At Catalyst, Chuck Swindoll received the lifetime achievement award and was well recognized by the nearly 13,000 people in attendance. It was a treat to get to hear what this Godly man had to share. First up, he shared the TOP TEN LEADERSHIP LESSONS IN 50 YEARS OF MINISTRY. The 10 lessons are from Chuck but the stuff in between are what I thought of with each lesson (which may or may not correspond with what Chuck shared. I’ve got to admit – when he mentioned each of these lessons my brain and heart were sparked with all kinds of insights…)
1. Its lonely to lead
Yes it is. Why is this the case? Because a true leader will sometimes make decisions that no one else understands but himself. Also, a leader will often, by virtue of leadership, be out in front of those following. Out in front is lonely. However, while this is true – it is also why it is paramount that a leader doesn’t get stuck in his loneliness. Good leaders will find others to grow with. Good leaders will find ways to stave off the loneliness – recognizing that it comes but also staying out the the quicksand of its grip.
2. Its dangerous to succeed
Why? Because success can get to your head and the ego can become like the Hindenburg disaster. Success may also prevent a leader from growing if they let it breed arrogance.
3. Its hardest at home
And so it is. Yet it is also the most important at home. If a leader isn’t leading well at home then eventually that will be mirrored in wherever else they lead. Character may be displayed out in the world but it is nurtured and fed at home.
4. Its essential to be real.
This is a biggie. I really struggle with this one because if I’m honest I don’t want people to know the “real” me! I don’t want people to know my failings, my weaknesses, my disabilities, or my inabilities. Yet, I have found that the more real I am, the more impact I have as a leader. Realness is not just about transparency but it is also about genuineness. Do you love as much as you say you love? Do you really care as much as you claim to care? Are you really passionate about what you say is important? Are you a good faker? Your answers to those questions really indicate how genuine you are.
5. Its painful to obey
Not only is it painful, but its also transforming. There is blessing in obedience – but often, as a leader, the blessing isn’t seen before obeying but rather after. Obedience as a leader is painful because often the leader is being asked to obey in something that other people may not have been asked because the leader must go there first.
6. Brokenness and failure are necessary
Necessary, that is, for the formation of good leaders. Good leaders rise out of the ashes of broken dreams and failed plans because they don’t die there. Good leaders learn and grow from the brokenness, and the failure. Brokenness also applies to the passion which calls a leader to leadership. Brokenness is the adjective that describes one’s heart wrench. It compels the leader to be the agent of change for that which is broken. Read carefully, a leader that isn’t broken or hasn’t failed is just a seed that’s still in the package.
7. My attitude is more important than my actions.
Oh yes. Really, it’s attitude that directs actions. You can go and stick 40 sticks in the ground to replace a bunch of logs that were cut down or you can plant 40 saplings to replenish a forest. It’s attitude that makes the difference. Is what I’m doing a job or a calling?
8. Integrity eclipses image.
This lesson seems a lot like lesson number four but really it deserves being emphasized. Integrity is something that is invested in for the long haul for the prize of character. Image is something that is invested in for the short trip of fame. The thing about image is its like sand. It gets blown away easily. Integrity on the other hand is like rock – it’s solid. However, it’s not indestructible. Without care integrity can be blown up just as easily as dynamite blows up rock. But if you recognize the dynamite before the fuse is lit then it can be preserved. Image? The fuse is already lit the moment you play with it. The thing is, you can’t escape image. But the image integrity builds MATTERS and LASTS, and MAKES A DIFFERENCE.
9. Gods way is better than my way
If only I would never forget this. But sadly I do. I suspect its a lesson that a lot of us have to relearn at times. If this statement is true (and I believe it is) then it might be a good idea to always, always, always seek out God’s way wouldn’t it?
10. Christ-likeness begins and ends with humility
Why is this so? I’m not going to start on a lesson about humility there – it’s been covered pretty well. Humility is (are? that’s a tricky grammar construct) the bookends for Christ-likeness because you can’t be full of Christ if you are full of yourself. Humility in a leader is the open door to Christ’s work in the leaders life. Humility opens the valve of a leader’s heart to the flowing work of the Holy Spirit in his life. Humility is the lightning rod that collects the transforming power of God’s Word in what the leader does. Yes, humility is important! How apt that Chuck would reference the following scripture,
You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. – 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 (NLT)
Chuck had a few other things he shared as well, a foundational principle (we must be willing to leave the familiar methods without disturbing the biblical message) and a bonus “Three important observations” about ministry. Then he ended with “five statements worth remembering during your next 50 years in leadership which are worth recording so I’ve included them here:
1. WHATEVER you do, do more with others and less alone.
2. WHENEVER you do it, emphasize quality not quantity.
3. WHEREVER you go, do it the same as if you were among those who know you best.
4. WHOEVER may respond, keep a level head.
5. HOWEVER long you lead, keep on dripping with gratitude and grace.
There was a lot of leadership juice that got poured into my life in the 50 minutes or so Chuck spoke! If you want to read what others had to write about this session check out: