, my wife returned to graduate school full-time, and I felt lost.

I don’t know how long I felt that way, but there was definitely a cloud hanging over my head. I’m sure there was some depression, some grieving, some uncertainty, and some fatigue. All of these things connected together to create the perfect storm, and I was in it!

Remember… I don’t get lost (my wife might argue that). I’m a leader. I have vision. I know where I’m going. In fact, a part of my job is to help other leaders to grow the vision God has given them and help to make a reality. Yet here I was , in new territory, completely dumbfounded as to what to do.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this way before. Maybe you feel this way today.

Here are some things that I did to help navigate through this time. Some might work for you, they might not. However, I don’t want to be the one encouraging you to grow your vision without sharing one of the toughest seasons of my life in an effort to give you some hope.

#1) It Takes Time

When we entered this transition, I knew it was coming, and I planned for it. The problem was that I miscalculated. It took a long time to get through this transition. I had figured 3 – 6 months, when in reality it took about 3 years.  Some things you can’t run through, you have to walk through (or crawl at times).

Don’t expect vision, energy, passion and determination to just all come back immediately. Be patient.

#2) It Takes Intentionality

It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I was in denial on most fronts. Once I figured it out, I began to attack certain areas of my life by being intentional.

I slept more. I exercised more. I forced myself out of my isolation. I created some space to think and dream as I walked at the beach more. I just found some things that were “life-giving” to me, and I tried to do more of it.  Sleep was a huge one. I was exhausted.

#3) It Takes Getting Help

At some point in the process, I realized that I needed to get some help. I identified 3 – 4 people who I could talk honestly with and I opened up and took some risk. This led to great conversations, some support and a lot of encouragement and hope. I realized I didn’t have to do this completely alone.

#4) It Takes Being Willing to Take Baby Steps

While time is critical, it also took taking some small steps and beginning the long process of regaining momentum and figuring out where I was supposed to be going. It didn’t happen overnight, but as I began to take small steps my vision began to get clearer, and I began to get excited again about where I was heading and what God had called me to do and created me to do.

As I look back on this season of my life it’s a blur.

Some great things happened in my life during these days. I don’t regret this time, but I sure don’t want to go through it again, at least not right now.

Many of us lose our vision from time to time, and it’s OK. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Pay attention to what’s going on, and maybe by working through the 4 things above, this might bring you some hope and resolve, as it did me.

Don’t panic.

Take a step forward. You’re not the only one who’s feeling like this.

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Vision Begins By Looking Back

If you want to create new and compelling vision or refresh what it is you’re doing and where you’re going, take some time to look back first.

When you look back, a couple of important things happen:

#1) YOU REMEMBER

Things move so quickly that it’s often difficult to remember what happened. Life is a blur. Take some time to intentionally remember what has happened over the past 12 months.

Tim Ferriss shared in a recent podcast about an exercise he has done where he goes back over his calendar, and evaluates what things he did over the past year were in the “PLUS” category, and which things were in the “NEGATIVE” category, meaning they took him away from his vision as opposed to pushing him towards his vision. To do this, you need to actively use a calendar program or a detailed journal program.

I use the calendar on my computer to manage my day, week and month. It’s easy to look back and see appointments, block time scheduling, vacation time, and to-do lists. This is a great evaluation tool.

As you do this, look for patterns, look for times in the past year that you felt the most in alignment, and look at your best seasons of productivity.

#2) YOU MAKE CHANGES

When you look back, it’s easier to see some of the traps you were stuck in, or some of the bad decisions you made.

In my life, I had a rough travel year last year. While I was in it, I was in survival mode, just getting from one thing to the next. Now, in looking back, it’s easier to see how I allowed that to happen, and it’s easier to plan forward avoiding these same mistakes.

