7 practices for becoming an inspirational leader
In 2003, I was a disaster relief worker in what is now called South Sudan. At that time the South was in a civil war with the North. Along with war there was often crushing drought or famine. In Sudan, diseases that have been eradicated everywhere else on the planet ran rampant. Many people see a doctor before travel. Medical screenings were required aftertime in the country.
Things seemed dangerous and bleak.
When we went into South Sudan, we had to go through security training and briefings. We learned emergency escape and evacuation procedures. We carried all our food and water filtration systems. We never went anywhere without a “Go Bag” packed with essential survival gear. The environment was threatening, and resources were scarce. We worked hard to be prepared.
One day, I was speaking with a local leader outside of his mud hut. A man walked up to us. He wore a t-shirt and nothing else. He had a spear over his shoulder with a small bundle tied to the end, like a hobo. Typical attire for that region.
He greeted us and had a short conversation with my friend. Then he continued his walk down the trail. I hadn’t understood what they said, so my friend summarized it for me: The man was taking a two-day walk to another village where he planned to conduct business.
A simple statement, but it rocked my little world.
This man was alone and carried almost nothing with him, but he clearly presumed he would be provided for. He’d find food somewhere. He assumed he’d find a secure place to sleep. He was conducting business, which meant he believed that there was opportunity waiting for him.
His actions reflected his vision.
He saw potential and opportunity. I was trained to see threat and scarcity.
As a result, he had options I didn’t. He had access to opportunity that I didn’t.
He had less than I, but was freer and abler than I.
Vision, faith and leadership
Leadership styles and approaches come in all different shapes and sizes.
However, the quality that most separates a leader from any other role is the ability to inspire a shared sense of vision. This ability is what breathes life into a team or organization. This is what people follow.
Vision is a faith statement. It is built out of a set of beliefs about what is. Then it projects those beliefs into what can be.
We all have a basic set of beliefs about what is true—regarding the people we work with, the environment, the economy, politics, the likelihood of a project’s success and the involvement or interest of God in our work.
Regardless of how I formally define my faith, my actualfaith will reveal itself in my actions at work:
- Do I treat co-workers and customers as if they were good and valuable? Or with distrust? Or disregard?
- Do I act as if I’m surrounded by an environment that was created for me, to benefit me? Or do I act as if the environment is one I must survive?
- Am I excited that our Creator shares His capacity to create abundance? Or am I nervous that He is likely to take away anything I might be able to scrape together?
How I decide and what I do reveals what I believe. Do your workplace behaviors, choices and actions reflect a big faith? A positive faith?
Not just an intellectual assent of theological statements—but a workplace vision informed by a God who:
- Is good?
- Created a world that he described as good and has never given up on?
- Loves you and those you are responsible for?
- Values work and effort?
- Views entrepreneurialism and hustle as “noble” behaviors?
Here are seven ways you can nurture a more expansive, vision-building faith:
1. Immerse yourself in scripture: Particularly in stories of leaders who saw differently. I love reading about Joseph, Nehemiah, David, Peter, Paul and others. They faced real-world problems. Big ones. But they saw real-world opportunities. They all had big vision.
2. Surround yourself with people who live and see the kingdom: Find people who pursue righteousness, experience genuine joy in their lives and demonstrate peacefulness. They understand and chase opportunities that others don’t. This might be opportunities to bless or minister to someone—or to expand or grow their business. The point is: They seeand act differently.
3. Limit your exposure to negative people:Limit or avoid time with people are angry, resentful, jealous or otherwise not life-giving. They won’t understand what you see, won’t be able to encourage you and won’t be able to help you grow.
4. Practice gratefulness:Gratitude is the practice that shifts us from negativity, frustration and resentment to being able to recognize the goodness of God and His creation. Write down three things that you are grateful for every day. When particularly frustrated or disappointed, make a list of 10 things you are grateful for. See if it doesn’t shift your vision.
5. Practice appreciation:Closely related to gratitude—appreciation is the ability to recognize and then communicate the good you see in others. Not only does it transform you, but it transforms them.
6. Remove negative and toxic influences:Most headline news stories are designed to provoke fear or anger. Most conversations on social media also appeal to base emotions and non-kingdom thinking. Remove or severely limit your exposure.
7. Practice generosity:Generosity of finances (specifically) but also look like your time, energy, opportunities or anything else. The tendency is to see scarcity and to hold tightly. The kingdom tells us there is abundance, our needs will be met, and we can give freely and joyfully.
Muscle allows you to move. Movement builds muscle.
Faith allows you to act. Actions build faith.
These practices teach you to see differently. They expand your faith. They help you lead, by helping you see potential that inspires others.
Photo source: istock
Christian Muntean works with successful leaders and teams to help them grow their companies. His clients include Fortune 500 companies, small and medium-sized entrepreneurial businesses and non-profits. He is the author ofConflict and Leadership: How to Harness Conflict to Build Better Leaders and Thriving Teams.
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