The final part of our first Sunday school lesson in leadership is a discussion of leader qualities or behaviors. It was a bit revealing to watch a couple of the teens display facial expressions and other body language signals indicating that they were uncomfortable with portions of the topic. Some of them shifted in their seats, one bounced his leg up and down as if he wanted to run out of the place and one young lady’s facial expression spoke volumes about her sometimes mischievous behavior. Keep in mind, I don’t know these young people well, but the message their body language conveyed convinced me they were uncomfortable because they realized don’t always live up to the expected standards of behavior. We discussed the following fourteen behaviors:
- Ability to encourage and nurture those around us—delegate so people will grow
- Charismatic inspiration—attractiveness to others and the ability to leverage this esteem to motivate others
- Cooperation—work well with others
- Empathy—Understanding what others say, rather than listening to how they say things
- Environmental Awareness—the ability to understand the environment they lead in and how they affect and are affected by it
- Optimism—very few pessimists become leaders
- Picks Winners—the ability to choose winners - recognizing that we cannot (in general) teach attitude
- Preoccupation with a role—a dedication that consumes much of a leader’s life - service to a cause
- Rejects determinism—belief in one’s ability to “make a difference”
- Results-orientation—directs every action to complete a mission
- Role model—leaders may adopt a persona that encapsulates their mission and lead by example
- Self-awareness—the ability to “lead” one’s own self prior to leading other selves similarly
- Technical/specific skill at some task at hand
- Vision—A clear sense of purpose (or mission) - clear goals - focus – commitment
The teens understood most of this without much explanation with the lone exception of “rejects determinism.” Determinism is a philosophical view that every event is causally determined by previous events and that they are out of our control to change them. If you believe you can make a difference in this world, you must reject determinism.
Integrity is foundational to authentic leadership, but not as it is understood in its common everyday definition which is usually interpreted as honesty. Rather, integrity in this sense is used in its less common understanding which is a firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values. I purposefully left it off of the list of leader behaviors in order to explain it in the following way:
- Self-awareness leads to integrity
- Integrity is the integration of our outward actions and inner values
- Outward actions are called our personas
- Inner values are our characters
- When our persona and our character are integrated as one (integrity) it is authentic leadership
In stark contrast to the list of leader behaviors we examined Romans 1:28-32 for a list of anti-leader behaviors that are diametrically opposed to leader behaviors and must therefore be constrained by leaders.
“And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:28–32, KJV)
Finally we talked about what to expect when they arrive in the working world. None of them had ever heard of performance evaluations or 360 reviews. They were surprised that “report cards” don’t end when you finish school and that so much of our success depends on what others think about us. We closed with this question:
If we were to ask six people who know you very well to give us honest, anonymous feedback about you, what would they say about you? Would they say:
- You are a good Christian?
- You are a leader?
- You can be a real brat at times?
- You are disrespectful to your parents and teachers?
- You try to get away with bad behavior when you think nobody is watching?
- You enjoy argument and debate?
The kids gave great feedback as did some of the adults that sat in on the class. They seem to be looking forward to the next two weeks as we examine the greatest leadership role model of all time.