Six Essential Qualities of an Effective LEADER

Image result for effective leaderIf you were to Google the word “leader” you would find literally millions of results (15.8 million the last time I checked). Leadership is an extremely popular topic and many have sought to define what it means to be a leader. One definition of leader is “the person who commands a group, organization or country.” While many commanders have proven themselves to be effective leaders (especially in the military), I would not necessarily agree with the assessment that a leader must be a commander.

Effective leaders in today’s society are more like coaches than commanders. While commanders preach at their followers and tell them what to do, coaches teach their followers and show them what to do. There are six qualities that I have found to be essential for effective leadership today. These six qualities combine to form an acrostic for the word “LEADER”.

1. Listener

An effective leader must be a good listener. At the heart of leadership is communication. Leaders must be good communicators, but they must understand that communication is a two-way street. Many leaders are great at communicating their vision to their followers but seldom take the time to listen and receive feedback from their followers.

This quality requires leaders to be secure in themselves. Thin-skinned leaders rarely welcome feedback – especially when the feedback is critical of their leadership. Leaders are wise to remember that criticism is not the same as condemnation. If we never listen to our critics, we never learn how we can improve. Listening is a key aspect of learning. Leaders need to learn to listen…and listen to learn.

2. Encourager 

Not only should leaders listen to their followers, but they should also encourage them. Effective leaders are intentional about offering positive feedback to their followers, and, when necessary, offering encouraging ways to improve their productivity. Most leaders see themselves as the quarterback on the field leading the team to victory, but the most effective leaders are more like the person on the sideline who helps cheer the team to victory.

3. Assister

Leaders are called to lead, but leading people often means assisting them along their journey toward productivity. While many leaders look to have assistants, effective leaders look to be of assistance. Effective leaders help their followers to reach their full potential. They provide tools and training to assist them to be the most productive individuals they can be for the team or the organization.

One of the most important positions on the basketball court is that of the point guard. The point guard is often referred to as the “floor general”. His or her primary role is to facilitate the offense, manage the flow of the game, and get the ball to his/her teammates in a position for them to score. When a teammate scores on a pass from the point guard, the point guard is credited with an “assist”. Effective leaders should lead their teams/organizations in assists.

4. Developer

Effective leaders spend much of their time, energy, and resources on development – first on themselves and then on the people they lead. Leaders are lifelong learners. Which means that an effective leader is always seeking ways to further develop his or her own leadership skills and abilities. A leader who is not developing is usually leading an organization that is declining.

Effective leaders also invest in the development of the people they lead. They invest time into mentoring key followers and creating a learning culture within the organization. Effective leaders don’t just seek to add more followers, they seek to develop more leaders. Leaders should be the “chief development officers” of their organizations. They should model this by developing themselves and then duplicating themselves by mentoring others.

5. Energizer

Effective leaders bring energy to their team and their organizations. They are the catalysts that drive things forward. When a leader walks into the room he or she should not suck all the air out of it. Effective leaders should breathe fresh life into the organization when things are stagnant and motivate others to keep pressing forward.

6. Relationship-builder

Effective leaders are not just task-oriented. The take the time to build relationships with the people they lead, and, just as importantly, help their followers to build relationships with each other. Leaders are bridges that help connect the people and departments within an organization. Effective leaders tear down the silos and walls that creep up within organizations and help people stay connected.

When leaders exhibit these six essential qualities – Listener, Encourager, Assister, Developer, Energizer, and Relationship-builder – the organization is strengthened. When leaders are effective, organizations are productive. The best way a leader can improve his or her organization is to work on becoming a more effective leader.

 

 

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The Foundation of Faith

Image result for the foundation of faithQuestions are powerful. They are the primary vehicle for learning. We cannot learn if we are not willing to ask questions. Despite this, many people are raised in a religious environment where we are told not to ask questions. I’m sure many of us have heard our mother or grandmother utter the phrase, “Don’t question God” at some point in time.

However, this particular bit of “mother wit” goes contrary to what we see in scripture. Throughout the holy writ, there are numerous examples of people asking God questions. Throughout the Psalter we see psalmists asking questions like, “How long?” Nowhere in scripture can we find an example of God chastising someone for asking Him a question.

In fact, we also see numerous examples of God, Himself, asking questions to men and women. The very first such question is found in Genesis 3:9 after the Fall of Man when Adam and Eve had eaten of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God came down in the cool of the day and asked, “Adam, where art thou?”

