Are you “a” leader but not “the” leader? That is the category into which most leaders fall. Great things can be accomplished by those who lead from the middle. They may or may not get the credit. However, credit is not the goal. The goal is faithfulness, progress, success, change, or resolution depending on the situation. It does not matter who gets the credit so long as the job gets done. I love and respect my leader so very much. I also take joy on those occasions where he says or initiates something over which I had influence. We he wins, I win and all of our staff wins. If the organization does well that is good for all who are affiliated. Therefore, I am committed to do my best as I lead from the middle. I shared four key lessons for those who lead from the middle last week. Here are four more that will maximize your leadership.
- Always be positive. It is the nature of organizations to struggle with communication, perpetual crises, misunderstandings, misalignment of staff, weaker staff members, and weariness. Effective organizations are never satisfied and many tasks are actually unconquerable. The team continually chases its goals, but there is never an end. In the midst of that weariness and frustration the team members can easily fall into the trap of cynicism, (unhealthy) criticism, and complaining. Take heart. Everyone does this to some degree. However, it should not be misconstrued as a spiritual gift. Catch yourself and beware of perpetual negativity. You will not last long and if you do, you will be an anchor on the progress of your church or organization. There is a time to criticize, but there is also a proper way to do so. When all is said and done, a leader who leads effectively from the middle lifts people up with a good attitude that sees the best in most situations instead of automatically gravitating to the worst interpretation. Be positive. Your church or organization likely has enough critics already!
- Don’t hold grudges. You will be disappointed sometimes. People will make mistakes and will let you down. If you are around long enough, someone will hurt your feelings. You will not always get your way. You will encounter some people whose motives are not pure and their actions will bring hurt to you. What do you do in those circumstances? You must offer genuine forgiveness and let go of the hurts. If not, you will become the cynic and will be unable to accomplish the aims described in the previous point. Buddy Hackett once said that “while you carry the grudge the other guy is out dancing.” What does that mean? It means you only hurt yourself and not only do you become an anchor holding back your organization, but you also become the anchor to your own personal development and effectiveness. You will get hurt and when it happens, you must work through it, learn from it, and then let go.
- Work hard, but not to the neglect of your family. Effective leaders are by nature hard workers and you should be. However, on this point you should not compromise. Strive to succeed with family and at work. But if you can only succeed with one, make it your family. Jobs come and go, but your family is a lifetime association and commitment. You can do both. It requires skills at prioritizing, establishing healthy boundaries, good time management, and a strong work ethic. Do you possess those four qualities or skills? If not get help because your church, organization, and most importantly, your family need your leadership.
- Don’t dismiss your critics. I’ll admit it. I do not like to be criticized. But I do like the result of criticism. If you are a leader you will of necessity have to learn to handle criticism. If you are never criticized, it is because you are not doing anything. Even the most gifted and effective leaders get criticized. Jesus Christ came from God, served man, lived virtuously and constantly received criticism. Are you any better? It will happen. Don’t walk into it by constantly exercising poor judgment. But when it does happen, get up, brush yourself off, and ask yourself a question: To what degree is their criticism accurate? “Only one to two percent your say?” Then you have work to do. Address the two percent that they were accurate about and sharpen your leadership. That is what I mean by “liking the results of criticism.” I always seek to as objectively as possible understand what my critics are right about and make changes. John Schnatter once said, “I’ve always found that people who struggle are hard on others, but those who do well in life are hard on themselves.” You don’t have to enjoy criticism. I know I don’t. But you must grow from it if you lead from the middle. That is another way that you maximize your leadership.
I’m not done. I’ll have more to share on this subject next week. Stay tuned and please share with others.