leadership and listening

Alexander the Great used to don the gear of a foot soldier and listen to his men.

Alexander the Great used to don the gear of a foot soldier and listen to his men.

I have always admired visionary leaders – the type of person who can get others fired up about a vision. In practice, though, it’s easy to think that being a visionary is about getting other people to do what you want them to. You have a brilliant idea. Leadership is about convincing enough people to agree and getting them to make it happen. Or is it?

The more leadership articles and resources I read, the more I’m convinced that leadership (especially in volunteer organisations like churches) is about listening. It’s not about getting people to do what I want them to do. Even if I have a good idea. Rather, it’s about finding out what they want to do and harnessing that in a way that serves the vision. I think there’s servanthood here: it means being humble enough to let go of my good ideas, it means giving people the space and permission to grow in their own gifts, it means helping them realise their own ideas. 

I still think a key part of leadership is communicating a vision. But it’s also about giving up some of the control and empowering people to find their own way to support that vision.

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