What is a Leader?

leadershipI’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately and specifically the question of what is a leader.  This is a many-faceted answer, so I don’t intend to give an all consuming definition in this post but I have been chewing on something for a few months that has been helpful to me in thinking through what a leader is.

Several years ago I lead a mission trip to Baja, CA.  We built a Sunday School room, conducted several VBS programs and held night services, so it was a pretty busy time.  As I was planning for the trip I realized that there were more tasks to be accomplished than we had people to accomplish them, so I was greatly tempted to assign myself an area of responsibility (i.e. running VBS) in addition to leading the team.  Thankfully I resisted the temptation, found the right people to do the jobs and allowed myself the luxury of simply leading the team.

When we arrived in Baja I realized that there were a thousand things that I either hadn’t been aware of or hadn’t thought of which needed significant attention.  Fortunately, because I hadn’t assigned myself any major tasks (other than leading), I was able to give attention to all of the various obstacles that came up and the trip was a big success.

So, what is a leader?  In a word, “available.”  Part of the job of leadership is simply being available to deal with unexpected situations, crisis, and people.  But in order to be available leaders must be very careful not to overschedule their days or overcommit themselves to the point where they are no longer available.  In short, leaders must build in “margin” to their lives which allows them to be available so that they can lead.

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October 11 2010 04:00 am | Blog

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