After working in leadership roles for 33 years and coaching leaders for about that long, I can say with confidence that leaders can increase focus and effectiveness by addressing The Leader's Eight Essential Questions™.
Here are the questions:
1. How am I anchoring my life in the love of God?
Knowing that we are the Beloved of God, being at peace in God's love, and at peace with ourselves, frees us from thinking we have to earn our way with God or prove our worth to God through the work we do. That freedom then spills over into relationships with others, where we're able to be present to others through what Rabbi Edwin Friedman calls a non-anxious presence. The freedom is enhanced as we practice life-giving rhythms of fellowship with God, where God's love for us and our love for God is renewed and deepened.
2. Who am I?
Since leadership flows out of who we are, leaders need to increase self-awareness. We need to know what we're good at, suited for, how we're wired to interact with the world, and what we're passionate about. The more we can match who we are with the assignments we accept, the more effective we'll be.
3. Where am I?
At least two areas need to be examined here: the organizational and personal. Organizational context influences leaders, then leaders shape the context. Leaders must know where they are organizationally. That includes their group's life cycle and the cultural rules of the game. As management authority Jim Collins puts it, culture eats strategy for lunch. It's also critical for leaders to know where they are in their personal development, how God is at work shaping them to lead, and how that affects their life and leadership.
4. Where am I going?
(Or, where are we and where are we going?) Leaders inspire and organize followers to achieve a preferred future. Marcus Buckingham has pointed out that defining the future is the one distinctive mark of effective leadership. Without a preferred future focus you'll end up with a predictable future rooted in maintaining the status quo.
5. How will I lead?
Leaders should intentionally select their leadership style, posture, and practices. I coach leaders to cultivate a life-giving posture that advances the well-being of the leader, leader's family, organization, constituents, and community. I coach mission and ministry leaders to get their leadership from the Bible's key lessons and values on leadership. Bobby Clinton refers to this as Bible-Centered Leadership. Contact me if you'd like to read a couple articles on Bible-Centered Leadership. How leaders lead makes all the difference to their ongoing effectiveness.
6. Who do I need?
Clinton and Terry Walling, among others, have underscored the importance of mentors in a leader's life. Leaders also need friends and comrades, prayer partners, and a solid base of support at home (whether married or single).
7. How will I replenish?
Introducing and leading a new way takes time. It takes work. It arouses opposition and resistance on several fronts: emotional, spiritual, and practical. Leadership is complex and fraught with risk. It will wear you out. Leaders must decide, to quote Stephen Covey, how they will "sharpen their saw."
8. What's important now?
Leaders can't possibly take every next step that needs to be taken. Nor is it necessary to do so. Leaders have to prioritize, to determine what's important this quarter, this month, this week, today, and take action.
There you have it. My list of essential questions that enhance leadership focus and effectiveness.
Which of these questions do you need to answer today? What other questions have you found helpful?
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