Beyond that, throughout the gospels we see Jesus asking many questions of the people He came in contact with. He asked questions like, “Would you be made whole?” or “Who do you say that I am?” But the primary question Jesus often asked is, “Do you believe?”

We can ascertain from these interactions that there is come connection between questions and beliefs. Contrary to popular opinion, questions are not the enemy of belief; questions are the friends of faith. This begins with the fundamental question that mankind has asked since the beginning of time: “Does God really exist?”

The question regarding belief in God is answered emphatically in the opening line of The Apostles’ Creed – the oldest and most widely used statement of faith within the Christian Church outside of the Bible. The word creed comes from the Latin credo, which means “I believe”. The creed begins with a declarative statement regarding belief in God. It says:

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth…”

This opening statement represents the foundation of the Christian faith. The Hebrews writer states: “And without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” This verse, coupled with the opening line of The Apostles’ Creed shows us three fundamental components of belief in God.

1. We must believe in the CONCEPT of God.

Faith begins with the foundational belief that God exists (Heb. 11:6). The Greek word that is translated as “believe” in the New Testament is pisteuo, which means to “believe into” something or someone. There is a difference between believing IN God and merely believing ABOUT God. Belief IN God is the foundation of faith.

This belief is the complete opposite of atheism – which says that there is no God. According to Ray Pritchard, atheism is the most unnatural human philosophy because, throughout history, every culture has had some concept of a supreme being (or beings). In our shared human experience, we were all born with an innate desire to seek something greater than ourselves to help explain our existence. As one writer puts it, we are all born with a God-shaped whole in our hearts. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his [or her] heart, there is no God.” In order to avoid the foolishness of atheism, we must believe in the concept of God.

2. We must believe in the CHARACTER of God.

Faith begins with the belief that God exists, but in order to grow in our faith we must do more than merely believe in God’s existence. Hebrews 11:6 says that if we want to draw near to God we must “believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”

Many people have an IDEA of God but have no clue about the IDENTITY of God. We often see God as The Punisher, when He is, in fact, The Rewarder. God does not exist to punish us every time we step out of line. He is not sitting in heaven waiting to cast a lightning bolt at us for our every failure or shortcoming. He desires to reward us – it is His character.

God does not love us because of us. God loves us because of God. It is His nature – His character – to love us. After all, I John 4:8 tells us that “God is love.” When we believe in His character, we have a greater understanding of His love for us.

3. We must believe in the CREATING power of God.

The Apostles’ Creed affirms the CONCEPT and CHARACTER of God, but it also acknowledges God as our CREATOR. The Christian worldview is centered in the truth that God created the world. The very first verse of the Bible (Genesis 1:1) establishes this when it says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God.”

When we believe that God is our creator, we also inherently believe something about ourselves. If God is my creator, then that means that I am a part of the intentional plan of God. If God created me then He has a plan for me. I am not a mistake. I am not here by happenstance. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding my birth, I am here because God chose to create me, and God does not make mistakes.

We are not the product of an explosion or the process of evolution. We were all “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). In the words of Pope Benedixt XVI, “We are not the casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

It is important for us to believe in God, but it also important for us to realize that God believe in us. He believes in us and has plans for us – plans to prosper us and to give us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). His plans are built on the foundation of our faith. We can only achieve if we first believe!

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Love & Money: A Financial Fasting Guide

Love and money – these are two topics the Bible has quite a lot to say about. The King James Version of the Bible contains exactly 444 references to some variation of the word “love”. This is likely not a coincidence since love is in fact a 4-letter word, and it is in 1 John 4 where we learn that “God is love.”

For as much as the Bible has to say about love, it has even more to say about money. Some scholars suggest that there are over 2,000 references to money in the Bible! So it is clear that both love and money play important roles in our faith and spiritual development. The problem, however, usually occurs when love and money intersect in our lives.

When we think about the intersection of love and money, we usually think of it in negative terms. After all, the Bible does tell us that “the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). However, we must realize that there is nothing evil about money itself. Money is value-neutral. It is only when we develop an unhealthy attachment to our money that we begin to create problems for ourselves and those around us.

In the middle of His seminal teaching we have come to know as “The Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus gives us practical principles to help us balance the connection between love and money in our lives. Somewhere between teaching us about the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) and telling us to build our house on the rock (Matthew 7), Jesus pauses in Matthew 6:19-24 to give us four practical principles on love and money.

