Contentment is essential

Very few of us have been prepared to lead well. A couple of us might have been mentored by a strong leader. Most of us landed the role because someone else thought we had proven ourselves talented in some capacity, which translated into our ability to lead others, but talent is rarely enough. How many professional athletes go on to become successful professional coaches? I've watched too many young, talented people rise to a leadership position only to wear down after three or four years. One might assume that they burn out because of the responsibilities of their role. Or, maybe, because they don't have a strong leader alongside of them coaching and encouraging them...

But here's the reality of the situation:

No really, here's the situation...

Our contentment in our personal lives is directly correlated to how long we remain in and succeed at our leadership position. I was reading through Philippians yesterday morning and was challenged by Paul's contentment in very difficult situations. So many professional athletes or celebrities will display Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through him who gives me strength." However, we can't gloss over the entire chapter or we miss a key leadership principle.

If we are not involved in something that requires more than our talent and abilities, than contentment can be fleeting. Paul's not saying, "I am talented and gifted, therefore my success in this will make me happy and content." Contentment is never a side effect of success. We find contentment when we recognize that we've been called into something greater than ourselves. Therefore, we work at lessening our need for anything material and invest ourselves into the mission we are passionate about.

Here's a list of leadership killing thoughts:

1. I deserve a title

2. I deserve a financial reward

3. I deserve recognition

4. I deserve respect

5. I more talented than ____________

6. I work hard, so I deserve ____________

7. I should of been asked to be on that team to work on that project.

I know these are thoughts that kill leadership, because I've said them all and have felt the emotions that come along with them.

I will also say this, if you want to create a community that develops leaders you'll do the following:

1. Give people titles

2. Pay people what they are worth

3. Give recognition

4. Give people respect

5. Tell people what talents they have

6. Verbally appreciate hard work

7. Take risks on people

If you are tempted to think it is hypocritical to do these things for those you lead but not expect it from those who lead you, you're confusing hypocritical with sacrificial.

You're a failure.

Those words are hard to read, aren't they?  A challenge of leadership is that it requires failing.  How comfortable are you with failing?  How do you react when people you lead fail?  Can you watch someone else fail and feel okay with it? [youtube KPqOQnpragc]

When it comes to leading, especially when you are trying to do something new, failing is essential.  That's right, I said it's essential.  Failure is a sure sign that you are working towards something, towards change.  "Where there's smoke, there's fire," ever heard that saying?

Let's use some imagery. I love my chimney starter for my charcoal barbecue grill.  If I want a glowing, white-hot fire I drop the charcoal into the tube, light some newspaper on fire underneath the tube, and twenty minutes later I have a tube full of coals on fire.

We want our ideas, events, and people to become white-hot and make huge differences.  Our failures create smoke as we work to create something new, and even though what we want is fire, smoke means that there's still heat present. Heat only ceases to exist when we stop trying altogether (yes, this means when we stop failing, too).  As long as you keep at it, something or someone else is going to catch on to what you are trying to do...and then another...and another.  If you keep these people close, adding others along the way, you will have a community that's white-hot with your idea or vision.  Is the risk of failing publicly keeping you from creating?  If your answer is yes, then you will never create anything with enough heat to catch fire and spread.