One example is that last year, we didn’t take the effort to plan a family vacation. We had a number of opportunities with our family, but we squeezed it between a pretty full schedule. This year, the first things that was scheduled on the calendar was a family vacation. It’s booked, set in ink, and the family is committed to it. Now, I can make decisions around that, instead of letting other things crowd out a priority that my wife and I have put in place.

#3) YOU FIGURE OUT WHAT’S MOST IMPORTANT

I don’t like living with regret, but the reality is that all of us think about the things we “wish” we had done in the past. When you look back, your priorities become clearer.

I can look at my schedule from the past year, and I can tell you based on where I spent the majority of my time and energy, what was the most important thing in my work life.

I want to challenge you to figure out what is most important. When you look back, you’re able to see where you drifted out of alignment, where you spent time doing things that didn’t move you towards your vision. Looking back helps you avoid making some of the same mistakes again and again.

Last year, I decided at the last-minute to make a trip. It wasn’t a priority for me, and it wasn’t necessary for me to be there, but I allowed it to creep into my schedule. The trip was fine, but what the effect of that trip impacted me: I was tired and weary from travel, I was away from my family, I had to catch up on important tasks that I put off because I was gone, and I missed some things in my normal routine that I need!  It affected me, yet, in the moment I didn’t see all of that. Looking back, I can see it crystal clear. This year, I want to avoid making these same mistakes.

As you create, refresh or adjust your VISION, don’t forget to look back. We can learn a lot from looking at past decisions, past experiences and our past schedule.

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The “POOF” of Vision

I can still remember my first vision test.

I was about 40 and I was starting to have problems reading the fine print.

The vision test was rather easy until they got to the part where you put your chin in the holder, ‘keep your eyes as wide open as you can’ and they push a POOF of air against your eye-ball. After that first time, I have had a hard time keeping my eyes open when they come to that part of the test.

It didn’t hurt. It was just an uncomfortable surprise and my eyes have never forgotten. Today, I have to just sit there, knowing it is coming, and let it happen. I still don’t like it, but, I want to finish the test!

So, when I think about the word ‘vision’ used in leadership, and I think about the times God has given me an idea and I tried to act on it, I realize that the two experiences are very similar.

Over the years, I have come to realize that there are ‘poofs’ that push against me as I try to act on the ‘vision’ God has given to me and it always seems to surprise me because they come at unexpected times from unexpected sources.

I now anticipate them, and actually wait for them so I can get them out-of-the-way. Maybe you have had that same experience.

There is the ‘poof’ of, “That will never work!”. Sometimes the phrase is preceded by a sound that even sounds like a poof of air.

There are times when I want to agree because the idea looks impossible and then I realize that, since it came from God, He must know how to make it work…and, He always does. All I have to do is follow. The truth is, I will never know if it is impossible or not until I try.

That is my same response to the ‘poof’ when I am told “we can’t do that!” as they question our skills and commitment. Usually that comment comes from someone who is opposed to change or is protecting their area of responsibility, or just doesn’t want to do anything new and different.

How will we know if we don’t try? Let’s see what God has in mind. We need to do our best and let God do the rest.

There is the ‘poof’ of “We tried that and it didn’t work!”. But, was it us, this team including me, who tried it? Was it during a time like this? Did we do it this way? No!

Doing something again, in a different way, with different people is always worth the effort.

Then, there is the inner ‘poof’ that says, “Who do you think you are?” That poof reminds me that I have failed or that there are better, more qualified people.

But, God gave me the idea. He trusted me with it. That’s who I am. I am the guy God gave an idea to. Maybe I can get others to help. But, I need to do something with it, not just ignore it.

One more ‘poof’ that comes is “We don’t have time, or money, or the right people, for that!”.

Maybe the idea came so we would have to reevaluate how we are using our time, our money and our people. Maybe we need to challenge our priorities and our goals. Re-examining these things is always a good idea…and good ideas are from God.

There will be other ‘poofs’, they are always there. They are a part of the ‘vision’ test. Expect them, brace yourself, but keep your eyes wide open so you can see what God is going to do through your obedience.

