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In my work as a professional coach, and with the help of others, I’ve learned what makes a successful leader. Many people feel that it has to do with technical and/or strategic skill sets or knowledge. Knowledge is important, but it’s not central. Others believe it is critical thinking skills. That too, is important, but it’s not what I’ve found to be at the core of a great leader.

What is needed in every great leader is for the leader to be “well-defined.” I’ve rarely coached someone who decided that more knowledge or more skill would help them become a successful leader. Instead, what they needed to learn was more about themselves.

A Well-Defined Leader is one who is internally aligned. What they say complements what they do. It looks like this:

1. Their thinking rules over their emotions.

2. They’re a non-anxious presence.

3. They have firm, appropriate boundaries.

4. They have clarity of self and their own goals.

5. They consider self when problems arise.

6. They welcome conflict that is centered on mission.

7. They know their own core values and live them out in actions.

Think of a leader you respect and would love to learn from. They most likely fit the description above. Now think of a leader who struggles, who does not have many followers. They are probably struggling to be well-defined in some or many ways.

Becoming a well-defined leader does not happen overnight. It is a process of growth and maturity. But there are some core steps:

1. Identify and articulate your core values.

2. Identify and articulate your goals.

3. Identify what makes you anxious, and ask yourself why — what is your life story that plays into that anxiety?

4. Identify and articulate the values and goals of the organization you lead within.

As you can see, it begins with learning about self, the good (core values) and what you struggle with (anxieties). Leadership always begins with truly understanding who you are, and what’s important to you. It moves to what your weaknesses may be. Knowing the good and the gaps in you is the core to good leadership. You can always gain knowledge and learn new skills, but even before you do — learn about yourself.

So, if you want to grow in your leadership, take the time to know yourself. That will take you on a journey of self-awareness. Once you are self-aware, you can begin to navigate leadership in more successful ways.

After a career as a pastor, John is now a consultant with TAG Consulting. He specializes in coaching individuals and teams in the process of transformational leadership.

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Ponalo Max Gwate

commented on Apr 30, 2013

I have understood and agree with what you are saying. Indeed if one wants to grow in leadership, one has to know himself.

Keith B

commented on Apr 30, 2013

This is a website for pastors. Yet, not one Bible verse was quoted in that article. We are not men called to be leaders......we are men called to shepherd Gods sheep. There is a difference.

Ronnie Dale Simpson

commented on Apr 30, 2013

Thanks, You are right, leadership starts within.

Brett Lashelle

commented on Apr 30, 2013

This IS a site for pastors, and because it is there was no need for verses. I could read all of his points and verses came to my mind and so i knew there was truth spoken here. If it wasn't a site for pastors, then I agree, more supporting verses would be helpful for others to follow. Good article.

Brett Lashelle

commented on Apr 30, 2013

This IS a site for pastors, and because it is there was no need for verses. I could read all of his points and verses came to my mind and so i knew there was truth spoken here. If it wasn't a site for pastors, then I agree, more supporting verses would be helpful for others to follow. Good article.

Keith B

commented on Apr 30, 2013

I disagree Brett. I could have gotten this kind of stuff out of any lsecular leadership seminar. But shepherding a church is not the same as leading a company.

Paul Hull

commented on Apr 30, 2013

k b, I have to go with Brett on this. Are you sure that your contention is not with your personal evaluation and not with the lack of scripture cited? I don't like self evaluation, but we are certainly called to it. Lamentation 3:40 -- "Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the Lord." or I Corinthians 11:28 -- "But let a man examine himself..." I see my own short comings in John's article and welcome the chance to evaluate. Truth is truth, no matter how uncomfortable it makes me.

Howard A Lindsey

commented on Apr 30, 2013

I like the article and I agree we must learn ourselves before we can lead anyone else

Howard A Lindsey

commented on Apr 30, 2013

I like the article and I agree we must learn ourselves before we can lead anyone else

Howard A Lindsey

commented on Apr 30, 2013

I like the article and I agree we must learn ourselves before we can lead anyone else

Howard A Lindsey

commented on Apr 30, 2013

I like the article and I agree we must learn ourselves before we can lead anyone else

Keith B

commented on Apr 30, 2013

@Paul -- I disagree with his listing of what a leader is and isn't, with no scripture citation whatsoever. I absolutely agree that we need to examine ourselves--both as Christians, and as Pastors. But the article has no Biblical basis to it.

