Leading people is hard whether it’s in the secular world or in ministry- it is a work of heart. If done right, it is one of the highest acts of service and if done right, it can be the one of the most emotionally tasking endeavors. Over the past weeks I have had many opportunities to reflect on the teams I lead as well as what I bring to bear in my leadership journey. Through all the triumphs and conflicts my leadership role bring, I have discovered one of the blueprints for how to be an effective leader.
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.Psalm78:82 NIV
For the past two weeks I have been meditating on this scripture and how I can lead with integrity and skill. So lets talk about those:
What does it mean to lead with integrity of heart? Integrity appears 22 times in scripture and a read of those scriptures reveal some characteristics of having integrity: speaking the truth, being upright and righteous. Having integrity of heart as a leader means that when I deal with my reports and those I am in authority over, I do so in fairness and with truth and grace- not being swayed by who they are. I wish them no ill and seek out the best outcomes for them in every situation. This definition reminds me of the lyrics in a song we sing at church:
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly…. in all things… in all ways
The second point from the scripture has to do with leading skillfully. I once read an article that alluded to the fact that no one is born with leadership skills. It is not an innate quality. And I agree… to some extent, I believe that although some people have a propensity and affinity for leadership, effective leaders must cultivate the skill of leadership like a craftsman hones his/her craft. Leading with a skilled hand means that I do not only rely on my past experiences or propensities but I work towards mastery daily. Advancing from novice to expert in any competency involves having the right conditions and opportunities to practice and truly develop that skill.
David developed the skills to lead people effectively through the challenges that came from leading livestock: spending long hours tending to them, leading the sheep to pasture in green and luscious vegetation, dealing with threats and of course, steering the wayward ones back into the fold. Similarly, the challenges of leadership create an environment that can be conducive to honing the skill of leading. Every awkward conversation builds the confidence and competence for the next awkward conversation- as someone recently said to me “the more I know, the more I realize I do not know” (Thanks T.). This paradox is what I describe as growth. The beauty of developing a skill is that it can also be learned through knowledge external to personal experiences- so take a course, read inspirational books, listen to the wisdom of other great leaders, get a mentor- the goal is diligently working towards becoming a skilled leader.
Do you see a man skillful and experienced in his work? He will stand [in honor] before kings; He will not stand before obscure men.Prov 22:29 AMP
I hope you are as encouraged as I am because leading people is not for the faint of heart but for those with integrity of heart and who have skillful hands.