Leadership is a Team Sport

I feel like the most blessed person on this planet. The reason? I have the incredible privilege of leading Truth@Work roundtable groups in my region in which Christian business and ministry leaders gather together once per month for four hours. These groups (usually consisting of 12-15 leaders) act like a board of advisors to one another in helping each member to grow their organizations in a God-honoring way while at the same time challenging and encouraging one another to grow personally and spiritually. I have the privilege of leading six groups each month and it is an incredible thing to be a part of.

In the six years I’ve been doing this, one thing has become even more apparent to me: We were not meant to do life alone…especially leaders!

Yet, most leaders do. Sure, we may have Facebook friends and Twitter followers. We might have a lengthy list of acquaintances and maybe even a few friends we consider “close.” However, leaders rarely have relationships with people who “get them” as a leader.

Let’s face it, leadership is a lonely place. And being a leader who follows Jesus can mean loneliness at a whole new level.

This shouldn’t surprise us as 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. The Greek word for devil is diabolos. One of the meanings of diabolos is to divide. So we need to understand that one of our enemy’s primary ploys is to isolate us. Think about the times in your life when things go sideways. What is your natural tendency? If you’re like most, it is to hunker down (alone) until the storm passes.

 I don’t want to be a bother to anyone else. I don’t really need any help? These, and other excuses for not connecting with others, are lies from our enemy.

Whenever I watch a lion hunting a zebra on television, I always see the lion chasing the zebra that’s by itself. This is because the lone zebra is the weak one. Leaders must learn from this truth.

To compound the issue further, as you rise up the ladder a funny thing happens: fewer and fewer people will actually tell you the truth. As a leader, the truth is your friend and is necessary for you to lead effectively.

So if you lead others, it is imperative that you surround yourself with trusted advisers, for your sake and for the sake of those you lead. I’m talking about confidantes who, because of their own leadership experience, understand the pressures of leadership. They’ve earned the right to provide a kick in the pants when needed and can offer heartfelt support when the going gets tough. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are seven reasons to assemble a group like this:

1. You have a greater chance of making better decisions with others around you. (Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22)

2. Having other trusted people around to help can bring victory in the battles you face as a leader. (For waging war you need guidance, and for victory many advisers. Proverbs 24:6)

3. There are times in leadership when you need encouragement to press on and to do what is right. (But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. Hebrews 3:13)

4. You can grow more as a leader when you allow others to hold you accountable to doing what you need to do. (As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17)

5. Finding a safe and confidential place to share your deepest burdens and struggles with others who care about you can bring healing to your soul. (Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. James 5:16a)

6. You have something to offer other leaders to help them grow. (Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5)

7. Being a lonely leader is exhausting. After their first meeting, new Truth@Work members frequently say, “I feel like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t feel so alone anymore!” (Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Obviously, surrounding yourself with others is wise. Even if your team doesn’t physically do anything in the moment, knowing they are there can often make you feel stronger as a leader as this story shows:

A man was lost while driving through the country. As he tried to read a map, he accidentally drove off the road into a ditch. Though he wasn’t injured, his car was stuck deep in the mud. So the man walked to a nearby farm to ask for help.

“Warwick can get you out of that ditch,” said the farmer, pointing to an old mule standing in a field. The man looked at the haggardly mule and looked at the farmer who just stood there repeating, “Yep, old Warwick can do the job.”

The man figured he had nothing to lose. The two men and Warwick made their way back to the ditch. The farmer hitched the mule to the car. With a snap of the reigns he shouted, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull, Warwick!” And the mule pulled the car from the ditch with very little effort.

The man was amazed. He thanked the farmer, patted the mule and asked, “Why did you call out all those other names before you called Warwick?”

The farmer grinned and said, “Old Warwick is just about blind. As long as he believes he is part of a team, he doesn’t mind pulling.”

So who’s on your team?

Action step: Find a group of trusted people (or some individuals) and ask them if they’d be willing to speak into your life, to point out your blind spots and to encourage you. If you do this, I promise you that you will feel a weight lifted and your influence as a leader will increase.

This is a guest post by Jim Lange. Jim lives in Lambertville, MI (just outside Toledo, OH) and is Chapter President of Truth@Work (http://christianroundtablegroups.com). He also serves as President of Five Feet Twenty, an organization that coaches leaders and helps them to be all God made them to be (go to http://5feet20.com to get his free monthly magazine). His latest book, Calming the Storm Within: How to Find Peace in this Chaotic World along with some great free resources can be found at http://calmingthestormwithin.com.

By the way, I’m always looking for guest posters. If you would like to guest post, you can find the guidelines at An Invitation To Guest Post.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • RcMaFitness

    Truth@Work sounds like a fascinating accountability & encouraging group. As I was reading, before I got to what you point out (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10), I was already thinking about those verses. It’s quite cool you included them! However, this I must say about #5. If you’re married, like it’s my case, your deepest burdens & struggles should be shared with your spouse (that’s why Two are better than one …). Of course, there’re times when you need to give your spouse a break from too much worrying & anxiety. That’s when an honest confident comes in handy. I do love the story you use to illustrate your post — wise farmer, faithful Warwick — awesome! Thank you Jim! Thank you Joe for your guest poster!

    • You are welcome! Thank you for your very kind words. I do appreciate your encouragement. I also agree with your statement regarding our spouses. The one caveat with that is that if our spouses are not accustomed to the pressures of leadership, in many cases they may not totally understand what it is we are dealing with. In my opinion, this is when it is critical to have others to share our struggles and questions with. In any event, thank you again for checking in. Many blessings to you!

  • Great reminder.

    In my office, I have the opportunity to meet weekly with fellow leaders during our weekly update meeting. This is a good chance to go over logistics for the week, but it’s also a great place to bounce ideas off of each other.

    • Jon, thanks for checking in. That is so great that you have that forum in which to do that with other leaders. I encourage you to protect this time as it is very valuable! Thanks again Jon, blessings to you!

  • Dude great work. When I was younger I had a really great leader in my life stress the importance of having others encourage/challenge/inspire you – other leaders. This has continued to influence the way that I make decisions and go into the “next steps” – once again, GREAT work.

    • Maurice, thank you so much for your kind words and your encouragement. You were very fortunate to have someone in your life give you that kind of advice . Even more impressive is the way you have taken action on his wise words. Well done – blessings to you!

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  • Ha! Very cool story, Jim and hello!
    I use this one: Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their
    work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man
    who falls and has no one to help him up! Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
    To remind my Dad/Boss that being solo and refusing to ask for help is right up there if not completely a sin.
    We are all so much more with each other. It’s a fact. Great post, thank you for sharing it with us.