Even though the Holy Spirit speaks expressly, sometimes it takes us a minute to figure out what He is saying to us. That’s what happened to me when the Holy Spirit started talking with me about creating a leadership culture in our ministry. At that time, all I knew was we didn’t have enough leaders. The few we did have were overworked and on the verge of burn out.
See, up until that time we weren’t focused on training leaders. We were focused on blessing believers. The transition into apostolic ministry began to challenge our perspective and cause us to take a hard look at our ability to equip people and raise up leaders. But the more we examined our capability to train leaders the more dismal the testimony. We were failing miserably.
We were good at blessing people but we were doing a poor job at raising them up to do anything. We were stuck just having “good church.” As a result, our environment was full of followers and servants, but few leaders. As you study leadership you will discover the difference: followers watch you and servants help you – but it’s leaders who get things done.
LEADERSHIP TRAINING ENVIRONMENT: Shortly after this encounter with the Holy Spirit I started to read as many leadership books as I could find. Creating a leadership culture meant that I had to become a better leader myself and place an importance on leadership training throughout our ministry. After formulating a leadership training environment we began to learn the language of leadership, discover the value of self-development, and, over time, leadership dynamics kicked in and we began to think and act like leaders.
LEADERSHIP CULTURE: Creating a leadership culture doesn’t happen overnight. You may find it interesting to know that I asked the Lord how long it would take to create a leadership culture in our ministry and He said, “Ten years.” Wow! So in our case, anyway, we have a long-term strategy to implement a leadership culture. So far it’s only been four years. We have a long way to go but at least we’re moving in the right direction – and we’ve made noticeable progress.
LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE: You have probably heard it said that leadership is influence. But how much influence as a leader do you really have? During a recent workshop in our ministry entitled “Developing the Leaders around You” based on John Maxwell’s book by the same name, I asked those in training, “Why do you follow your leader?” Their answers were extremely interesting and quite revealing. We learned that those who attend your church or place of work respond to you different on different levels. We could say that you have various limits to your leadership influence. With that in mind, let’s review eight levels of influence that we discovered in our leadership training session.
LEVEL 1: A TITLE OR POSITIONLevel one is the lowest level of leadership influence. When people first come to your church or workplace they will follow you a certain distance because you are the leader (or the boss). Yet that level of influence is limited. Let me give you an example. One particular Sunday morning during the worship service everybody sang the same songs, prayed together and listened to the same sermon with a hearty amen. Afterward, when I asked them to help fund a project that fed orphaned children in Nicaragua, some gave and others left the building without even considering the appeal for help. What was the difference? People respond to their leaders based on varying levels of influence. It’s naïve to think that everybody will respond to you just because you have a title or position.
LEVEL 2: A WINNING TRACK RECORDThe second level of leadership influence is based on a reputation for getting results. At this level people will follow you because it benefits them personally. Everybody loves a winner, and since you have a good track record of success as a leader this group will follow you as long as they are getting something out of it.
Do you remember the old E. F. Hutton television commercials? E.F. Hutton was a brokerage firm with a winning track record. One day an E.F. Hutton broker was dining with a client in a crowded restaurant. During the course of dinner the broker was about to tell his guest what E.F. Hutton thought about a particular subject. When he did, the restaurant suddenly got real quiet and people leaned over to hear what E. F. Hutton had to say. Level 2 influence is directly related to your winning track record. People will follow you because you’re a winner.
LEVEL 3: DISCOVER THE LEADER’S HEARTIn the third level of leadership influence, the people discover something about you that causes them to follow. In our leadership class this discovery seemed to be the tipping point toward commitment for the majority of respondents. This was where the real influence began. When they saw my heart they gave me permission to lead them in a different capacity. People want to follow a leader that really believes in what he or she is doing. When people discover your heart they will follow you to another level. The way people discover the heart of their leader is through their leader’s passion and compassion.
Passion and compassion are deep core traits that all great leaders possess. It’s their reason for doing what they are doing.
