Lesson 1 - Developing Leadership

What Makes a Leader?

Customs

As Lindsay explains here, leaders are shaped by their customs. To put it in theological terms: humans are liturgical creatures—we are continually formed by repetition. We’re all enacting habits and rhythms, whether we recognize it or not.

Effective leaders are attentive to the routines that structure our lives and it’s a myth, according to Lindsay, that there is no such thing as a “work-life balance.” In fact, he says, “It’s possible to have a very demanding job and a very engaged family life.” But if we’re going to do this, we’re going to have to find customs that allow us to flourish, such as practicing the Sabbath.

With the right understanding of our rhythms, we can pursue both “résumé virtues”—professional projects, achievements, and pursuits—and “eulogy virtues”—legacy-building in our families, our churches, and our communities. We do not have to choose between these two kinds of virtues, but we will need the right customs to balance them.

Reflect:

  • Take a few minutes to take stock of the rhythms of your life. What customs are you forming—consciously or not—in your professional life and in your personal life? How are these habits shaping your character?

  • Which of your habits are inhibiting your effectiveness as a leader? Which habits make you effective as a leader?

Coaches

Here, Lindsay recounts a thoroughly intimidating event with General Colin Powell, who, at first, considered Lindsay’s entire line of research a dead end. After all, Powell reasoned, it’s difficult to quantify what makes a leader effective, and what works for one leader won’t necessarily work for another.

Be that as it may, Lindsay was eventually able to convince Powell that all effective leaders have at least one thing in common: a coach. As Lindsay explains, personal relationships are tremendously impactful for people in leadership positions, as they create opportunities for access, influence, advice and guidance. Each one of us—even General Powell!—can point to a person who has played a pivotal role in our personal and professional journeys.

Reflect:

  • Identify an individual (or a group) who has been important for you in your professional and personal development. In what particular and concrete ways did that relationship impact you? Why, in your experience, are mentoring relationships so valuable?

  • Every effective leader has a coach, and effective leaders turn around and coach others. Where is there an opportunity, whether personally or professionally, for you to mentor or coach someone? What might you have to offer to another aspiring leader?

Want to learn more? Explore the extra content for this course.