To a Next Generation Leader

May 22, 2014

To a Next Generation Leader

Coming early September, Darlene and I are welcoming the start of the next generation for our family! Becoming grandparents for the first time is a neat experience and one that has us in a reflective mood.

Because of our burden for leaders, we've thought about the lessons we would want to impart to our grandchild about leadership. Imagine for a moment, if from the early days of a child's life we could not only instill positive character qualities, but intentionally nurture in them the gift of leadership built on faith, honesty and integrity.

Imagine what a difference it would make if future leaders were taught from early on that real leaders are born from character, not competency? So with those concerns in mind, here is a list of the lessons we would want to impart to our grandchild and all future grandchildren. These are not in any specific order of importance. I also want to thank my wife Darlene (aka Grandma) for sharing her thoughts for this blog.

1. Don't believe in yourself-believe instead in a faithful God who wants to do amazing work in and through you

It goes without saying that the greatest investment you can make in your life is a faith rooted in Jesus Christ. Of all the advice given in this blog this is the one we pray you not ignore or treat in a cavalier manner. You can disregard the rest if you want, but this one forms the basis for all the others.

Without this foundation, you will never be able to realize your full potential. Oh, and if faith becomes a vital part of your life, don't just share your faith, live it fully with all the gusto you can muster.

2. Don't be afraid of hard work and never accept mediocrity, especially from yourself

I am surprised how many people in our society are okay with average. Being average, or just doing the minimum, will never get you anywhere, let alone lead others. I'm not talking about being obsessed with work, but taking pride in what you do and doing it to the best of your ability.

I know lots of employers and recruiters who salivate whenever they find a diligent, reliable, and competent person. If you work hard and deliver excellence, you will never be short of opportunities.

3. Love people but don't put your faith in them

Genuine love recognizes that people are flawed and broken. Its called being human. When you see people as human, you love them for who they are, warts and all. Not to say that you will love everybody, but for those who you choose to love or fall in love with, the danger will be to see them through idolized lenses.

This can lead to false expectations that may one day leave you disappointed and disillusioned. To love someone and to put faith in them are two different things and with two different sets of expectations. You can really only do both with God.

4. Make grace, truth, and humility your constant companions

Embrace these three with everything you've got. They are the proverbial trinity for all relationships. They are what others will recognize in you and attach other characteristics like trustworthy, authentic, real, honest, and so forth. To be a leader of integrity is not easy or even natural for most of us.

It takes a person who understands the need for self-awareness and to make an investment in character development that matters, not just for yourself, but for the sake of others.

5. Remove the word "can't" from your vocabulary Few words are as demoralizing as the word can't. Your grandmother and I did not allow our sons to use the word growing up (yes, that's your dad we're talking about). We would force them to rearrange the sentence into a positive statement.

Using the word has the potential to shut down conceivable options, solutions, and even curtail hope. That says nothing of the way it discounts God, who happens to specialize in destroying "can't!"

6. Remember the practice, "Mirror first; Window second"

One of the most difficult personal disciplines to adopt is this one. When most people mess up, they instinctively look outside themselves to lay blame and point fingers. That is looking out the window first. Try and resist this.

Instead, take an inventory by looking in the mirror first and asking with honesty what role you played in the failure. Nothing will help shape the way you react or make decisions more than this single discipline. You may look in the mirror first and with good conscience recognize that the fault lay elsewhere.

That's okay. Now it is safe to look out the window and survey the outside for possible causes and reasons. If you do this consistently and honestly, you will find you will become a much better decision maker as a leader. Also, looking out the window over time will create a ""victim"" mentality, an ailment too prevalent in our world.

7. Don't be afraid of the "pause", or the "question" 

Great leaders have a way of reacting to their circumstances that would make weaker mortals cower in fear. Learn that you don't always need to react to every situation right away. It's okay to pause, assess, step back, take a breath, and gather your thoughts.

Weak leaders will react and often make the situation worse because the reality and the possible solution is rarely found in the heat of the moment. Secondly, great leaders aren't afraid to question reality. Most leaders in today's culture are nothing more than managers, but true visionary leaders see how things can be better, stronger, lighter, faster, cheaper, and so forth. Often, the spark for a vision is created because someone questioned the status-quo.

8. Learn to use the tools of "appreciation" and "encouragement" 

These two work hand in hand, and they are two of the most powerful relational tools you will ever wield. I'm not talking about using them in an insincere or manipulative way. But when you take time to show people that you notice their efforts and the positive contributions they bring, it goes a long way in strengthening and motivating them.

There are plenty of leaders who wield power purely because of their position on an organizational chart, but it takes a great leader to motivate people because of the way they generate inspiration. Remember to say, "good job," and "thank-you".

9. Whenever you feel entitled, you will lose your credibility and effectiveness

No one, and I mean no one, appreciates anyone who feels entitled, no matter what "successes" they have under their belt. It's a form of arrogance that people can smell a mile away. Even in those situations where a person's reputation gets them in the door, over time, a spirit of entitlement will eventually grow tiresome and whatever benefits were thought to be gained, soon evaporate.

You never, ever, want to be that person! As a leader, your credibility and ability to get things done are you best calling cards, but an attitude of entitlement will soon negate them.

10. Learn to discern...

You are going to meet a lot of people over the course of your life. Some will be easy for you to get along with, others, not so much. Learn to build relationships with people who will contribute to your growth as a person. These are people who sincerely care about you and make you better in every way. Be cautious of those who are toxic, whiny, entitled, or manipulative.

You will meet people who will do nothing more than take advantage of you, while others who see themselves victimized by every wrong life throws at them. Learn to discern these types of people and tread cautiously in allowing them into your life. There is far too many negative people in the world and life is far too short to fix them all!

There is our list. We hope that in the years to come, these are lessons that we will be able to share with you as we watch you grow. Some of these we pass on because we learned them the hard way and we hope they will help you develop into the person God made you to be.

We would love to hear from our readers any other lessons you would add to this list that would be helpful? The gift of leadership is an important one and the next generation will need leaders of integrity too. Let's start making a difference together.

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