Updated: Nov 18, 2019
You’d have to have been somewhere off grid and out of cell phone signal and Wi-Fi range for the last year not to have noticed that there’s an election about to take place in the good ole US of A. Observing the procedure from the comparative safety of my home in Australia, I’ve been absolutely stunned at times by who is voting for whom. It is clear that this election, with all its bizarre and astonishing twists and turns, is key to the way forward for the US, and subsequently the world, because one thing is certain, we become like who we follow. The new POTUS will be the architect of a culture that will develop for at least the next four years.
Leaders set the culture, or at least that’s what they’re supposed to do. To phrase that more specifically, effective leaders always set the culture of the entity they lead. (I’m choosing my words carefully here because the word ‘effective’ is not necessarily synonymous with the word ‘good’ – Hitler was a very effective leader.)
That’s wonderful or terrifying, depending on whether your effective leader desires good for the people they lead, or good for themselves. Our world, both now and historically, has often had as much difficulty with the culture of the leaders they have chosen as they have with those who have been thrust upon them.
You can tell what a leader is like by observing the culture of their tribe. This is true of organisations, churches, nations, clubs, educational institutions, families, whatever. You can also tell if the leadership is poor, because when the leader isn’t setting the culture, there are plenty of eager players who are willing to set it for her or him, and generally a culture set by someone without the authority to service that culture presents far more problems than it solves. Within a short time of beginning a new job, or joining a new church or club, or emigrating to another nation, you will become aware of the culture of that place. In so doing you’ll quickly gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of the leader, according to the culture you see thriving under them.
Whether the group is hardworking, generous, rigid and legalistic, easy going, boastful, accepting, lascivious, misogynistic, kind, untruthful, bullying, transparent, harsh, lazy or any other adjective you may relate to, someone (who may or may not have the leadership title but who certainly has the greatest influence) has set that culture in place and the followers are adapting to and accommodating it.
So what does that mean for anyone who leads?
Whether you are conscious of this or not, you are the architect of the culture your sphere of responsibility is exhibiting.
Selah! There’s a scary thought right there.
Companies can be soulless or compassionate. Families might be encouraging or disempowering. Nations may be great or corrupt. Schools can turn out creative and inspired individuals, or demotivated, disinterested graduates whose greatest focus is on their own good rather than the good of their society. Churches may be generous and life-giving, or live by a rule book thick enough to use as their pulpit, their coldness causing the bones of even the most hardy soul to feel the chill.
The weight of responsibility on the leader of any group, be it large or small, to direct the character and ethos of that group, is very real and long lasting. Its capacity to stretch into the future and empower or disempower the next generation is not to be taken lightly.
So how do leaders determine what culture they are creating? There are a lot of different ways. The first one is to do your own self check. Be honest with yourself. Look at the culture in your area of responsibility and do some serious thinking about whether what you have is what you want.
Try getting together with one or two other leaders you really trust and ask them to address some of the concerns you have about your sphere of leadership. Again, be honest, to yourself first and also to them. Give them room to speak honestly to you too. Some of the most potentially impacting opportunities for growth can be railroaded by their fear of your reaction. Don’t give them reason to worry about how you’ll react. Be mature in your listening; that’s how you’ll grow. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but hearing what they have to say will help you get clarity on what sort of leader you want to be. The main thing here is not to score points but to develop your ability to lead so it’s even better.
Many leaders find it helpful to invest financially into the development and finessing of their skill set. They consult with leadership mentors and coaches on a regular basis in order to increase their capacity to lead well. Good leadership coaches can be found quite easily. Ask your friends who they can recommend. The great thing about modern technology is that you can meet up with a leadership mentor on Skype calls and webinars quite easily although doing so requires a shift in our thinking. For some bizarre reason, even though we see our need for regular visits to the hairdresser or dentist, we don’t carry that over into grasping our need for help in developing our leadership call. This is another one of those times when two heads are better than one.
It’s not enough to have a right motivation and a heart that cares. We impart who we are, not what we say. If you’ve got great vision but are fearful of taking risks, it’s the fear you will impart to your people, rather than the vision. If you want to delegate but keep holding back because you’re afraid that people won’t do the job as well as you do, that’s what you’ll impart.
Let’s take our assignment to lead seriously. Have some chats with God about it; He has a vested interest in you doing a good job as a leader. Have some good, transparent talks with yourself, your friends, your mentors, or professionals in your sphere. The world needs good and effective leaders. Such people change communities, organisations, businesses, even nations. Who knows? You might be one of them.
I’d love to hear your views. Let me know what you think on this very important issues… and don’t forget to share this post to your circle of influence.