I'll never forget my first public speech.
It was the summer of 1971. I was 12 years old. The Little League Baseball season was over, and it was time for the awards banquet. The morning of our team banquet, my dad (who was also our team coach) asked me to give a brief after-dinner speech on behalf of the team. I was so terrified, I hardly ate that night.
My speech contained exactly eight words and lasted less than five seconds. I had planned to say more than eight words, but I froze.
Here's what I said: "I just want to thank the coaches, and ..."
As soon as I uttered the word "and," my brain quit functioning. I could not remember what I was supposed to say next, so I stood there and said nothing. As this long, awkward silence engulfed the room and the whole Little League season, I wanted to disappear. But that didn't happen, so I eventually sat down, and made an inward vow to never speak in public again.
But God's leadership call on my life required that I break my childhood vow of silence.
Leaders, no matter where they are on the leadership journey, must continually grow. They need to grow in their understanding of their calling. They need to grow in their compassion for others. And they need to grow in their communication skills.
If you have a heart to lead (meaning calling and compassion), you must be committed to continually upgrading your communication. This includes teaching, preaching, writing, blogging and even tweeting.
Because leaders cannot lead by example only. They must communicate vision and mission to their team and those who are following them. No matter who or where you're called to lead, your leadership calling will require that your communication skills constantly grow. The communication skills required to lead a new church plant are not the same as those required to lead a large multi-site church. And the communication skills required to lead a small department are not the same as those required to lead a large organization.
It's obvious from the embarrassing story above that I possess no natural public-speaking talent. I'm more of a natural-born listener and observer. For me, learning to speak in public required a lot of hard work and a lot of practice. I knew this area of my life needed to develop if I was to be the leader God called me to be, so I did everything in my ability to grow and become a better communicator. After 35 years as a pastor, teacher and writer, I'm still learning and changing, and hopefully getting better.
Whether you're a seasoned preacher and teacher or an emerging leader who has a secret vow of silence, never stop growing in this area. Never stop stretching. Leadership requires good communication, so we, as leaders, need to grow as communicators.
NOTE: This blog was adapted from my new book, The Multiplication Challenge. For more discussion on leadership and service, check out Chapter 4, entitled, "How to Grow Like a Leader."
Steve Murrell serves as the president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a ministry that does church planting and campus ministry in over 70 nations.
This article originally appeared at stevemurrell.com.
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