My One, Simple, Unspiritual Rule for Leadership

Don't ask your people to do anything you aren't willing to do yourself

I ran into my rule again last night.

Staring down at slips of blue paper with students' names and phone numbers on them, I debated whether or not to make my follow-up calls. We met a few students on campus last week. Some of them filled out contact cards. We told them we would call them. But I was nervous to make the calls.

Then, I remembered my rule and made my calls.

Why is this rule so important to me?

It's not a biblical rule. Peter and the rest of the early Apostles had no problem handing off grunt work to other people (see Acts 6). Moses delegated (see Exodus 18). Jesus gave different gifts to different people (see Ephesians 4).

It's not a complex rule. You couldn't turn this rule into a book. People won't be impressed by it. You don't even need to explain it much.

It's the only rule I keep coming back to in my leadership work.

Why is it so important?

Leaders continually face the temptation "use" rather than "serve." Positions of power often come with privilege and lead to both abuse and ignorance. We push the dirty jobs down the leadership ladder. Our inexperience causes us to misunderstand the realities faced by the people we lead.

That's not the kind of leader I want to be.
That's not the kind of leader you want to be.

Last summer I found myself taking a Greyhound bus from Wytheville, VA to Raleigh, NC. It was a 9 hour ride (though it could be driven by car in 3 1/2 hours). Why did I do it? My community college students are constantly forced to take the bus: to take the bus around town, to take the bus to conferences, to take the bus when they travel long distances. I wanted to know what it was like. So I booked this particular trip this way. I now better understand the reality my students face.

Advocacy and service are key elements of Christian leadership.

In order to be an advocate and a servant, a leader has to follow this rule. You can't ask people to do things you aren't willing to do yourself. This doesn't mean that leaders can't share work, delegate or work where they're gifted. It just means they can't do this all the time.

This is my one, simple, unspiritual rule for leadership.

What's your rule for leadership? What guides you?


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