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Are You In The Right Place?

This question hit me the other day as I was trying to replace the battery in my pick-up truck, and I didn’t have the right tool I needed. I’ll tell you the short story in this VIDEO.

Isn’t it amazing how easy something is when you have the right tools? Sometimes we spend so much time and energy trying to make something work, or forcing something to happen when it just shouldn’t. Like when I used to clean my house without the best Air Compressors USA, now is really easy because I use the right tools, you see?

I was staring at the picture of the RIGHT wrench on the bolt and the question came, “AM I IN THE RIGHT PLACE?” Of course, that’s the question I’m asking you today.

Probably some of the greatest thought and teaching on “strengths” comes from Marcus Buckingham. He writes a series of books on your strengths and I encourage each of you to read them.

Here are 3 quotes from Buckingham, and I want to comment on them today:

#1)  “You grow most in your areas of greatest strength. You will improve the most, be the most creative, be the most inquisitive, and bounce back the fastest in those areas where you have already shown some natural advantage over everyone else. This doesn’t mean you should ignore your weaknesses. It just means you’ll grow most where you’re already strong.”

*I remember the first time I heard this, a light came on. Instead of pushing people to be mediocre, we need to push people into their natural strengths and gifts. You need to figure out what your strengths are and how you can grow and develop those strengths more!

#2) “There are ‘four keys’ to becoming an excellent manager: finding the right fit for employees, focusing on strengths of employees, defining the right results, and hiring for talent – not just knowledge and skills.”

*If you manage other, you need to help them to work in their strengths. We’ve all seen people who are working in the wrong spot. We’ve probably all been in that spot at one point in time. Don’t just address where you fit, but help those that work with you to find their best place too!

#3) “Strengths are not activities you’re good at, they’re activities that strengthen you. A strength is an activity that before you’re doing it you look forward to doing it; while you’re doing it, time goes by quickly and you can concentrate; after you’ve done it, it seems to fulfill a need of yours.”

*This isn’t simply about doing what you want to do. This is a process of discovering core talents, passions, gifts and strengths. It’s helping people to make their greatest contribution to the organization by identifying their perfect fit!

The year is winding down and we’re approaching 2017. During these last days of the year, take a little time to asses where you’re at today in your role, in your job? Are you working in your STRENGTHS? What percentage of your time are you working in your areas of strength? 50%? 20%? 70%?

A simple goal you might have for this coming year is to determine how you can increase the amount of time you spend working in your strengths. This doesn’t happen overnight, but happens when you’re intentional about it and when you plan for it.

Just like the wrench I found to pull the battery out of my car, when you’re in the right place, things are better. More gets done. There’s more joy in the work. You’re doing your best work.

Be where you need to be!

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Don’t Make The Same Mistakes Again and Again!

imagesRecently, I was reflecting on years and years of leadership experience with a variety of different teams I had the privilege to serve with, and I realized that over and over again, I made some of the same mistakes! Maybe I’m just a slow learner, but you would think that I would have seen the pattern and made the adjustment, yet here I am, and I continue to make some of the same mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes I made is not finding the right domain for my website so I purchased a random, really expensive and bad one, but now I use the GoDaddy auctions and it saves me a lot of money!

One of the things that took me a long time to figure out was the fact that as “THE” leader, I didn’t have to be the one in front all of the time or in charge all of time.

As a young leader, my pride kept me in front of everyone else, but as I transitioned over the years, I really did learn that I actually got more joy from watching some of the leaders I was investing in succeed and have opportunities to lead instead of me doing it all of the time.

I learned this lesson early on when I was traveling to a limited access country to do some training. I took 2 of our staff with me, and I had prepared to do the training for a weekend conference with about 120 national leaders. At the airport, I was informed that I did not get the permission I applied for to publicly speak and train, so I was forbidden from leading the training. For about 2 minutes, I panicked, then I handed my notes to my 2 colleagues, and I watched them do an incredible job over the weekend as I was forced to the sidelines. In fact, if I was honest, they did a much better job then I could have done, and I was reminded again, “let them lead!”.

