One of the basics of owning a car is taking care of the required maintenance on it. This means taking a little money and a little time (on your terms) and investing in your car so as not to invest a lot of money and time (not on your terms) with a major repair. It’s a simple analogy for your leadership and influence abilities as well.
One of the things that likely are performed in routine car maintenance is a rotation of the tires. This is because the front wheels don’t stay in perfect alignment over the use of the car. Although it can be imperceptible to the driver a car can slowly pull to the left or right. The driver compensates by slightly turning the wheel in the opposite direction. This action causes the tire tread to wear unevenly. After a couple of months you can have a tire that look perfectly healthy across the majority of the tread and but with the inner couple of inches worn flat. The tire is no longer safe and has to be replaced despite the fact it still has a great tread over most of its driving surface.
Your leadership and influence ability can be much like this. In order for you to be at your most effective you have to have alignment across the areas of your life. When one of these becomes compromised you lose effectiveness. Let’s look at four areas one needs to be “aligned” for maximum effectiveness:
While intelligence in and of itself isn’t terribly important in being an effective leader being “smart” is critical.
We will always struggle to improve and in the end, that’s the work of a leader defined.
Very few of us consider ourselves “athletic” but that doesn’t create an excuse not to take care of oneself. Basics in exercise, sleep and diet are crucial to how one functions in the day. If you are tired because of lack of rest, fighting health problems because of poor eating/exercise habits then you are creating barriers for yourself. Feeling good means more energy. More energy means you can take on the important tasks with a positive attitude.
Much like being athletic, few of us consider ourselves to be the smartest person in the room. While intelligence in and of itself isn’t terribly important in being an effective leader being “smart” is critical. Being “smart” is being one who knows their work and how to be productive at it. What are you currently reading? Does your reading list have a healthy mix of things that can expand your thinking on important topics critical to your work? It’s not always the breadth of subjects you know about that make you an effective leader, it’s the depth of the critical issues that makes a difference.
There are two implications in the social aspect. First, you must know how to understand and get along with people. Second, you have to have a circle of supportive friends. Both of these things are within your power to grow. You cannot most effectively lead people if you do not have the ability to listen, negotiate, and communicate with others. A powerful compliment to this is a group of people who simply are your friends, people with whom you can be yourself (and not the leader). This group can serve to anchor and even advise you on challenging issues in your life. Don’t neglect building community with others.
As Christ-followers we believe this aspect is critical. Our ability to effectively lead others is always going to be tied to our ability to effectively follow the teachings of Jesus. If we are leading without his example guiding us then what of lasting significance can possibly come from our work? Take time to invest in study groups with your church and own your own. Don’t mistake being “busy” for pleasing God. He desires our presence over what we think we are accomplishing for Him.
I’m going to tell you it’s not likely you are ever going to have all four of these working in perfect alignment. Invariably as we work to improve on one area another area will begin to slip. That’s, however, the battle for which we must prepare. We will always struggle to improve and in the end, that’s the work of a leader defined.