As Christ-followers we must be especially careful in how our leadership and influence is represented. In fact, we should think not only through the lens of how we are being represented but, more importantly, who we are representing. Fair or not people see Christ reflected most often in either or best or our worst moments. When we shine, we have the opportunity to shine for Him. When we don’t shine, especially in our behaviors and attitudes, we risk doing damage to the witness of Christ. Although James, in his letter to Christians of the early church, was not necessarily writing leadership curriculum his advice here on relationships is central to how we should look to lead and influence others. As James 1:19 shares:
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. (NET)
Using this as our guardrails we have the chance to both succeed in our leadership of others and represent Christ well. Let’s look at these individually:
Be Quick to Listen. The biggest temptation I have seen in new leaders is the feeling that they have to prove themselves. They look to do so by over-managing and making decisions in a vacuum. They may be concerned that if they ask for input it will show a weakness or cause someone on the team to lose confidence in them. A leader should work off the assumption that they now inform the work of the respective team members, they don’t own it. People are hired because they are competent in their roles. The team leader should look to build their team members’ individual competencies in those roles. Mistakes will be made but the beauty of empowering with clear expectations is the team member learns from the mistake and, in the end, produces stronger work as a result. Be quick to listen to the team and their thoughts on both how the work should be done and what they are currently thinking about the state of team culture.
Be Slow to Speak. Along the same vein too often a team leader will look to insert their will before allowing proper discussion. Remember, the leader’s job is not to have the answers, it is to get to the best answer. This is most often going to be carried out by hearing where the team member’s take the discussions. What cues might a leader pick up by not speaking too soon into the discussion? By waiting to speak an opinion they can really see how the team articulates the mission and values of the work. More than trying to insert a spoken solution the leader can carefully guide the discussion in a way that the most important aspects of mission, values, culture, and strategy are all accounted for. As the leader does this, they will find the team is generally able to land on a good decision.
Be Slow to Anger. Every leader, above all, should be seeking to develop their team member’s competencies. As Liz Wiseman, in her excellent book Multipliers, every leader’s aim should be just that; to multiply their influence through empowering their team. The quickest way to shut down input from a team is to display anger, frustration, or a sense of mild irritation to them. This can manifest itself in encountering a major setback or simply in how one responds to questions. Many workers, who are dedicating themselves to bring their best, will be question-askers. While it sometimes is easy for a leader to feel like their authority or decisions are being questioned, they must remember that questions are an opportunity to show clarity around the goals. A team member will produce a better outcome when they clearly understand what is desired and taking the time to patiently answer questions will help pave the way to the best solutions that team member might bring.
While certainly not a comprehensive list of ways to succeed as a leader all followers of Christ should look to use this as a measuring stick. Exhibiting the qualities of a patient, open-minded listener increases the avenues of communication and will position any leaders to grow their ability to influence among their teams.