Leaders Are Learners

Over the last few months, I have enjoyed working with our staff through a book by John Maxwell, “The 5 Levels of Leadership.”  Maxwell has been a “go-to-guy” in the area of leadership for several years, and has been a help to a great number of people and organizations.  I have found Maxwell to be an encouragement and a help to me in many ways. In fact, I have noticed a number of similarities in producing leaders and making disciples.  In his book, Maxwell points out that not every leader is leading on the same level. To briefly summarize Maxwell’s book, the levels of leadership he mentions are as follows:

1) Position

Position level leadership is the starting point of all leadership. A person is a leader because he has been placed in a position of leadership, which is a position of trust and accountability. People follow position level leaders because they have to.

2) Permission

Permission level leadership is attained as the leader earns the trust and respect of those he leads. He values relationships and recognizes that people are his most valuable asset. Without people, he has no one to lead. People follow position level leaders because they want to.

3) Production

Production level leadership separates true leaders from those who simply hold leadership positions. These are the leaders who make a significant impact. Because they model what desire their people to embrace, they are able to help the team produce. These leaders are self-motivated and productive. They create momentum and bring others along with them. People follow production level leaders because of what they have done for the organization.

4) People Development

People development level leadership focuses on multiplying itself. The leader recognizes that the greatest investment he can make is in the lives of those he leads. He spends time and energy on developing other leaders and empowering them to lead rather than doing everything all by himself. The leader is not a “lone ranger” who micromanages, but is a mentor. People follow people development level leaders because of what they have done for them personally.

5) Pinnacle

Pinnacle level leadership has led well for so long that it creates a legacy of leadership in the organization. The leader has tenure as well as a proven track record of steady, consistent leadership that has been productive and far reaching. This leader has developed other leaders. People follow pinnacle level leaders because of who they are and what they represent.

A careful study of the life and ministry of Jesus will reveal that He spent the majority of His time pouring Himself into twelve average and ordinary men whom He used to turn the world upside down. After His death and resurrection, He then empowered those men to take what they had heard and learned from Him and make disciples of the nations. In so doing, He established the divine pattern for making disciples and expanding His kingdom. One of things that I took away from Maxwell’s book is that the parallels of producing leaders and making disciples are striking. The Great Commission is really all about making disciples who make other disciples. Thus, the disciple-maker is a leader and influencer of others. He or she is not simply content in winning a convert and leaving that new convert on his own; he or she desires to make another disciple who will repeat the process. For this reason, the most effective leaders are always the most eager learners. Those who think they have arrived and are arrogant have handicapped themselves in their leadership ability. The best leaders are those who recognize that they can learn from others. It takes a disciple to make a disciple. They have a teachable spirit and a hunger to learn and grow themselves. Someone has well said, “We teach what we know, but we reproduce who we are.” An arrogant, unteachable attitude repels people. Believe me, I have learned this firsthand in my life and ministry. Early on, I thought that people would follow me simply by virtue of the position I held as their pastor. That didn’t work out very well. The more that I grew in my relationship with God and the more that I led people, the more I learned that I don’t know very much. God began to work in my heart and gave me an insatiable desire to grow and learn and become like Jesus in my life and leadership style. There is a reason that God gave us two ears and only one mouth–He intends for us to listen twice as much as we speak!

Leadership is all about stewardship and accountability. One day, the leader will stand before Jesus and give an account of those whom he led. Will my leadership be influential in a positive way or a negative way? Will those I lead become more like Jesus as a result of my leadership? To whom much is given, much will be required. Such a truth should motivate you to be humble, to learn, and to be eager to grow in your own life. Leadership is influence, and all of us hold influence with others in some way or another. We must learn to model what we desire to influence others around us to do. If I don’t learn to pray, I can never teach someone else to pray. If I don’t learn to share my faith, I can’t teach those around me to share my faith. If I don’t read and study my Bible, how could I ever impact those around me to do so? We learn these things by obediently doing them and surrounding ourselves with others who can teach us and speak into our life. Remember that it takes a disciple to make a disciple, and you can’t lead others where you yourself have never been. Be a learner who sits at the Master’s feet. Effective leaders are eager learners.

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