How to become the leader others want to follow

Where does great leadership begin?

The answer depends on who a leader want to serve. A leader’s attention is pulled in several ways daily and it’s easy to lose focus on the main point. The real purpose can take backseat to a myriad of tasks, meetings, emails and phone calls.

Do you know the feeling?

Busy is the opposite of contemplative. The leader desiring to serve God first must create the necessary space to be a contemplative leader.  A contemplative leader has prolonged thoughts of God through the reading of scripture, prayer, and stillness. Leadership is more than action; as John C. Maxwell has famously said, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.” So for you, dear leader, who influences you?

The goal of spiritual contemplation is to allow ourselves to be influenced by the one who gave us the gift of leadership. The first step is giving yourself personal permission to carve out the time necessary to actually have prolonged thoughts, and not mini devotionals. Paul prays for the Ephesians that they would “Grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Doesn’t that sound awesome?

When a leader is filled with fullness of God, they give away a fuller experience of what it means to be human. And who doesn’t want to follow someone like that? Therefore, here are three resources that can help you form a more contemplative life.

Pray As You Go Website/App - PAYG describes itself as  a daily prayer session, designed for use on portable MP3 players, to help you pray whenever you find time, but particularly whilst traveling to and from work, study, etc. A new prayer session is produced every day of the working week and one session for the weekend. It is not a 'Thought for the Day,' a sermon or a Bible Study, but rather a framework for your own prayer.

YouVersion - YouVersion is so much more than a Bible app. Yes, you can read or listen to the Bible, but the app features reading plans, videos and so much more to help you develop the space you create for your time with God. Developing a habit of reading God’s word is one of the most sustainable habits a leader can develop.

Personal Retreats - Solitude is such an important piece of the contemplative life. Places all over the country offer a setting for you to be alone and to be quiet. Check with your local Catholic Parish to  point you in the right direction. Or, simply Google “Prayer Retreat Center” and you’ll find something near you. It doesn’t have to be a structured place; it could be a friend’s lake house or simply a long walk outside or a spot at your favorite park. The retreat should be free of distraction. Make it repetitive on your schedule and stick to it.

In John 15, Jesus reminds us that he is the vine, we are the branches, and God the Father is the vinedresser. Jesus says for the most fruit to grow there has to be pruning of what’s not growing in his life and ours, he calls this action of pruning “abiding”. When a leader participates in the contemplative life (the act of abiding), there will be pruning but there will also be a lot of fruit. Leaders who allow themselves both the discomfort of pruning and the reward of personal fruit are people others want to follow.  It’s easy to recognize a leader who doesn’t create space to abide, they constantly focus on what others are doing - right or wrong. A leader that allows themselves to be pruned and is transparent about the process is a leader who is more relatable than a leader is trying to change everyone else.

So where does great leadership begin? Great leadership begins inside the heart and soul of the leader, the genesis of great leadership is not external but instead is internal. Where are you creating space to abide? Where are you experiencing heart change towards yourself and others? Where are you learning to love difficult people? Where are you finding value for yourself and others? Where are you learning to have joy in process instead of results and to share that with others? Great leaders give the vinedresser access to their heart and soul to prune away what no longer is growing to create space for new things to grow more abundantly.