5 Things That Improve My Leadership

As a leader, do you sometimes assume too much? Do you undercommunicate?
As a leader, do you sometimes assume too much? Do you undercommunicate? (iStock photo )

I think one of the easiest things to do in life is to coast. In fact, there are many days in my life when coasting is my preference. I confess that I can be inherently lazy.

Yet, the competitive spirit in me simply won't let me settle. One day I'll end this race. I want to end it well. So when coasting seems like the preferred pastime, I have to ask myself some hard questions. Typically, my trend toward coasting is because I'm avoiding something difficult—something that will stretch me.

Those are hard looks in the mirror. But critical looks are necessary if my desire is to grow.

I've led in and out of a variety of seasons in ministry over the past 15 years. I've learned a few things about myself that I've had to work hard to refine. In the past 12 months, here are five things I've taken a deeper look at in my life and what I can do to make them better:

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1. I'm a classic ENFP. I am typically a great starter but poor finisher. I get so excited on the front end of a project, but I reach a point when the project is as complete as I'm willing to make it. I have to hand it off. Tinkering is not my gift.

2. I'm a creative with highly undisciplined rhythms. I read the term "procrastiworking" once and fell in love. It's so true. I tend to stiff-arm structure. I have the tendency to think structure will restrict the freedom to create.

3. I assume too much. I think others see what I see and know what I know therefore they arrive at the same conclusion to which I arrive. No sense in me repeating what's already running through their mind.

4. I under-communicate. I leave too much room for others to interpret my intentions. Most of the time I devalue my input in a situation. I figure enough people are speaking into it and that person (or group) doesn't need to hear from me. Not too dissimilar to problem No. 4, I assume my voice holds less value than it does.

5. I'm a hungry learner. Though a really good trait, I can consume more information than I can apply. Much of the time my intake far exceeds my output. If not filtered well, I can overwhelm myself with all that I want to begin, revamp or toss out.

You may not identify with all of these, but likely one or two resonate. There are a few things I've learned (and re-learned and re-learned and re-learned) that help avoid the pitfalls that come with these tendencies:

Learn to finish! There are times when I need to swing through to ensure a project has reached the point of completion, no matter how painful it might be. But surprisingly, those projects are few and far between. My role as a leader is far less in the minutia. And that's good, considering that is not where I add the greatest value.

There are people around me whose minds work in the details brilliantly. I don't need to muddy those waters. However, in the rare times that I do, I can't afford to slough off the responsibility with the all-too-easy response, "It's just not my strength." Sometimes we just have to put our heads down and power through. The satisfaction on the other side is worth it.

Structure works! The hardest lesson for me to learn is to value structure. I can't depend on inspiration to dictate creative flow. Structure actually creates greater opportunity for creativity. Assigning myself writing time, building time into my calendar to tackle big projects and creating space where I plan to be creative seems counter-intuitive. But I simply cannot deny structure creates the framework for creative production.

Stop assuming! My dad taught me the definition of assume a long time ago. I have to watch for moments when I assume more than I should. Doing so has helped me clarify more so my actions are based upon facts, not incomplete information. This alone has made a huge difference in my leadership.

Communicate more! There is no such thing as overcommunicating. That's an oxymoron. Much like assuming, the moments I'm most proud of are the times I choose to check in more frequently, text when it's on my mind or make a follow-up phone call just to make sure we're all on the same page. For someone who could never be accused of micro-managing, this makes me better.

Pace is everything! My tendency to consume paired with a high-sense of urgency can create an unhealthy drive that isn't sustainable. Not only will I struggle to keep up, but it provokes me to run farther ahead than anyone can follow. I end up leaving my team far behind and yet wonder why no one is keeping pace.

It's critical that I learn to manage my seasons well and give myself permission to not apply everything I'm learning right now. In fact, I'm better when I prioritize and focus on fewer changes over longer periods of time. The result is sustainable shifts hard-wired in that don't fly off the moment your ministry picks up the pace.

Time has played a major factor in learning these things about myself. The knowledge of them has been around for a long time. But the willingness and tools needed to address them hasn't always been there. That comes over time.

What are some pitfalls you encounter in your leadership? What have you done to mitigate their impact?

Gina McClain is a speaker, writer and children's ministry director at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. For the original article, visit ginamcclain.com.

For the original article, visit ginamclain.com.

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