By Jenni Catron
Moving from Ordinary to Extraordinary
There is an ongoing debate in schools of leadership theory as to whether leaders are born or made. It’s leadership’s version of the chicken or the egg conundrum. Are you born with the ability to lead or is leadership something you develop?
I believe it’s both. You can be born with a natural propensity, an innate wiring to be a great leader. Potential leaders are born with natural instincts and personality traits that equip them for leadership, but I also believe that leadership has to be developed. Without development, that gift could remain idle or, worse, be misused.
While there is a certain element of leadership that may be imparted to us, those of us who aspire to grow as leaders must cultivate our growth. To really develop as a leader takes teaching and coaching. We have to study, learn, pray and keep at it, learning from every circumstance and opportunity.
So how do we do it?
1. Accept the Responsibility of Leadership
Extraordinary leaders know that their leadership gifts and abilities are not for their own benefit. The gift of leadership is a gift to you to give to others. Extraordinary leaders are other-centric.
They recognize that leadership at its core is an act of service. It’s living out the second half of the Great Commandment: Love God. Love others.
The influence we earn as leaders is not for the purpose of wielding power. It’s for the purpose of loving others enough to help them develop and use their gifts. It’s for rallying a group of people to accomplish an audacious goal. It’s for helping others realize their dreams. It’s for calling others to growth and improvement in ways that motivate and inspire them to do their best.
Jesus modeled the responsibility of leadership in the way he engaged with his disciples in everyday life. From washing their feet in an act of humility and service, to directing them to feed the thousands, to sharing quiet times of prayer and reflection, to painting the picture of their responsibility once he was gone, Jesus loved and led his disciples with the purpose of helping them grow and develop. It wasn’t about him; it was about them.
2. Keep Your Eye on the Big Picture
If you want to be an extraordinary leader, your greatest challenge and responsibility is to keep your eye on the big picture. You must be the proverbial plate spinner, being attentive to every aspect of the organization, sensitive to each person you lead, aware of the implications of each decision you make, and balancing the numerous priorities that come your way. In addition to the obvious responsibilities, you also must attend to the dimensions that will help you succeed as a leader: heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Two or three of these dimensions will probably come easily to you. You’ll naturally excel and prioritize them into the flow of your work. However, a couple of these will also repeatedly trip you up. When you are under stress, the ones that are most difficult for you will fall by the wayside, and the ones at which you excel will become overused. For instance, I’m naturally strong in tactics and planning, attributes of the mind dimension of the leader. Under stress I will dig into managing anything and everything I can. The more my mind works, the more competent I feel. But stress turns my strategic strengths into micromanagement and impatience. When details are not attended to as quickly or as thoroughly as I prefer, I become tense and demanding.
During a particularly busy Christmas season, the team that I was working with was also understaffed. Tensions were high and the days were long. As our Christmas events approached, the intensity ramped up and my communication became terser. After a series of tense conversations with one of my staff members, I realized that I was being completely insensitive and had to stop to apologize and repair the relationship.
Relational leadership, which is a dimension that I have to work at more intentionally, becomes nonexistent to me when deadlines are looming. Because of my task-oriented nature, I see the work that needs to be done before seeing the people who are doing it. I can easily lose the heart dimension in my leadership.
I encourage you to pay attention to which dimensions – heart, soul, mind and strength – come naturally and how these show up in your everyday leadership. Also look for where your weaker dimensions become nonexistent. You’re on your way to extraordinary leadership when you learn to keep all the dimensions spinning consistently. I believe leader, by definition, means great. Exceptionally great. Counterculturally great. Revolutionarily great. And you have the potential to be just that!
This is an excerpt from Jenni’s book The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership: The Power of Leading from Your Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
Jenni Catron is a writer, speaker, and leadership coach. She is the author of several books including Clout: Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence and The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership.