Win Today with Christopher Cook

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3 Leadership Lessons from “The Mug”

Often, the perks of leadership include greater respect, prominent social status, success, and an ability to be a decision-maker. While those benefits may be attractive, effective leadership has little to do with a title or position and everything to do with one’s ability to influence and add value to others.

At the core, leaders have the privilege of positively impacting (and even changing) a person’s life through serving, training, and empowering. Very recently, I learned that lesson first-hand.

One of the greatest privileges I have ever had is to be entrusted to speak into the lives of young adults and build them for significance. Last week, I received a simple yet very beautiful Christmas gift—a hand-painted coffee mug—from a precious family whose daughters I have been training for a couple months. As I admired the excellent craftsmanship of the mug (now brimming with my favorite tea), I read the enclosed card, along with a few other cards received from young adults this holiday season. Quite honestly, I was moved to tears as I read heartfelt words of gratitude in response to my positive and transformative impact upon their lives.

It has always been my desire to lead well, and I have done so to the best of my ability, but I had no idea that my influence had been as impactful as was reflected in their writing. Statements such as “All of the encouragement and leadership you have shown me has literally changed my life,” “You’re the greatest mentor I’ve ever had,” and “My confidence has gone up tremendously! You have been an amazing impact upon my family” took my breath away. I don’t mention those remarks to applaud myself, but to create awareness that whether you’re aware of this fact or not, you, trusted leader, have the same opportunity to inspire people in your life every single day.

Sipping my tea with an overwhelming sense of gratitude and fulfillment, three valuable lessons emerged to the forefront of my mind and onto paper; three lessons that I believe are the “mathematics” of leadership; three responsibilities we leaders must steward with great care.

Lesson #1- The Common Denominator of Leadership: People

Leaders, we must know and embrace the fact that people—not programs or systems—are our greatest asset. As such, they should be developed with intention. Why? Because people don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care. The call-to-action is simple: build people for significance while encouraging, challenging, and empowering them on a regular basis. If encouragement is not a natural reflex for you, commit to learning the behavior over time through practice and application. It’s not good enough to reason, “It’s just not how I’m wired.” I say this respectfully, but that’s an excuse for mediocrity.

In a recent consulting meeting, I encouraged one of my clients to make a list of the strengths and positive attributes each of his direct reports possessed (he managed 15 or so employees). Before walking out of his office, he was to review the list, posture himself with a smile, and walk confidently into the area in which his team worked. At first, he admitted that it felt completely contrived (I understood that it probably would). However, after a few weeks of practicing this new habit, he remarked that something shifted in the office. There was newfound motivation, transparency, and enthusiasm amongst his team. Essentially, the exercise engendered two areas of growth: 1.) genuine appreciation for the individual value of each team member and 2.) a greater presence of trust within the department. Leader, be encouraged to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone of leadership style and behavior.

One of the greatest leaders I know personally, Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California, has added substantial value to my life. In 2011, Bill and I were enjoying a conversation about life and personal dreams. In a fleeting moment, I briefly mentioned my desire to write. Eight months later, in mid 2012, I returned to Redding for a visit. Upon seeing me, Bill threw his arms open and welcomed me back to California. With a father’s smile, he asked, “How is your writing going?” I was stunned. I couldn’t believe he remembered, especially because my previous mention of writing was casual and understated. In fact, I asked, “Pastor Bill, how did you remember that I enjoy writing?” His response was incredibly moving. Putting his arm around my shoulder, he said, “You are important to me. What matters to you matters to me.”

As mentioned in my article about leaving a legacy, I assure you that you have something to contribute to the people in your life. Every life-promoting choice, word, and action collects interest in an account that will pay dividends in the future.

Lesson #2- The Addition Factor of Leadership: Giving

Your pursuit of personal growth will certainly be beneficial to you, but it will also create a unique opportunity to grow others. The gifting, talent, resources, and opportunities you possess are seeds to be planted into good ground: teachable, hungry, talented people; they are not to be squandered because of insecurity, control, a spirit of competition, and a poverty mindset.

Fear of lack often stifles our willingness to give, especially when we overvalue the limitations of our own supply. Yet, in Luke 6:38 (NLT), the Word promises, “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

As it pertains to empowering up-and-coming leaders, the same principle is true: lighting someone else’s flame doesn’t extinguish your own. My friend, giving doesn’t subtract; giving adds. In fact, when you give what you do have, it will be multiplied. The issue is rarely what you lack. The issue is what you do with what you have.

Lesson #3- The Multiplying Factor of Leadership: Love & Compassion

Love is the motivator and the multiplier. If you do not love people and have compassion for their life, you will always fail as a leader. When investing in people, start with the end in mind. What do they look like fully developed in their potential? A clear path to mentoring and leading people well is forged by vision for them and commitment to them. In like manner, the compassionate way causes you to love, value, and grow people who are in process without aborting their “birth” when faced with frustration or challenge. You see, the most effective leaders multiply the value of everyone they are trusted with. In contrast, manipulating people as pawns to elevate your own platform displaces trust and creates division.

I’m so grateful for the handful of “multipliers” in my life. Their extraordinary impact upon me and upon the lives of many other people will not be forgotten!

Photo Credit: Leopostle via Compfight cc

  • Lyn

    Awesome as usual. Knowing you, has inspired and changed MY life, Chris. Your wisdom, capacity to love and teach is amazing and I am blessed to know you and your family. ♡♡♡