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Warming up for leadership

| by Mike Bonem

I enjoy running, but I don’t enjoy stretching beforehand. As I’ve gotten older and minor injuries have become more common, I have discovered that pre-run stretching is essential. In the same way, you may need to pay attention to some pre-leadership activities.

When we think of leadership, we often focus on casting vision, setting strategic priorities, inspiring followers, and making hard decisions about people and resources and programming. These are the visible parts of leadership, the parts that often draw people into the role. But just as I’ve learned with my running, you can’t do these well if you’ve not engaged in the right activities beforehand.

What are those right activities? Consider these 3 pre-leadership practices:

1. Create the right processes. The right decision, if it is made with the wrong process (or no process), will usually fail. Why? A good process insures that other options and potential problems have been considered. But more importantly, it allows people to give input and it puts that the right people at the table when the decision is made. The buy-in and support of those same people is essential for your decision to be implemented successfully.

​2. Build trust among followers. You know the old adage: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. You can create a great process to make the right decision, but people who don’t trust you are unlikely to trust that process. Leaders who are task-oriented or who feel tremendous urgency will want to shortcut this practice, but the shortcut will often lead to a dead end.

3. Check your heart. Even if you’re highly relational and regularly demonstrate that you care, it all goes out the window if your decisions seem to be driven by ego or self-benefit. On the other hand, people will make great sacrifices when decisions seem to be anchored in prayer and a genuine pursuit of God’s will. A great starting point for a pre-leadership heart check is Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Do you need to do some “stretching” before you lead? It might save you from being sidelined with some troubling injuries.

Mike Bonem

Mike Bonem is an author, consultant, speaker, church leader, businessperson, husband and father. He loves to help ministries and their leaders reach their God-given potential through strategic planning, organizational design, and coaching. Mike’s books include Thriving in the Second Chair, In Pursuit of Great and Godly Leadership and Leading from the Second Chair. He has spoken across the country and internationally on topics related to ministry leadership and congregational effectiveness. Mike has an MBA from Harvard Business School and a breadth of experience in ministry and business, including 11 years as an executive pastor, consulting with Fortune 100 companies, and leading a start-up business. 

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