To discover a leader’s innermost motivation all you have to do is touch their passion. One day Jesus entered the temple courtyard on His way to pray. He was taken back by all the moneychangers and the merchandisers that filled the courts. He reacted to their presence by taking the time to prepare a whip, which he later used to beat the merchandisers as he turned over their tables and drove them out of the temple. He said, “My Father’s house shall be called a house of prayer but you have made it a den of thieves.” When His passion was touched He responded. Those who followed Him after that day did so at a different level because they saw His heart for God’s house. There were many other times that Jesus revealed His heart to His disciples, like the time He was moved with compassion on the multitudes because they were sheep having no Shepherd. The third level of leadership influence is directly related to and activated when people see their leader’s heart.
LEVEL 4: BELIEVES IN MEPeople always move toward a leader’s expectation of them. The fourth level of leadership is the empowerment level. This is where the follower really feels that their leader believes in them. This is also the level where a working trust is built between the leader and the follower. At this level the leader sees something in the follower that the follower had never seen in his or her self. Faith in those working on your team unlocks identity and discovery of purpose. When a person begins to discover their own identity they are ready to move to the next level because people learn the most when they are ready to be taught.
Don’t forget that people are worth investing in. You invest in them by leading with vision, spending time with them, adding value to them by sowing resources into their lives, and empowering them with opportunities to perform. Look for that particular gift that’s in them and draw it out.
LEVEL 5: CARES ABOUT METhe fifth level of leadership influence is when people know that their leader really cares about them. At this level solid trust and confidence is gained toward the leader. Sometimes I think people forget that the ministry is about people. It’s so easy to get caught up in ministry activity and “stuff” and forget that the only thing you really have is people and they are your ministry’s most valuable assets.
God has placed inside of every person a particular gift that just needs a little encouragement. Anybody can see people as they are, but great leaders see what people can become. People always respond to a leader that really has their best interest at heart. If the apostolic revolution has taught us anything then it’s a view of people as spiritual sons and daughters worth investing in.
LEVEL 6: A CHANGED LIFEThe sixth level of leadership influence is reached when a person’s life has really been changed. Leadership involves helping others move toward a common goal. Let’s face it, your success as a leader depends on your ability to help – truly help – those around you become all that God wants them to be. You will never be more successful than those closest to you. As those around you achieve their goals and rise, so will you. It’s when a person’s life is better off because of their leader that Level Six Influence is reached. Ask yourself this question, “Has your life been changed for the better because of your association with your leader?”
LEVEL 7: CONNECTED DESTINIESThe seventh level of leadership influence is when the follower recognizes that his or her destiny is somehow divinely connected with the leader. There would never have been an Elisha without an Elijah, a Paul without a Barnabas, or a Joshua without a Moses. What would Timothy’s life have been like without the Apostle Paul? Leadership influence increases when people see that a certain measure of their destiny resides inside somebody else. The pattern for connected destinies is found throughout the Bible. Elisha wanted a double portion of Elijah’s anointing. Elijah said if you see me go up then you can have it. His destiny was inside the life of Elijah.
LEVEL 8: SHARED VISION
The eighth level of leadership influence is the highest of all. It’s the level where the leader’s vision becomes the follower’s vision. No longer is the person following a person, but has taken full ownership of the vision. No longer is this person a follower, but is a co-laborer. Leader and follower now have the same heart and are working together for the same cause. Level eight influence was required for the disciples of old to lay down their lives for Christ.
What level are you at with your leader? I believe leaders should pray for their followers and followers should pray for their leaders as they travel up the path of influence. Ultimately, the highest levels of leadership boil down to relationship. Without relationship, leadership seems to some like rules and regulations. With relationship, it becomes personal enough for a group of leaders and followers to make a major impact…together.
These eight levels of leadership influence offer a tremendous advantage to the wise leader who really knows those he leads. With this information you can help people move up off those stagnated levels of complacency and achieve new heights of significance. And in helping them you create that classical win-win situation.
If you are a follower these eight levels of leadership influence help you identify where you are right now. Are you following your leader because he or she is a winner? Perhaps you are following because you have seen your leader’s heart. Or maybe the Holy Spirit has revealed to you that part of your destiny is in your leader. Regardless of your current level, the highest level of all is the ownership of vision. The highest motivation of all is a cause that’s greater than all else. Take a moment and identify the level you’re at right now.