Learning to Lead Starts With This Humble Position

With Y2K projected as the calendar turned to the year 2000, it felt like the world was about to stop spinning. At the time, I was an intern at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Georgia. For three years prior, I had been introduced to two principles that would become the foundation for my career and calling.

First, I experienced the power of the Holy Spirit. As a result, I realized I had access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead—His Spirit lived in me!

Second, I began to realize the power of intentional leadership. Although I had always been a leader, this was the season I started to grasp how my leadership affects others.

The combination of my newfound desire to lead well and the guidance of the Holy Spirit would set the course for the next 20 years of my life.

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Receive Life Through the Spirit

We have to receive life from Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to give life to those around us.

In my life, my family is a constant reminder of why leadership matters. I've been married for 17 years and have two sons, and my family is my first priority in ministry. But on Mother's Day, I watched as my kids' moods dictated how our day went. I've observed that families can have the most well-intentioned plans, but unless everyone is on the same page and in a good mood, those plans might never happen.

Can moods really impact other people like that? Yes, they can. It's called influence. One family member's influence can affect the family as a whole, for better or for worse.

If there is someone in your life who continually affects the outcome of your day, they have influence. Do you have a boss or co-worker who dampens the spirit of the office quicker than it takes ice to melt in a Georgia summer? It's a sign of their leadership.

Author, coach and speaker John Maxwell says, "Leadership is influence." I'd like to take it a step further and say, "Leadership is how you steward your influence." You have influence with multiple people.

Take a second to think of a few people you are able to influence at home, work or church. Now think of a few people who have influence on your life. This may be your spouse, parents, boss or colleagues.

Do those who have influence with you bring life to you or take it from you? Which way is life flowing in the relationship? More than likely, all of us can recall a memory of someone who has taken life from us because they've led poorly. For some, it may be harder to think of someone who has intentionally given life to us.

Life-giving is certainly more attractive, so why aren't we all living that way? I believe there are three reasons why people aren't life-giving leaders:

It's harder and requires more from you.

You don't embrace the idea that you're a leader.

You haven't embraced your unique, God-given self.

We each have to make a choice to be life-giving to the people around us. That rarely, if ever, happens by accident.

Influence starts small, but it starts somewhere. Recently, I saw a picture of Hillsong Pastor Brian Houston sitting in a seat overlooking the city of Los Angeles. He shared how 30 years ago he sat in that very seat as God spoke to him. God told him he would have influence, not just in LA, but across the entire United States. At the time, he had none. Houston chose to believe and founded Hillsong with his wife, Bobbie. After getting to know Pastor Brian in the past few years, I have no question he and Bobbie built Hillsong through great preaching and worship, but I would submit the reason for their success was deeper than that. They chose to let life flow from them and provided unbelievable leadership to their team. That intentionality when they were first starting out, combined with God's grace and guidance, has spread immeasurable influence all over the world. You never know how the choice you make today could impact people tomorrow.

What you choose to do with the influence you have will either create life-flow or stale, stagnant swamps for those around you. When water doesn't flow, it restricts life. When life flows, influence grows.

Are there any areas of your life stalling this flow? Maybe you once had relationships that are now nonexistent because of bitterness in your heart. At work, are you allowing your moods or circumstances to create environments where life isn't flowing?

Lead Through Your Unique Design

In 2009, author and speaker Bronnie Ware wrote an article about the regrets mentioned by men and women as their time on earth was coming to an end. She would sit alongside people as they reflected on their lives and prepared for the inevitable.

When I read her article, I was shocked and overwhelmed by the most prominent regret. I would've put money on the fact that the second-most frequently mentioned regret—that the person worked too hard—would have claimed the top spot. But that was not the case.

Here is the top regret, as Ware describes it: "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."

I wasn't my truest self.

Oftentimes we let our environments and circumstances become our identity. We lose ourselves in the middle of our lives.

The only way we can give life to all those around us is to have life to give, to be self-accepting. Let's look at this from the perspective of someone who spent their life acting in different ways depending on the situation.

King David had days where he gave life and days where he took life. However, in Psalm 139, he gives us a picture that changes everything for us in this conversation. Listen to David's beautiful reminder of God's design of every person:

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out;

you formed me in my mother's womb.

I thank you, High God—you're breathtaking!

Body and soul, I am marvelously made!

I worship in adoration—what a creation!

You know me inside and out,

you know every bone in my body;

You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,

how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;

all the stages of my life were spread out before you,

The days of my life all prepared

before I'd even lived one day (Ps.139:13-16, MSG).

God formed you. Let that sink in. David wrote, "You shaped me first inside, then out." Do you believe that? When was the last time you didn't like something about your personality? When was the last time you found yourself believing the lies Satan told you about yourself? The enemy wants nothing more than for you to believe God did not shape you "first inside, then out." Satan wants to convince you that you were and are a mistake. He wants you to chase someone else's gifts and talents because yours aren't good enough.

This passage of Scripture might be the most freeing thing you've read in years. It changed my leadership forever. Psalm 139 allowed me to take the moment when I was told I wouldn't be successful because of my personality and use it to become a better person and leader. I realized my calling and purpose could only be fully reached through my uniqueness.

We were made by God for God. I don't believe He would create us in a particular way, then expect us to live and lead another way. Our divine designer molded every one of us with His purposes in mind.

The same David who worshipped God without hindrance is the David who ran from God but then returned to Him. He is the same David who wrote, "All the stages of my life were spread out before you." He is the same David who called on the courage infused into our souls and defeated Goliath. David, the shepherd boy named king, believed God knit him together before he was born with the scope of his life in view.

Each one of us is made uniquely for a unique purpose. Your design and your influence cannot be separated.

There is no question we have to continue growing as leaders. But the core of who we were created to be has to stay connected to our growth. God didn't make a mistake when He didn't give you the talent you covet in someone else. We reject the lie that any of us was designed in error. Instead, we will believe God is the greatest designer of all.

Your Creator created you for something. As my friend Craig Groeschel says, "Maybe you weren't just saved from something, but saved for something!" Your design is connected to that purpose. There's tension when we lead any other way. This is why I lead. I want to ignite in you a deep desire to be the person God made you to be, maybe for the first time this year, this decade or ever.

Before you can be life-giving, you must quit chasing other people's uniqueness. Why does this matter? Very few people walk away from Jesus because of Jesus. Many friends and family members have left the faith because of those of us who represent Jesus.

How you lead, or how you steward your influence, affects others' faith. This is critical to our faith journey. God is raising up men and women who don't see faith and life as separate. What if He is wanting to start a new story for you that involves you choosing to let the Holy Spirit be a part of your day-to-day life—your meetings, lunches, parenting, friendships?

Imagine a world filled with life-giving leaders. Imagine going to work and feeling life instead of dread or misery. Imagine homes where parents and kids are operating in their own unique design. Imagine churches filled with leaders in the marketplace who are giving life to those around them.

Tyler Reagin is president of Catalyst, a leadership development organization that seeks to unify and equip church leaders with resources and experiential events. His first book is The Life-Giving Leader. To connect, go to tylerreagin.com.

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