Am I Really a Leader? Leading Well Even When You Doubt

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I never saw myself as a leader.  Most leaders whom I observed and admired were extroverts with commanding voices.  Everything I was not.  But after reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, I realized that many of the world’s greatest leaders were introverts – thoughtful, listening people.

Perhaps I might be a leader, after all.

My father’s generation survived World War II.  My college friends were forever shaped by Vietnam.  By the time I was 30, the culture in which I lived had made a major shift.  Who trusted governments, institutions, even the church anymore?  Where were leaders worth following?

As a second career clergy woman, I have had opportunity to observe many leadership styles of both men and women.  This is what I have learned:

Good leaders listen a lot.

Corporations, institutions, and churches are often led by teams.  Wise is the leader who listens to them.  Who has innovative ideas?  Who has the courage to risk change?  

Good leaders do not react; they plan and anticipate.

In a recent TED Talk, Roselinde Torres said, “Great leaders see around corners, shaping their future, not just reacting to it.”

Teams trust and respect leaders who are always several steps ahead of them, not simply putting out fires and repairing what has gone wrong.  

Good leaders are confidently humble.

13th C Saint Francis of Assisi taught, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand…”  A responsible leader seeks to understand the team who gathers around her.  She earns their trust by valuing their opinions and skills and by respectfully listening to their dreams.

The workplace has changed drastically in my lifetime.  In work settings where there are multi-generational staffs, finding a balance between humility and confidence is a challenge. Different generations speak different languages. Boomers were accustomed to respecting and being obedient to top-down leaders. That all changed in the 70s. Today many employees are skeptical and outspoken, openly challenging their leaders.  An effective leader is a master facilitator who can create an environment where all voices can be heard and where respectful dialogue can happen.

Good leaders know what is going on.

An old leadership style was, Hire good people and trust them to do their work.  That worked well if employees were self-motivated and integrated.

But what if good people are not doing good work?

MWA – management by walking around affords a good leader a first-person encounter with the work ethics of his employees.  There is no substitute for accountability in the work place.  Good leaders prevent injustice in the work place when evaluations are honest and fair.  One of the most divisive issues with a large staff is to reward all employees with equal raises, regardless of their effectiveness. This discouraging practice can breed discontent among staffs.

Good leaders listen and anticipate.  They lead with integrity and humility and always know what is going on.

Are you a good leader?

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Rev. Miriam Seyler serves as the Pastor of Inviting Ministries at First United Methodist Church, Murfreesboro TN. A MS native who graduated William Carey College (University) with a Bachelor of Music Education degree, Rev. Seyler has been a TN resident for 25 years. After a 35-year career as a classical musician and educator, Miriam attended The University of the South School of Theology in Sewanee TN, earning a Master in Divinity degree. She has a passion for bridging the generations and cultures within the church.

1 COMMENT

  1. Good words from a perspective of wisdom. In our age of constant public shouting, the skill of listening is rarely used, when in fact, listening would solve many of our issues in the workplace and in the world.

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