Note: The following is an excerpt from Dan Reiland’s book, Amplified Leadership. Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., and the former executive pastor at Skyline Church in San Diego, Calif. His passion is developing and empowering leaders who want to grow and who are willing to take risks to do so.
Friends are a blessing. You never know what will come from each relationship you begin. One of the many blessings of my relationship with John C. Maxwell was the privilege of helping him write a little book titled The Treasure of a Friend. Consider this definition of friendship John and I shared in that book: Friendship is based on what it gives, not what it gets.
Friendship stays alive by serving the other, not seeking to be served. Friendship is motivated by love, not debt. Friendship is willing to sacrifice without seeing or expecting a return. It doesn’t make sense, but the more it gives up the stronger it gets.
This is the core from which ministry leaders should approach establishing new relationships. Our priority should be what we give, not what we get. I know that as ministry leaders, we are about the mission of advancing the kingdom of God. We want to see the church flourish. We are willing to trade our lives for the Great Commission, which commands us to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).
We are fired up about accomplishing God’s purpose, no matter what it takes. But people don’t exist to help us accomplish the mission; they are the mission. They are souls who must be treated with dignity and respect. Our leadership will rise to a new level when we genuinely see others as people we care about rather than as more work.
Leaders, motivated by love, are called to serve others. Good leaders desire to see the people they serve grow in their walk with Christ, and they want as many as possible to become leaders themselves. Yet loving leaders serve without strings attached. They know that not everyone they build relationships with will become leaders.
This was the case with Jesus. When He walked the earth, Jesus served His friends without expecting anything in return (though on a divine level He desired their obedience and devotion). Yet when He chose twelve disciples from among His friends, He expected much of them because they were called to become leaders and serve as He did.
Although I know some pretty discerning leaders, most of us won’t know who has leadership potential until we’ve spent time getting to know them and observing them in action. This is why relationship is so critical to the leadership development process. It is more than a first step; it is the foundation.
If you’re serious about increasing and expanding your leadership, you have to take the initiative to form new relationships. You can’t sit back and wait for people to come to you. Regardless of your personality type, temperament, or energy level, it is up to you as a leader to make the first move.
Don’t hold back. Pick up the phone and create a time and place for new relationships to blossom. And by all means, don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s easy to size people up before we get to know them. Resist that temptation and take a risk. Get to know people you might not normally engage with. More than likely, you’ll be surprised by what you find.
I know that dozens, if not hundreds, of people cross your path every week, and you’re probably wondering how you can know which ones to engage with. There’s a very simple key. When we get up every morning, we must ask the Holy Spirit to prompt relational connections that bring God glory, advance the kingdom, and provide a platform for encouragement. We must trust the Holy Spirit to make divine appointments for us and select the people we build relationships with.
This practice in tandem with having a strategic plan to invest time with the right people will deliver strong results. Just as trust is key in our relationship with God, it is also central to leadership and nurturing significant relationships.
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