Note: This is the second in a series of articles on leadership. Click here for the first article.
It was the most excruciating pain I have ever felt. I was writhing on my hospital bed as the nurse added the narcotic pain killer to my IV. After about 20 minutes, I drifted off to sleep again as the pain was replaced by strange dreams. Then, two hours later, the whole process started again.
At the beginning of December (2017), I became extremely sick in the middle of the night. I don’t remember ever having felt this bad. When my doctors’ office opened up at 7:30 a.m., I called and spoke with my doctor about the possibility that side effects of the antibiotic I was on could be causing this pain and the specific symptoms I was having. His voice got very quiet and serious. “Royce, your symptoms are not caused by any side effects of the antibiotic. Moreover, what you are describing sounds like something life-threatening. Get to the emergency room now!”
My bride drove me over to the emergency room and I was quickly diagnosed as having acute pancreatitis. They got me to a room and started treatment immediately. Unfortunately, pancreatitis is very painful, although the treatment is fairly simple—no food or drink, only IV solution to clear out my gut. I was in the hospital for six days with a two-week additional recovery, then surgery to remove my gallbladder—the culprit that started the pancreatitis—and another two-week recovery. I missed Christmas. I missed December!
As I lay in my hospital bed, I literally had nothing to do except be in pain or be asleep. So, during my semi-lucid moments, I prayed, “Well, nothing happens by accident, Lord, so what is it that you are getting my attention about?” I had a lot I needed to hear. I needed to cherish my bride. I needed to be more serious about my relationship. I needed to call certain sin, sin. I needed to seek Jesus more deeply. Despite the pain and struggle of the pancreatitis, I had a wonderful time of worship and learning. I am very blessed.
In the hospital I was just a patient. The doctors and nurses were doing all the work and had all the knowledge. I knew nothing about pancreatitis—or my gallbladder—other than they were in my body and necessary for digestion. It’s analogous to knowing about leadership. Most of us don’t know how to lead properly… or where our leadership lid is… or how to raise our lid and became a better leader—at home, school, work, everywhere! For that matter, I would venture a guess that we may not think a good knowledge of leadership is that important. That’s for managers at some corporation, right?
Actually, no. It’s for everyone—starting as young as you can. Why? Because the hardest person to lead in life is yourself. If you aren’t leading yourself, either you don’t know how to lead or your emotional maturity is low. In either case, trying to accomplish what you need to in life is much, much harder. When you’re 50 you will wonder why you’re in debt, have strained or ruined relationships, don’t have the finances to carry you through end of life, plus a whole host of other maladies. I can pretty much guarantee that if you study leadership and work on your emotional maturity, you will have a much better life—and so will the people who are around you! Just imagine if you are the leader of your family. How are you leading your spouse? Your kids? What about being in a leadership position at work or church? Without a proper understanding and application of the principles of leadership, you’re stuck being a low-level leader—at best.
So, a low leadership lid is the result of not understanding how to properly lead. How do you raise your leadership lid? Make a commitment to study leadership daily—or at least weekly. Had I known about pancreatitis when I was in all that pain, I might have been able to self-diagnose and may have gone to the hospital a lot sooner—and saved myself a lot of pain. It’s the same with leadership. Learn good leadership skills and save yourself a lot of pain! I’m with you for the long haul. Stay with me and I will teach you proven leadership principles that will help you grow yourself, your kids, and others.
You’re already a leader—maybe a good leader, maybe a bad leader. But you are already a leader. If you’re married, you’re responsible for leading. If you have kids, you’re responsible for leading. If you have a job or any responsibility, you’re at least responsible for leading yourself. The lowest level of leadership—Level 1—is Position. Someone (boss?) or something (circumstance?) has made you a leader. Unfortunately, most people stay in this position level most of their lives. Problem is, it’s typically only a position of “title,” not of ability.
The remaining levels of leadership are:
Level 4—People Development
So how do you raise your lid? You need to learn to grow to and through the higher levels of leadership. Let’s start with Level 2—Permission.
