Putting Your Mask on to Lead

If you’ve flown anywhere on an airplane, you may remember the stewardess telling you that in the event of an emergency, an oxygen mask will drop out of the ceiling. She or he may also have told you that you should put your oxygen mask on first before you help others with their mask. Why? It’s hard to help others if you don’t take care of yourself. If you are gasping for air, you will not have the strength to help others and it may not work out as well as you expect. 

Consider this statement:
Leadership begins with you.

When you read that statement, what goes through your head? For me, a few things come to mind. First, I must lead by example. I can’t ask my followers to do something if I’m not being a role modeling. Second, I must lead by being a servant.  I can’t ask my followers to do something that I’m unwilling to do.  And third, to be a good leader, I need to look in the mirror and see where my rough edges are so that I can continually work to improve. (As an aside, whenever my wife or I say something that we think the other doesn’t always adhere to, we often say, “Look in a mirror!”)   

One of the reasons that I have been interested in leadership the last decade and a half has been because of my work in the church. As a Christian leader, I like to read and learn about leadership through the eyes of one who follows Jesus. And I like to share that knowledge and those learnings with others who also are Christian leaders.

As church leaders, we should work to develop Christian spiritual leaders for our communities, church, and the world. How? By teaching a life of love, discipleship, and service. Jesus epitomizes that type of spiritual leadership. If we focus on his life, ministry, and teachings as a guide for faithful living and leadership and seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance, I think we will see how God wants us to lead. We can then live a life of discipleship and servant leadership. As Christian leaders, we initiate all those we surround ourselves with into a new way of living, equipping them to do love and service.

Leadership assumes that others will be involved. After all, you can’t have a leader without followers! Leaders play a critical part in shaping the present and the future for good or for ill. If a leader fails to engage, inspire, and prepare others to act, leadership training and development will never translate into actual leadership. Leadership, then, serves as a catalyst to rally others. 

In conclusions, ponder these quotes from famous leaders:

 “[People] make history and not the other way around. In a period where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.”  —Harry S. Truman

“Leadership is the ability to convince people that they want to do what you want them to do as if they thought of it themselves.”  —Eileen O. Ford