Why did I keep forgetting that simple lesson, and why did I keep making the same mistake over and over again, thinking that I was the one that needed to lead!

In an article from Inc. Magazine (Inc.com), The Leadership Guy writes an article talking about 9 “deadly” mistakes leaders make.

Here’s his list:

#1) Failing to Delegate“The key to leadership success is to learn to effectively delegate.”

#2) Not Setting Goals“…Goals give employees direction and purpose…”

#3) Looking For Quick Fixes“… In our zeal to fix things quickly and move on to the next fire to be fought, we often overlook the lasting solution that may take longer to develop.”

#4) Communicating Poorly – Or Not At AllLeadership is communication!

#5) Failing To Learn“What separates good employees from not-so-good employees is their ability to learn from mistakes.”

#6) Resisting Change“If  you think you can keep things from changing in your business, you are mistaken.”

#7) Not Making Time For Employees“Above all, leadership is a people job.”

#8) Missing Chances To Make Work Fun“…The best leaders make their organizations fun places to be.”

#9) Failing To Praise And Reward“When you take the time to recognize employees’ achievements, the result is improved morale, performance, and loyalty.”

This list is a great place to start. Don’t make these common mistakes over and over again. Figure out how to lead through them and avoid them.

You might need some help to learn to lead through these things, but it will radically change how you lead and how others follow.

Don’t let PRIDE keep you from admitting your mistakes, asking for forgiveness, and making the changes needed to ensure success.

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Leading Forward Into Momentum

imgresHave you ever felt stuck?

I remember a time driving on a bus with a bunch of young people, and the bus slid off the road because of black ice, and we were stuck in a ditch. I was thankful for the ditch in that it kept us from sliding off the side of the mountain, but for a brief moment in time, we were STUCK.

We got out of the bus and pushed and pulled, we tried to back the vehicle up, we tried to lay things on the road, but we were at a standstill…. until another bus came along full of military cadets. They jumped out of their bus, and in a single motion, working as a team, they put our bus back on the road and we were on our way again.

We had lost momentum. We we’re moving towards our goal. We couldn’t even back up. We were STUCK.

Have you ever felt STUCK, either personally or in your leadership? You literally stopped moving forward and for a time you didn’t go anywhere.

I often tell that that stopping to evaluate, stopping to define your direction and stopping to take a deep breath is good for you, however being STUCK isn’t.

Dan Rockwell, from leadershipfreak talks about momentum in this way:

“Momentum is the result of a series of successful endings not beginnings.”

Rockwell goes on to share these 5 truths about momentum:

  1. Momentum magnifies success
  2. Momentum shrinks problems and obstacles
  3. Momentum energizes
  4. Momentum enhances performance
  5. Momentum makes change easier

He goes to to say that “successful leaders build momentum. Lousy leaders destroy it.”

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being STUCK. I want to be moving constantly forward towards the goal, towards the prize. Sometimes my pace changes as I adjust, as I redirect and as I make mistakes, but I like to be moving forward.

When I’m STUCK, there are a couple of things that have helped me find that “traction” again:

First, I do a quick “self-evaluation”:  Am I moving in the right direction? Have I lost my way? Am I distracted? Have I forgotten what is most important? (It’s easy for me to get lost!)

Second, I get some help: There are people in my life that I can ask for help from. There are people in my life smarter than me that will give me a different perspective. There are people in my life that have been where I am that have some good advice for me. I ask for help and I listen.

Third, I take a small step forward: When I’m stuck, I have to begin moving again. I start slow. I take a baby step, then I pick up speed. I try not to be moving so fast that I can’t track all that’s going on around me.

Leadership requires momentum. If you’re STUCK, figure out what you need to do and take a step forward again.

