Leadership is more important now than ever.
In fact, good leadership is essential if we hope to make progress toward a better future.
In well over three decades, I’ve had the privilege to connect with thousands of leaders—some for a short time, and many in great depth.
These many connections have allowed me to identify certain practices that the best leaders I know consistently practice. (Not perfectly, but consistently.)
Before I jump into that list, I want to acknowledge that there are two large areas that have a significant impact on the success of these top ten practices.
- Character – Over a lifetime, talent without character never finishes well.
- Spiritual life – Your walk with God will be one of the most defining marks of your life’s leadership.
This following list of practices may appear simple.
My challenge to you is, don’t focus on the level of simplicity or difficulty to understand each one, instead, evaluate how well you do in each area.
- Which 3-5 are you doing well in?
- Which 2-3 need some improvement?
- Of those that need improvement, which 1 should you start on this week?
Allow me to be your leadership coach for a minute.
Choose just one area to focus on.
Work on and improve that area before you take on another one.
The Top 10 practices of the best leaders:
1) They value people.
The practice of valuing people brings shape and definition to caring about and genuinely loving people.
The best leaders I know, intentionally meet new people.
It’s very easy to have your life consumed with the people you currently know. It’s good to invest deeply with a few, but if you desire to make progress, you must continue
Valuing people is essentially to want more for them than from them. When you value someone, you instinctively want the best for them, and your leadership reflects it.
Listen more than you talk and base your daily decisions on helping people become the best version of themselves according to their purpose in Christ.
2) They solve problems.
There is never a shortage of problems, and we always need more leaders who can solve large and complex problems.
Right now, so many leaders are close to overload. A good bit of that is due to COVID related challenges that are coming at all of us like a stream of constant curveballs and fastballs. They are just hard to hit.
It’s natural to wish our problems would go away or at least lighten and become more realistic.
But the truth is that those who follow our leadership need us to do everything we can to solve the problems we can solve.
What problems can you solve? Focus there.
3) They maintain intentional margin.
Establishing and maintaining margin is one of the most difficult things for a leader to practice consistently. It is for me, but I fight for it daily. How about you?
You may need to construct your own (short) list, but here’s mine:
- Rest and play
- Physical health
- Improve my leadership skills.
4) They sharpen their mind.
The best leaders never stop learning, and they translate what they learn into action.
In short, the best leaders nurture a sharp mind.
My encouragement to you is to read daily, even if just a few pages.
Expand your reading list. Include a few books a year that are different from your usual list. Perhaps something more creative or business-oriented.
Engage in stimulating conversations with leaders who have led larger than you.
Open your thinking to new ideas and churches with a background different than yours.
5) They cultivate a positive spirit.
Let’s be candid; there are a number of things that can be frustrating, exhausting, and sometimes discouraging about leading a local church.
That reality is true for each leader to a different degree, but all leaders need to be intentional about cultivating and sustaining a positive spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians chapter 5, includes joy, and choosing joy is part of the equation.
However, you may describe it, maybe, “your glass is half full,” or perhaps “a merchant of hope,” a positive outlook is practiced by every great leader I know.
Here’s a practical tip. You will typically find what you look for, so look for the good.
6) They respond quickly.
Responsiveness is a key practice of great leaders that many leaders overlook.
Admittedly it’s a nuanced practice and doesn’t mean you always take action on the request or that you say yes to everyone, but it does ensure that the person hears back from you.
Responsiveness is a form of care and competence.
If you know your answer is no, let the person know, graciously, right away. That is appreciated more than leaving them hanging and wondering.
If you intend a yes, but it will take time to get to it, let the person know.
The practical point is, whatever you can actually respond to and take care of quickly, do it.
7) They collaborate with others.
Leadership as a solo practice is ineffective at best. We’ve known that for a long time.
Whether you are the senior pastor, department leader, campus pastor, or small group leader, collaboration sparks new and improved ideas, better solutions, and more substantial progress.
The best leaders consistently collaborate with other leaders, and their rule is “the best idea wins.”
The best idea should always win over who is higher on the org chart.
8) They work hard.
The best leaders I know all have a strong work ethic.
They never shy away from giving 100%
Working hard should never be allowed to drift to workaholism, but the best leaders possess an identifiable inner drive.
If your work ethic comes from passion, a love for people, and a sense of responsibility, rather than performance or insecurity, you are much more likely to maintain healthy and productive work rhythms.
9) They develop leaders.
Being personally mentored by John Maxwell for twenty years while on staff together and informally ever since then, I’ll admit my bias toward developing leaders.
But, honestly, I can say that the best leaders I know develop other leaders.
Developing leaders is a little like prayer in that it’s hard to do it wrong. It can always be done better, but if you invest energy into raising up leaders, it’s nearly guaranteed to produce significant Kingdom impact.
Whether you develop one leader, dozens, or hundreds, that investment is among the best you’ll ever make.
10) They communicate clearly.
It’s impossible to lead well if you don’t communicate consistently, clearly, and concisely.
I admire leaders who can do all three well. Decades in, I’m still working on this area. Sometimes my communication is not as concise as it could be, which can inevitably make it unclear.
How about you?
When you talk with your leaders, do they know exactly what you mean, sense your heart, and know what you expect?
That’s not easy to do. It takes tremendous effort, energy, and focus, but it is absolutely necessary to lead effectively.
I hope this helps you and the leaders you develop!