This is part 4 of a series of posts on leadership. In this post we continue our investigation of the qualities great leaders demonstrate. Not every great leader possesses all these traits, but they recur among those we commend as great leaders.
Great Leaders Are Strategic Thinkers
Great leaders think strategically. That is, they have a leader’s mind. They simply think different about things than followers.
They tend to analyze constantly. They look at something from the perspective of what’s good and how could it be better. They ask HOW things are going and WHY. They’re forever making recommendations in their own minds about how to improve.
A Vision (see the previous post about the importance of vision in leadership) will never be more than a far off dream unless plans are made to bring it to pass. So great leaders are able to break a vision down into practical and doable pieces, then chart a path to get there. They know it may take many years before the vision comes to pass, but they can see concrete steps that can be taken to it.
The Apostle Paul is a prime example of this. God gave him a vision of spreading the Gospel and planting churches. He was ultra-strategic about it. He went first into the Jewish synagogues because that is where the people were to be found who were mostly prepared for The Gospel. He targeted urban trade and cultural centers from which the Gospel could spread rapidly. He raised up local leaders and entrusted them with the work of growing the church.
Great Leaders Put People First
There are other marks of great leaders we could mention before this because they connect to the previous trait of being a strategic-thinker. But this trait is so important, we ought to cover it now: Great Leaders ARE Level 5 Leaders.
They understand it’s all about people!
God-given visions aren’t about buildings, institutions, structures or fixtures. They’re about people! God uses structures and fixtures in His mission with people, but they are only tools. Great leaders know that and keep their sense of value, of worth and what’s important on people.
People are never a means to an end; they ARE THE END. So the leader doesn’t manipulate people. They aren’t objects, tools used to accomplish the vision. THEY ARE THE VISION!
Let me share a classic example of how this works: A church building project . . .
Poor leaders think success is building a big new building with all the latest bells and whistles that make it hip and cutting-edge; poised to leverage the latest in technology. Because their goal is a new facility, they USE people to that end. They cajole, press, and scheme on how to get people to give, do, and volunteer more. Their vision is a new church campus; and people are just the tools to get it done.
The good leader defines success by how people grow; how they activate their potential to become who God created them to be. The building project is the tool to THAT end, not the other way round. The building is important, critical even, because it’s the means by which the leader leads others into THEIR SUCCESS. That IS his, you see. His success isn’t a building; it’s the success of those he’s leading.
At the end of both scenarios, there’s a new facility for people to meet in. But with the poor leader, the people feel used and are exhausted. Those following the good leader have grown and are energized to go after the next step in the vision.
And this is where we tie this trait of Putting People First together with Being a Strategic-Thinker. Great Leaders place each person on their team in the right place. Because they want to maximize each person’s potential, they pay attention to their team and slot them in the work where they’ll thrive. We see this in Nehemiah; the OT’s premier example of a Great Leader. Nehemiah had each family repair a section of Jerusalem’s wall closest to their home or where their biggest interest lay. And when problems arose, Nehemiah turned it from a potential negative, to a plus by reminding everyone the problem was the result of the fact they didn’t have a wall.