I know many leaders with “bright ideas.” I used to be one, and in some ways I still am. But over time, I’ve learned in the hardest of ways that real leadership is not theoretical. It is a series of painful correlations. Leadership consists of failure and learning on repeat.
We’ve all had our share of “good ideas” and “good strategies” that failed. Then, we learn what really works and what really moves the ball down the field. Leadership is not Hail Marys or trick plays, it’s X’s and O’s, blocking and tackling. With some time in the trenches, I’ve seen some things that really do work when it comes leading a team and, specifically in my case, leading a church plant.
Leadership Is People, Not Ideas
The most important piece of the equation is people. People are not robots. You can’t wind them up and let them go. It’s not like that. It’s slow, painful, and repetitive. Progress happens when people come together, through process, to improve the product.
Leadership Is Slow, Not Fast
What does that process look like? It sounds counterproductive but it’s true: you must slow down in order to speed up. Take time to ask these questions:
- Who’s on your team?
- What is their role?
- What do you expect?
- What’s going well?
- Where are you growing?
- How can I help?
- What are your action steps this week?
After you find the answers, review them again next week. This is slow work but necessary. This is what really gets the job done. As I have said previously, at the end of the day, you are teaching your people how to get an “A” with you and how to push the ball down the field.
Leadership Is Painful
Throughout this process, you will inevitably feel pain. And many times, I am the source of my own frustration. Finding out that a job didn’t get done because I as the leader was not crystal clear, nor was there any real buy-in, is painful. Unmet expectations usually come from unspoken instructions. Assumptions often lead to pain.
I can remember times as a dad where I have gotten onto my kids for failing to do things I never taught them. I was the fool. We can easily do the same thing with our teams and leaders of teams. Sometimes, the only way you’ll learn is by doing it wrong and making mistakes.
Leadership Is Necessarily Repetitive
Leadership is repetitive: vision leaks, wins are forgotten, and culture drifts. You are always pointing to the horizon and reminding your people where they are going, who they are, and the things that will get them there. In every meeting, whether one-on-one or a team, you should always be pointing to the vision, celebrating something, and course correcting.
In conclusion, these are the fundamentals that win games. Slow down, lead your people, cast vision, and push repeat. You’ll be glad you did, and your teams will be better for it.