One of the things I love most about what I do is the opportunity to pour into new and developing leaders. I’ve only been leading for about two decades now, and I didn’t expect this to happen for a while yet, but opportunities continue to arise for me to share with and advise younger and emerging leaders. As I do, a common thread runs through many of these conversations, and I find myself returning again and again to three reminders that I share with them.
1) You’re in a season of preparation. Listen more than you talk.
It is SO tempting for new and emerging leaders to speak up – often! I remember so many times very early on in my leadership when I couldn’t wait to speak up, to share what I knew was the greatest and freshest wisdom ever to be shared in a meeting from the beginning of time.
Yeah, probably not.
I think one of the greatest lessons I ever learned was the importance of listening. That’s how you learn. And no one is born knowing how to lead – we all learn from somebody, somewhere. As you are in the early stages of growing and developing as a leader, listen. You may not (and probably won’t) always agree with what you hear, but by listening you can learn to eat the fish and leave the bones.
2) Remember that a season of preparation is just that – a season.
You won’t be here forever. There will likely come a time when others come to you for advice, to hear what you have to say. Right now, you have an opportunity to develop experience, insight, and wisdom, but only if you have a teachable spirit. That’s a non-negotiable for leaders where I lead – I can teach you a lot of things, but I cannot teach you to have a teachable spirit. You either have one or you don’t. Make a conscious decision to have a teachable spirit, to avail yourself of this season of preparation to lead in the years and decades to come.
3) Read. Seriously.
You’re not going to live long enough to make all the leadership mistakes yourself. Nor should you aspire to that! By reading about the lives and experiences of other leaders, you can learn to avoid many of the potholes that they found themselves hitting. You can learn how to “go farther, faster,” as Andy Stanley says, by learning from people who are farther down the leadership path than you are. John Maxwell says, correctly, that leaders are learners and leaders are readers, and he’s spot on. If you can find a group of people who will read and discuss leadership books together, so much the better! Or maybe you can start one.
What advice would you add to this list to give to developing and emerging leaders?