The Greatest Test of a Leader

Not wanting to sound too dramatic, may I simply say that I have known, worked with, observed and studied, or rubbed shoulders with some extremely terrible leaders as well as some absolutely excellent leaders! May I also be quick to say that my appreciation and thirst to become a good leader stemmed primarily from my awareness of my lack of leadership ability!

Poor leadership has certainly aggravated and, at times, even initiated mini crises related to family matters, business issues, ministry challenges, and my own, personal development. Every arena in life is impacted by leadership—good or bad.

Leadership is an all-encompassing dynamic that can be directed along many pathways.

Vertical Leadership: Leading the Boss Above You

Leading up refers to trying to both support and help direct the person who is above me in the organizational chart, the one to whom I report. By asking her questions about her overall goals, bringing her pertinent information, and by bringing clarity to the intersection of her expectations and my personal responsibilities to make her successful, I can effectively lead up.

Horizontal Leadership: Leading the Peers Around You

Leading people around me refers to bringing leadership to my peers.  Even more than leading up, leading sideways requires tact and humility.  Leadership is not telling people what to do (a sure fire way to make your peers hate you), it is learning how to serve others deliberately, and purposefully.

Whereas a good leader (above you) would more than likely welcome suggestions from a subordinate, peer leaders rarely invite suggestions or help from colleagues on the same level of the organizational chart! In fact, there may be feelings of competition or apprehension. To diffuse these feelings, your leadership skills must be focused on bringing assistance to help your peers meet their goals—especially as their goals impact your responsibilities and the relationship with your colleague.


Vertical Leadership #2: Leading the Subordinates Below You

In this classic leadership scenario where you lead people reporting to you, it is critical to develop a culture that communicates to your subordinates that your job (as their supervisor) is to make them successful!

An authentic, servant-leader approach is always the most effective method to bring your leadership to bear on those under you because trust is quickly established when they know you’re focused on their success!

I’ve saved the most difficult leadership pathway for last: Inward leadership.

Inward leadership—the Greatest Test of Any Leader—Leading Yourself

We could be effective in bringing leadership to our boss, to our peers, and to our subordinates—and still fail the greatest test of any leader: leading yourself.

Self-Leadership, then, is the identifying mark of all great leaders. It involves recognizing my own strengths and weaknesses, and doing what is necessary to utilize the gifts God has given me, for the betterment of everyone around me. Self-leadership demands a healthy EI (emotional intelligence), a strong self-image, and the character quality of integrity. 

The most difficult person you will ever lead is yourself.