3 Things Every Young Leader Must Learn

Feb 22, 2016

Every year I have the opportunity to get to know and mentor a group of about 12 high school students. It is one of my FAVORITE things on the planet to do! Every time we meet, the students bring a few questions that we talk through as we get to know each other, and I’ve noticed a trend in some of the questions I get over the years. One of the most common questions that gets asked is “what is something that you wish you would have known when you were younger and just getting started as a leader?” Although the following concepts are borrowed from our Family Ministries Pastor, Brad Cooper, I have found them to be true in my experiences as a leader, too!

Be Hungry

Proverbs 4:7 says, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”

If you want to be the best in your field, then you have that opportunity. There are always ways learn, grow and develop as a leader, but in that process you don’t need to make excuses. You need to go figure it out! That takes a special drive that I like to call HUNGER.

Ultimately, as a leader there's no one who can force you to get better except for yourself. YOU are the only person who can make YOU get better.

And… a hungry person doesn’t have to tell anyone that they’re hungry - they show it by their actions.

Think about a baby...Even before my daughter was able to talk we still knew when she was hungry, not because she could tell us, but because her actions told us she was HUNGRY.

Some practical ways that I fight to stay hungry is by reading lots of books and asking lots of questions. Over the years, I’ve learned that if I’m the smartest person in the room, then I’m in the wrong room. I need to constantly surround myself with people who are smarter than I am so that I never stop learning or growing.

Be Humble

Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

When I was in college I worked at a church just a few miles away from my school. When I first started at this church, I had a hard time getting along with some of the Senior Adults. They saw me as this young buck who was coming into “their” church to change everything; I saw them as grumpy old farts who were stuck in their ways.

One day, my pastor told me something had come up in his schedule, and so I was going to have to drive our senior adults SIX HOURS down to the beach for their “senior adult convention.”

Talk about Daniel in the lion’s den!

I told my pastor that this was NOT in my job description, and I didn’t want to do it.

He told me to look at the line that said “other duties as assigned by the Senior Pastor” in my job description, and to drive safely.

So, I did it…. and it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Over time, walls came down and as I got to know these men and women I built some of the greatest friendships with folks I never would have imagined having a relationship with.

That wasn’t the only time the “other duties as assigned by the Senior Pastor” card got pulled regarding things I REALLY didn’t want to do, but I learned so much because of it.

I learned the only way I could become a great leader was to submit to the leadership I was serving under.

I learned that leaders aren’t those who make declarations, but rather those who are willing to serve others.

One of the best ways to lead excellently is to slow down, listen to people, embrace humility and wash some feet...or in my case, drive some seniors on a 6 hour trip.

Be Hardworking

“Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.” -Jim Collins

One of the core values of our staff at NewSpring Church is GRIT…. or the willingness to do whatever it takes.

I’ve found that that one of the quickest ways to know if someone really wants something is to see how hard they’re willing to work for it. You may say you WANT something, but until you’re willing to work for it you don’t really want it.

And, working hard does not mean insane hours at the office, it means intentional hours at the office.

Leaders don’t pray their way to the top of the mountain; they climb and that takes hard work. They embrace the fact that the best ideas are yet to be had, the best products are yet to be developed and the best ways of doing church haven’t even been discovered yet...and they do whatever it takes to get the job done, knowing that there is always more to do.

If you've enjoyed reading this post, I hope you'll love my new leadership book The Most Excellent Way to Lead. You can visit mostexcellentwaytolead.com to order your copy today!