Charles Hewlett has been thinking about the effective leaders he has had the opportunity to work alongside. He believes that these leaders make a number of similar choices when it comes to how they practise. Here he shares five of these choices.
1. Character or ability
The good leaders I know seem to focus more on character than ability.
Carey Baptist College has a leadership training framework designed around four words: knowing, doing, being and feeling. When I was principal there, I would often say to students, “What you know and can do might get you a job, but your being and your feeling will keep you in it.” And I was around long enough in that role to see this to be true in my graduates.
I love Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:2 (NIV): “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” This is not the description of a weak person but rather someone who is extremely strong. As a leader I find this challenge inspiring. Oh, don’t get me wrong—we need ability to lead, but we must appreciate that in the long run greater influence will come out of fruit of the Spirit character.
2. Teachable or unteachable
The effective leaders I know are open to learning from others—proactively giving mentors permission to speak honest feedback and critique into their lives! Oh, they have convictions, but they realise they will not always get it right. It’s not difficult for such leaders to admit when they get things wrong. They don’t waste time justifying their thinking and actions. In fact, they feel quite comfortable both in seeking help and in changing their minds.
The book of Proverbs is the best apologetic I know for lifelong learning! Verse after verse encourages us to put aside our pride and to be open to learning from others. Here are just three:
Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances. (11:14, The Message)
Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel. (13:10, The Message)
If you quit listening, dear child, and strike off on your own, you’ll soon be out of your depth. (19:27, The Message)
3. Gratitude or ingratitude
Another thing I have noticed is that effective leaders seem to be marked out by a spirit of appreciation and thankfulness. Rather than being marked out by negativity, criticism and disappointment, they choose to be enthusiastic, positive and satisfied. There’s no preoccupation with ‘if only’ or ‘what if’. Philippians 4:8 reads, “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (NLT). This is the leader I want to be around!
4. Self-aware or unaware
From my experience of training this is probably the option that I have seen aspiring leaders trip up on the most. And it’s probably the choice that limits us existing leaders the most too. The Oxford English Dictionary defines self‑awareness as “conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires.”
People who lack self-awareness struggle to appreciate how other people perceive and experience them. They often have an incorrect understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses, particularly how they compare to other people. They don’t seem to appreciate how personal experiences have shaped them and that nobody can claim to be neutral from this. Often I would find these things would be wrapped up in an unhealthy stubbornness and overconfidence. I think such leaders can be very destructive.
5. Solution side or problem side
The effective leaders I have watched over the years choose to get on the solution side very quickly.
A few years ago my son James had major leg surgery. One of his legs was in plaster from toe to groin. A couple of days after surgery the doctor came into the hospital room and told us it would be good for James to begin to be wheeled around the ward. As a result, a wheelchair was delivered for him to use. It had a special leg rest to keep his leg elevated, which was great.
However, there was a problem! To our surprise there was no belt to strap him in or restraints to hold his leg. Although James is an adult, he has the intellectual capability of a baby. He would probably fall out of the chair or try to get out, or his leg would drop off the leg rest and get badly damaged.
We talked with two different health professionals on what to do about our dilemma. The first explained to us that nothing could be done. It was against the rules to restrain a patient and that this would just have to do. There was no ability to collaborate with us on finding a creative solution. Her mind was fixed.
The second person carefully listened to us explain why it was unsafe for our son to be in such a wheelchair. She completely understood the issues and agreed with us. She had an idea, left the room, and returned armed with Velcro tape and cushioning. She creatively fashioned a lap belt for James and some leg restraints. The problem was solved. James was safe, able to sit up and enjoy a change of scenery.
I love leaders who actively work to find solutions to problems. People who don’t just make excuses and focus on what could possibly go wrong, but rather people who see the problems as opportunities and are quick to get on the solution side.
It is my prayer that Baptist leaders would be known for having good character, being teachable, full of gratitude, self-aware, and always quick to get on the solution side.
Story: Charles Hewlett
Charles is the national leader of the Baptist Churches of New Zealand. He is often heard saying, “I love Jesus. I love the Bible. I love the gospel. I love the church. And I love mission.”
Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.