Dan-Reiland-headshotThis might be nerdy, but I’m going to tell you anyway. When I was a kid, sometime in elementary school, I was given a huge paint-by-numbers kit, and I loved it. I told you it’s nerdy. It was big. My memory says the picture was about two feet by three feet.

That’s a lot of paint by numbers. The picture was of the Last Supper, and it contained intricate detail.

I painted for weeks and then quit. Picked it up and painted months later. It took about a year to finish.

Here’s what I noticed: I enjoyed painting by numbers, but as I gained confidence, I began to mix the colors and paint my own colors and even went outside the lines. It was no da Vinci masterpiece, but it was pretty cool. I’m not sure what brought that to mind lately, but as I think about leadership, it rings true.

Leadership isn’t paint by numbers. At some point, you have to choose your own colors.

Most of us start out as leaders being coached and guided by one who is more skilled with a leadership paintbrush. Nearly everything they touch seems to turn out beautiful. They show us how to mix the colors and how to choose the right colors and usually keep us inside the lines.

But in time, when you as a leader gain confidence, it’s time to choose your own colors. You take a risk. It might not turn out like you expected, but that’s how you learn.

Leaders see the picture of the preferred future, and there is never just one way to get there. It’s never a certain set of numbers and pre-prescribed lines. In fact, leadership is far more art than science.

Ask God to give you a clear picture of that vision. You might be leading a small group or an entire church. What do you want that to look like? And please, don’t start painting if you don’t see the picture. That always becomes a mess.

This is one of the reasons I love leadership. It’s not by the book. It is artwork, and the tapestry of your efforts, for good or not so good, will be evident for all to see. If one of your paintings doesn’t turn out so well, paint another. Don’t quit. Not every painting is a masterpiece. It’s more like a collection of works that, over time, reveal the artist’s developing skill. Some paintings never know their true value until years later.

You have decisions to make and risks to take. You have people to influence and things you need to make happen. Leadership is artwork. Keep mixing the colors, keep the picture clearly in mind, and, on occasion, go outside the lines.

Dan Reiland is executive pastor of 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., listed in Outreach magazine as the No. 1 fastest-growing church in America in 2010. He has worked closely with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY. His semi-monthly e-newsletter, The Pastor’s Coach, is distributed to more than 40,000 subscribers. Dan is the author of Amplified Leadership, released in January 2012.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

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