Watch any TV show where a teenager is arguing with his dad about something. It turns into a shouting match and one or both stomp away mad. The days of Father Knows Best are long gone. No congenial outcome here. “That’s not how it happens in my house!” you say. Kudos to you for inculcating good things into your kids. But are they simply compliant kids? Or do they agree to your point while discussing it, but do something different afterwards? What happens when they get out from under your “leadership”? I was a very strong disciplinarian, so my kids agreed with me—at least on the surface. But several of them went their own way once they were finally out of the home. You guessed it—the kids I didn’t spend enough quality time with. Marriage, kids, and other elements of suffering have brought them back into relationship with me. Had I been at least a Level 2 leader with my kids, I could have helped them a lot more. This also holds true with all others—not just my kids. That was decades ago, before I understood leadership. Hopefully, I will do better with my grandkids.
So what is a Level 2 permission leader?
A permission leader is one who gets your permission to lead them. That’s what I said—the person being led gives the person leading, permission to lead them. Sound odd? You actually have to earn the right to lead with each person. So you are always in different places with different people. Simply put, this is done as you intentionally build relationships with them. You take interest in them and build rapport, giving them time, wisdom, help. “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand” (John Maxwell). Kids are not there to meet your needs. Neither is your spouse, nor your employees, your friends, or any other group you are leading. Leaders are here to serve others. Make your team successful (by serving them and helping them grow) and they will make you successful. Take the time to build relationships—apply the Golden Rule. Remember the second great commandment God left us, “…and love your neighbor as yourself.”
I did not apply this rule to my kids well—not in an equal way—meaning some got a lot more time than others. Had I built deep relationships with my children, I would have been able to speak into their lives better during those crucial moments. Just because I held the position of dad didn’t mean I had earned the right to be heard—and just because you have the position of manager—or VP, or even CEO, senator, or president—doesn’t mean you have earned the right to be heard with each person. “People don’t care how much you know (or have done) until they know how much you care” (John Maxwell).
Likewise, when I take the time to build relationships with others, I know their needs, hopes, and desires, and I can help them get to where they want to go. In my past, I merely managed too many on my team but didn’t build relationships. I paid for that as well. Some people say, “Never get close to your employees.” Bad advice. It’s better to love and have lost, than to have never loved at all. You will get much farther, faster.
As you gain people’s permission to lead them by building rapport and deeper commitment to know them well, you gain access to help them achieve in life and grow their own leadership skills—and you gain access to their heart—so be careful. How do you apply this? Sit down for a quiet hour and write out a list of all the people that are important to you—that you want to lead. Your spouse. Kids. Employees. Team. Everyone. Plan out the time you need to spend with each one of them and put that plan into action. Maybe you can only afford an hour per week with each one. Plan it and do it. Have one (together with spouse) over for dinner. Meet with one over coffee. Go to a game together. You must be intentional to succeed at this—otherwise you will look back in a few years and wish you had. Is that going to take time? You bet. But it is so worth it—and it’s the only way to get to the other levels of leadership! You have to give up to go up—that’s how you grow as a leader. Ask your spouse or a good friend to hold you accountable a couple of times per week as you build these relationships. Fail at this and you will forever remain a Level 1 Positional leader—a leader in name only.
Succeed at building deeper relationships with those you are leading and you will gain the ability to help them grow, which will help push you to a greater success at the same time. No surface relationships here—deep, vulnerable, time-consuming building of rapport is what’s needed.
Remember—teach your kids (and all potential leaders) to build relationships, be kind and help others, and to earn others’ respect and appreciation. These are all biblical concepts.
Leadership develops daily—not in a day. Build relationships daily.
Post your questions or comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I or one of my community leaders will answer you.
Take the day by storm!
P.S. Next time we’ll finish talking about the levels of leadership and move on to specific leadership and personal growth principles. Make it a great week—your attitude is totally up to you!