1. Jesus teaches us to MAKE our money.

While not explicitly stated in the text, Jesus begins to teach us how we should handle our money. Implied in the passage is that if we need to know what to do with our money, we first need to have made some money. There is nowhere in scripture where having or making money is condemned. In fact, the “fathers of faith” – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were all wealthy individuals. While there is no prohibition on making money, we need to realize that our money does not make us. Luke 12:15 says that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his [or her] possessions.”

Knowing this, it is still vitally important that we seek to be intentional about how we make our money. Just as we set goals in other areas of our lives, we should set financial goals for our lives. A major part of our financial goal-setting should include developing multiple streams of income for ourselves and our families. We should become kings and queens of “the side hustle”. Depending on one source of income for your family’s financial well-being is the equivalent of putting all your eggs in one basket. Use the gifts, talents and abilities God has given you to intentionally develop multiple streams of income to make money.

2. Jesus teaches us to MANAGE our money (v. 19-20).

In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus teaches us to manage our money by investing in things that matter. He says that we should not spend all of our money on earthy things that can rust or be stolen. Rather, we should seek to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven where moths cannot destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal.

In practical terms, Jesus is telling us to spend our money FIRST..on things that LAST. Instead of going on another shopping spree to buy more clothes and shoes, we should invest our money in things that last. Of course, Jesus specifically speaks about “heavenly things”, but even here on earth we should invest in things that last – education, savings, retirement, insurance, etc. When we learn to manage our money, we’ll find that we’ll have a lot more of it to manage.

3. Jesus teaches us to MEASURE our money (v. 21).

Jesus teaches us to measure our money because in many ways our money is a measure. He says, “where your treasure [money] is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, if we really want to get an idea of what [or who] we truly love, we need to examine our bank account. Simply stated, we spend money on what we love. Our priorities are measured by our pocketbooks. The proof is not in the pudding; the proof is in the portfolio. Jesus tells us to measure our treasure to gauge what’s really in our hearts.

4. Jesus teaches us to MASTER our money (v. 24).

Jesus closes this portion of his sermon with a warning: “No one can serve two masters…you cannot serve God and money.” We must learn to master our money before our money becomes our master. Money is a great servant, but it is a terrible master! Far too may people – both rich and poor – have allowed money to become their master. They spend their lives consumed with getting it – or keeping it. We have to know how to put money in its place.

We master our money by putting our money in the hands of The Master. When we learn to give God complete control of our lives – including our finances – we let our money know that it is not in control. Additionally, we master our money by giving it away. When we give money away, we let our money know that it is not in control of our lives. As it relates to our money, generosity is the antidote to idolatry.

We can also begin to apply these principles to our lives by way of a financial fast. Fasting is a period of sacrifice that produces results in our lives. Most fasts center on physical activity (i.e. eating), but I believe that God wants us to be both physically and fiscally fit.

We are now entering the season of Lent – the 40-day period between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Lent is a season of sacrifice in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s finished work at Calvary and His triumphant resurrection three days later. This year, Lent begins March 1st (Ash Wednesday) and ends on April 16th (Easter Sunday). That is a 40-day period (excluding Sundays).

This Lenten season I challenge you to join us on a 40-Day Financial Fast based on the principles Jesus outlined for us in Matthew 6:19-24. Over the course of these 40 days we will seek to:

MAKE Money

  • If you are unemployed/underemployed, ramp up efforts to find a new/better job.
  • Create at least one new stream of income or strengthen an existing stream of income.

MANAGE Money

  • Limit the amount of money you spend on non-essential items.
  • Suspend use of credit cards.
  • Save the dollar amount that corresponds with the day of the month (See example below).
Date  Amount Saved  Total Saved
March 1st $1.00 $1.00
March 2nd $2.00 $3.00
March 3rd $3.00 $6.00
March 4th $4.00 $10.00
March 5th $5.00 $15.00
March 6th $6.00 $21.00
March 7th $7.00 $28.00

MEASURE Money

  • Keep a spending journal and write down every dime you spend, the date, what it was for and whether it was a want or a need.
  • Make adjustments to focus on needs more than wants.

MASTER Money

  • Commit to consistently tithe/give to your local church.
  • Be intentionally generous to people/charities in your community.

Take the 40-Financial Fast Challenge with us. Leave a comment to let us know that you are joining!

 

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