Over the past 10 years, I have become a student of leadership. If I’m being honest, most of it was unwillingly. You see, Husband is an entrepreneur and he learned really quickly that his business would only grow to the degree that he did, so he takes every opportunity to learn and grow and lead very seriously. Which means I now do too. It’s part of that whole marriage “becoming one” stuff. Their stuff becomes your stuff and your stuff becomes their stuff…although I have never seen Husband at a Dolly Parton concert, so I’m not sure ours goes both ways. Hmmmmm…
I have spent days, weeks at times, in cold, loud hotel ballrooms from 8 in the morning until the wee hours of the next morning sitting next to Husband in an effort to learn about leadership and the principles of growth and change. I have also learned that a warm blanket and a good snack bag are essential for survival in these extreme conditions. And lip balm. It’s nice when those events happen to be in an exotic location like Cabo, but that isn’t usually the case.
Here’s the thing: leadership is universal. It is necessary in every business, school, church and family. There is no organization or group that can function without it. That is why it is SO important. Everything rises and falls on leadership. Show me an unhealthy organization and I will show you an unhealthy leader. So what is the number one leadership lesson I have learned over many years and countless hours in the presence of some of the world’s greatest leaders? It is this: people can smell a phony a mile away.
You can read all the books, listen to all the audio and attend all the leadership conferences you can get our hands on, but there is one vital component to leadership that you can’t get there. It’s what I like to call Street Cred. It is vital that we understand, as leaders, we cannot take people to places we have not been. We cannot call the plays if we have never suited up on the field. Those getting their arses handed to them on the field of life will not care what we have to say if we have never been on the field getting our arse kicked too. We must have walked the walk (with the battle scars to prove it) before we have even earned the right to talk the talk.
What that means, unfortunately, is that most of the best leadership lessons are learned on the front lines. In the heat of battle, we learn what works and what doesn’t. It is not only important to know what doesn’t work; it is probably more important to know why. Learning from our mistakes and making the necessary adjustments always moves us one step closer to the goal. There really is a lot to be said for trial and error when it comes to leadership. It is from the other side of defeat we have earned the right to speak to those coming up behind us. The dream and the struggle are the places that prepare the way for victory, and it is from a place of victory that we can lead others well. It is also a messy place because leadership always involves people and people are…well, messy.
What do I look for in a good leader? Scars. I look for the marks, bumps and bruises that the journey has left along the way. I look for an authenticity and a freedom in the way they talk about their road to here. I look for someone who holds nothing back because they have learned that they really have nothing to lose. I look for Street Cred. And then I pull up a chair and grab my pen and journal because goodness usually follows.
If God has called you somewhere, He is probably also preparing you to lead there. Whether its work, school, church or small group, you have an opportunity to lead. Just by being a parent, you are already a leader. The sheer fact that you survived middle school means you have the street cred necessary to shepherd those little cherubs thru at least one awkward phase. We all have an opportunity to lead from where we are in some capacity. We’ve all walked thru some stuff. So use it. Step up in the places you have survived the heat of battle and show a few more humans the way out. I wanna see you be brave.