By Greg Ligon
People are different. They think differently. They have different desires. Thankfully—many times—they have different ideas. The way they process and share those ideas are different from other people on the team and from the leader. One of the biggest mistakes leaders make is to forget that not everyone thinks like they do.
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When you fail to remember this principle of leadership— people are different—you frustrate the people you are trying to lead. You get poor performance from the best leaders on your team, and worst of all, your team fails to live up to its potential.
In The Mythical Leader, his latest release in the Leadership Network NEXT/Harper Collins Christian Publishing Book Series, Pastor Ron Edmondson explains why he believes that many leaders are ineffective because of seven common misunderstandings of leadership. Edmondson brings a wealth of leadership experience, as pastor of the historic Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, KY, as church planter and as former business owner.
The following is an excerpt from The Mythical Leader.
I try to implement ways to intentionally remind myself that people think differently. The first thing I do is intentionally surround myself with diverse personalities. For example, I try to have good friends who stretch me as a person, even outside of my work. I have some extroverted friends, for example. And I mean some of these friends do not know how to be quiet—ever. But I love them. One friend seems to never need to take a break from talking. He could carry on a conversation with anyone all the time. When we are together, he stretches me. He reminds me that everyone is not introverted as I am.
One of my closest friends has witnessed racism and prejudice and rejection far more than I have. We have been through so much life together. I love him as if he were my own flesh and blood. We have been friends for many years, and we did a radio program together for almost seventeen years. His influence is important because he has a library of experiences I have never had. Over the years he has helped me see people differently—and probably more like the way Christ views people.
On any church staff I have led, I want different personalities to complement mine. I want people who are different ages, have different backgrounds, and who come from different demographics. Surrounding myself with these people in my personal life helps me welcome it even more in my professional life.
We will all share a common vision if we are on the same team, but we should have some unique approaches to implementing it. Ask yourself, Have I surrounded myself with people who think just like me?
Another leadership principle is the power of asking questions. Great leaders ask questions. Lots of them. One of the best things a leader can do is ask the right questions. The leader can often be the last to know where there is a problem or what others are thinking, so asking questions is critical to good leadership.
Personally, I ask lots of questions. I give plenty of opportunity for input before a major decision is finalized. We do reviews of completed projects as a team. I have regular meetings with direct reports. We have frequent all-staff meetings. I end almost every meeting the same way: What questions do you have for me? Over time, I believe the team has come to know I am serious about wanting to know the questions they have about any issue.
I periodically set up focus groups for input on various issues. I want to hear from as wide a range of people as possible. I try to consistently surround myself with different voices so I receive diversity of thought. I place a value on hearing from people, especially those who I know respect me and are not afraid to be honest with me.
I love a quote attributed to Jack Welch: “When you are an individual contributor, you try to have all the answers. When you’re a leader, your job is to have all the questions.”
Great leaders ask great questions. Lots of them.
— from The Mythical Leader: The Seven Myths of Leadership