Mattie Matthews

commented on May 1, 2013

I agree with the article as Gods leaders when we lack understanding of self it will affect how we instruct others. The list serves as a challenge to examine self-Pastors should lead wherever we are in a secular setting or a sanctuary we are called to be examples Pastor Matthews

commented on May 1, 2013

This comment section has shown what it looks like to not be a leader, or be a poor one. Signs of poor leadership: 1. A critical spirit 2. Superiority complex (we vs. them ) 3. Choosing to nit-pick details rather than appreciate valuable insight 4. Not knowing when to be silent 5. Inappropriate use of sarcasm 6. The need to be right also known as 'Pride' 7. Poor use of time 8. Tunnel vision . I noticed that some of the comments were made by people more than once in a day. Is it safe to assume that you spent considerable amounts of time concerned (anxious) about this article? Was that time at work? Are you responding to blogs online instead of focusing on ministry, family or your spiritual walk? Furthermore, who said anything about this article being directed only towards pastors? It even says at the top that it is about 'general leadership'. It is much easier to can hide behind religion than take an honest look at ourselves. Rarely have I seen an effective minister that was not actively seeking to gain the leadership skills that are provided in Scripture but make no mistake leadership is an artform and the secular world has good resources. Have you ever seen a real life Shepard tending his sheep? Its remarkable. Do you know what they do that makes them successful?.... 1. Their thinking rules over their emotions. 2. They?re a non-anxious presence. 3. They have firm, appropriate boundaries. 4. They have clarity of self and their own goals. 5. They consider self when problems arise. 6. They welcome conflict that is centered on mission. 7. They know their own core values and live them out in actions.

John E Miller

commented on May 2, 2013

I agree with KB. If this document was distributed to managers at a company seminar it would have relevance. The Apostle Paul did not go to Jerusalem for coaching. He took no counsel with flesh and blood. He sought out the presence of God in isolation. This is just human wisdom applied to the thing of God. Show me one scripture in the New Testament where anyone is called to be a "great leader". Jesus demonstrated supreme leadership in the display of sublime, down stooping self surrender.

Forrest Krummel

commented on May 2, 2013

Paul was a very defined leader in that he knew his core values, his anxieties, and just did write a out his coaches-spiritual mentors other than to mention was he was well educated in the Jewish faith. Good article.

Bill Williams

commented on May 2, 2013

I think this is a case where both sides make points that are worth making. On the one hand, I agree with KB and John. Biblical leadership, Christian leadership, is fundamentally different from secular leadership, and Jesus clearly warned his disciples (for example in Mark 10) that they were not to practice leadership in the style of the Gentiles. (Although, as an aside, I find it interesting that even those who agree with this statement, few of them have actually stopped to challenge the hierarchical, top-down leadership model of the business world that we naturally translate into the local church, and even read into it the NT!) On the other hand, despite the fundamental differences between secular leadership and Biblical leadership, the two are not completely without any points of contact whatsoever. Insofar as secular leadership follows Biblical principles, it should be affirmed. And just because something isn't in the Bible doesn't mean it has no value, or that there is no truth in it. Consider the apostle Paul preaching at the Areopagus to an audience completely ignorant of the Biblical worldview. He attempted to present that worldview to them, and in doing so quoted their own pagan poets. Although the worldview of these poets was fundamentally different than the Biblical worldview, Paul knew that there were a few points of contact, and he was not above using these points of contact in his ministry. So, my suggestion? Why don't we follow Paul, not just in his example, but also in his teaching when he says, "Test all things. Hold on to the good, let go of the evil." Sure, the article doesn't give any Biblical references. But as I have demonstrated, that doesn't mean it contain no truth whatsoever. Test the article by what Scripture says. If there are principles in the article that affirm the Scripture, hold on to them. If there are principles that contradict the Scripture, let them go. Surely its hard to argue, Biblically, against things like "having a clarity of self and of their own goals." Jesus is a prime example of this. He knew who he was, and what his mission was, as Israel's Messiah. And because of that, he allowed no one else to control his agenda for him. That is an example that is worthy of being followed by all of us who are disciples of Christ.

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