If you think you’re leading, and yet no one is following, you may just be taking a walk.
Emotional intelligence is a key characteristic in any leadership role. Understanding people, and the ways they follow (or don’t follow) your leadership, is a critical role in ministry especially. A leader needs to have that intuitive, gut-level sense of whether people are with you. Are they behind you? Or are they merely tolerating you? Do people want to hear from you? Do they ask with excitement about what’s coming up next in your ministry? Or are people consistently questioning and criticizing what you are doing?
Just because you’re in a leadership position doesn’t mean you are a leader. Positional leadership is the lowest form of leadership. Emotional leadership—leading from a position of charisma and authenticity—is a higher, more effective form. If you think people are going to follow you wholeheartedly just because of your role, you’re setting yourself up to be sorely disappointed.
Anybody can be hired; few can truly lead. There have been times when I’ve been self-deceived into thinking that people were hanging on my every word and anticipating my every move. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. I didn’t have the sharp emotional intelligence to see that I’d lost some edge. Just because I’d successfully led in the past didn’t mean people were still following me at that moment. The last thing I want to do as a leader is take the next hill, reach the top, and realize that I am completely alone.
Gather a team of people who are willing to share the honest truth with you. I once had a leader in my ministry who had been with me for over 10 years. We developed such a fantastic relationship that she was able and willing to tell me where I was missing the mark—when people were grumbling or questioning what we were doing as a ministry. That kind of counsel is invaluable to a leader.
Do you have trusted people who will let you know that you are wearing the Emperor’s Clothes? You know this story, right? The emperor had such a poor understanding of himself that he found himself naked in front of his entire court, and nobody had the heart to tell him. Do you have someone around you who is willing to share the uncomfortable truth? Do you have somebody who will let you know when you are not being followed? We as leaders can often become self-deceived in our opinions about our abilities. If you think you are leading but no one is following, you are just taking a walk.
Josh Denhart is a children's ministry curriculum writer and children's ministry performer. Josh is a seasoned educator with BA in Chemistry Education, a MA in Effective Instruction, and earned National Board Certification in Young Adult and Adolescent Science. As a former High School chemistry teacher, Josh melded his love for Science and Christ, creating “The Amazing Chemistry Show”, a traveling gospel-centered stage show with fire, explosions and foam. Carrying this Ministry of Chemistry even further, Josh created “Science VBS”, an internationally celebrated Vacation Bible School curriculum.
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