For years and years, I wanted a mentor in ministry and grew increasingly frustrated that nobody would step to the plate. But that was more my fault than the fault of others. But one day, I realized that there wasn’t going to be a Yoda and that I was still responsible for my own spiritual growth and development.
Here are four ways you can grow as a leader.
1. Read books.
“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers,” said Harry Truman. If you want to grow as a leader, pick up a book. (Here are ten book recommendations for church leaders.)
At the risk of sounding overly spiritual, start with the Bible. Nothing I’ve read has impacted me more than the Bible. After that, choose books written by dead people, smart people and different people. Don’t be like the average American who reads three books a year, but watches 30 hours a of TV a week. If you read for about 15 minutes a day, you’ll move through about 15 books in a year.
2. Talk to people.
I messed up the most in leadership when I stubbornly attacked a problem or tried to deal with an issue on my own. I often got it right when I set aside my stubborn opinion and asked wise people for advice. Spend time with people that have something to teach. The book of Proverbs is full of such advice:
- “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.” – Proverbs 1:5
- “The way of a food in right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” – Proverbs 12:15
- “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22
- “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” – Proverbs 19:20
I’ve been blessed to meet many people who have given great advice. Talking to other people will help you see things you can’t see now, because you’re in the trenches.
3. Go to training.
Over the last decade, I’ve attended dozens and dozens of conferences, resulting in Moleskins full of notes. I’ve kept every conference badge dating all the way back to my first Youth Specialties conference as a brand new youth pastor. Those conference lanyards represented thousands of dollars invested in education.
One of the biggest mistakes churches and businesses make is to cut the learning budget when times get tight. Yet going for training will likely produce the idea that will get you unstuck. We should not cut down on learning opportunities during lean times – we should increase them.
Pilots have to go to training, even though they have already learned how to fly a plane. Teachers have to go to continuing education seminars, even though they have a Masters Degree in Education.
Conversations with friends are great, but invest in your education. Stop emailing people to “pick their brain” and pay for some serious coaching.
4. Learn from failure.
If I ever write a biography, it would be filled with failures. I’ve messed up royally. I’ve always been and will always be in much need of grace.
But for all the pain I’ve caused and endured, failure has taught me a lot. About what’s really important. About myself and those closest to me. And about life and ministry.
“Forget your mistakes, but remember what they taught you,” said Ben Franklin. Instead of beating yourself up over failure, think of it as on the job training.
Failure isn’t failure if you learn something and move forward. ”If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate,” said Thomas Watson.