Back to the bus trip. We did make it to our destination. It took a little longer than we had anticipated, but we got there and had an incredible time.

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Multiplication Always Surprises Me!

img_8892I just returned from helping to lead a leadership training event in South Africa with good friends and partners, and again, I’m surprised by how easy it is to encourage and help others!

The room was full of 40 leaders from all over South Africa that were working and serving people in some tough situations, and they came together thinking they would get some training and resources.

The left, 4 days later, with a new understanding of community and they were filled up.

*They were encouraged…

*They were challenged…

*They were given hope…

*They were able to laugh and cry…

*They were taught…

*They were listened to…

*They were connected to others going through some of the same things…

*They were affirmed…

*They were celebrated…

*They were thanked…

*They were empowered…

*They were reminded…

*They were convicted…

*They were blessed.

The secret formula to make all this happen is to simply bring people together and stop what you’re doing and share your life.

We all can do it. We all should do it.

What keeps us from investing into the lives of others?

  1. We’re Way Too Busy. We don’t know how to slow down or stop long enough to build a relationship or even to lay the foundation of relationship.
  2. We’re Way Too Distracted. We connected to our technology, and that’s become more important than the lives right in front of us. We have a hard time turning that off.
  3. We’re Way Too Critical. Instead of celebrating others, we highlight the weaknesses and faults. We forget that at one time we too were just learning. We need to focus on what’s most important, not on our personal preferences.
  4. We’re Way Too Proud. We think that we can teach from our success, when what people need and want is for us to be genuine, and even be a little vulnerable. Quit worrying about the image you’re trying to build and protect. Let your guard down and be real.
  5. We’re Way Too Competitive. We spend all of our energy building OUR Kingdom, when what we need to do is focus on HIS Kingdom. We are all working together and it’s time we begin to act like it.

Who are you investing into?

What excuses are you using when you find an opportunity to multiply yourself into someone else?

You’ll be surprised, in the same way that I’m always surprised. Learn to look for opportunities to pour into others lives, in the same way others have poured into you.

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The Greatest Leader Must Be The Greatest Servant

images-2Psalm 23:6 – Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

We live in a world that glorifies “top dog” leadership, not servant leadership. And yet, it is incredible as one evaluates the grandest and best leaders of history and they were not “top dog” leaders but servant leaders.

4 Servant Leaders who marked our world

•Eleanor Roosevelt, the first lady of the United States had been a hostess for formal gatherings before accompanying her husband to the White House. Her service attitude transformed the American expectations of first ladies as she came in to serve, not to be served. She was persistent with her human rights work and she even had a crucial part in crafting some of the United Nations declaration of human rights. She helped transform the United Nations.

•Martin Luther King, Jr´s actions and speeches on social justice transformed history in the United States. Being such a good speaker and orator he could have used all of that for personal gain. Instead he devoted himself and his life to changing a racist country into a country to serve all people. He helped transform a people group and a nation.

•Nelson Mandela served the country of South Africa by sticking with his convictions of equality for everyone. He was in jail for a long time, but when he got out instead of looking toward vengeance he worked with those who had him imprisoned to work towards a peaceful transition. He helped transform a country.

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•Jesus Christ served the world. He washed people´s feet that would later deny him. He broke bread with the one who would betray him. He turned the other cheek when hit and beaten falsely. He started new sayings like – “love those who hate you,” “do good to those who persecute you,” and “love your enemies as yourself.” His message was simple – the greatest among us should be the greatest servants.

Matthew 23:11-12 “The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

You can be a world impact leader as well. Follow these verses and serve those around you. Love on them. Turn the other cheek when they abuse you. When they deny you, even when you were best friends, put up with it. Realize they are only human. When they betray you remember they did the same to Jesus. As you humble yourself maybe God will give you success. It may not come in the way you expect it – but his goodness and love will follow you all of the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23:6).

To be the greatest leader you must be the greatest servant.

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