A Leader’s Legacy

Leadership is ultimately measured not by what a leader builds but rather who a leader builds up. The legacy we leave in those around us is the ultimate measure of our leadership; but as James Kouzes notes, “Legacies are not the result of wishful thinking. They are the result of determined doing.”

When it comes to a leader’s legacy, Scripture could not be more clear in the importance and primacy of this task. Moses left a legacy in Joshua, Elijah invested in Elisha, Jesus poured Himself into the 12 and Paul equipped Timothy. The message and the model of Scripture is clear: leaders are called to pour themselves into the next generation of leaders for the good of the Kingdom. Consequently, the question every leader must ultimately ask is: “Who am I investing in today to prepare for the leadership of tomorrow?”

Passing It On

The natural inclination for most leaders is to focus on their own growth and development, but true leadership is about considering the growth and development of the leaders around you. Neglecting to pour into the leaders around you will ultimately undermine your own leadership. Everything you have worked for will end with you unless you prepare your people and your organization to carry it on.

The best leaders don’t simply build or manage great organizations, they ensure that great leadership is there to lead the organization into the future long after they are gone. How do we do this? Consider these principles as you reflect on leaving a legacy through your own leadership:

1.  Offer Exposure and Experience.

For leadership to be successfully passed on it must be readily visible and accessible by those you are developing. Christ seldom did ministry alone; frequently involving His disciples in ministry and processing with them regularly about what they had just seen. Why was this so critical? Because nothing is more important than exposure and experience in the formation of a leader.  Ask yourself: Who will you invite to join you and learn from you as you lead?

2.  Character Is Critical.

When considering who to pour into, remember that character is critical. It sounds obvious, but many leaders can get so focused on competency that they neglect to do their due diligence when it comes to character. Skills can be taught and developed, but character is a critical necessity for leadership that cannot be compromised. Without character a young, competent leader will grow impatient during his or her development. Don’t risk the future of your organization on someone who can’t wait and won’t listen.

3.  Humble and Hungry.

What do you do if you have a young leader with character but lacking in the core competencies to do the job? Ask, “Are they humble and hungry?” You can do a lot with someone who is hungry to develop; but you can’t do anything with someone who is hard to motivate (or worse yet, doesn’t think they need the help!). Focus the bulk of your time on investing in  young leaders that have the humility to learn and the hunger to develop.

4.  Allow for Failure.

Too often leaders try to shield the people they are developing from failure for fear that they will get discouraged, lose heart or quit. The problem with that approach is that failure is often the best mentor. We tend to learn the most from our failures, not from our successes. Not only that, failure is a key tool in God’s hands that keeps us humble and dependent on Him. It was precisely Peter’s failure before Christ that led to His radical transformation from an eager, hot-headed leader to a humble and gentle shepherd of God’s sheep. Don’t rescue your team from failure, teach them instead how to walk through failure and learn from it.

Zig Ziglar once said, “You don’t build a business, you build people. And then people build the business.” So stop trying to build a great organization and invest yourself instead in building great men and women that will make your organization truly great.


A Leader’s Perseverance

Leading people is one of the toughest things you’ll do. Whether it’s your kids, a tough employee or an entire organization, dealing with people is undoubtedly one of the most demanding aspects of leadership. As such, one of the most critical attributes for any leader to possess is perseverance.

If Scripture teaches us anything about leadership it is that spiritual leadership requires resiliency. Consider some of the greatest leaders in the Bible: Moses, David, Nehemiah, Jesus or the Apostle Paul; all of these men faced incredible resistance from those they were called to serve and yet they carried on with character in the midst of difficulty. Our willingness to trust God and remain faithful when times are tough is critical if our leadership is to make a lasting impact.

Perseverance in Practice

The very issues that frustrate us are also the ones that have the greatest potential to shape and define us as leaders. This is why it is so critical that we lean in, listen and learn in the midst of the challenges we face. How? Here are four things I try to keep in mind:

1. Tension to Manage vs. Problem to Solve.

Pastor and author Andy Stanley encourages leaders to ask this question when facing challenges: “Is this a tension to manage or a problem to solve?” Many of the frustrations we face (especially those related to people and their personalities) are not issues we can solve but rather tensions that must continually be managed. Understanding this difference can lift the pressure of feeling like a failure as a leader for not having finally moved past a particular issue. Some issues simply never go away. Figure out which issues may never be fully resolved and learn to embrace them by managing them well over the long haul.

2. Have Healthy Outlets

One of the biggest temptations in the midst of crisis is to cheat yourself: your schedule, your workouts, your family time and your down time. We do believing that we need to meet the pressure (or the crisis) head on… and we tell ourselves that we’ll rest when its over. The problem is crisis is always around the corner and if we cheat our rest or our healthy habits now we won’t have the health and strength to deal with the next urgent issue. Great leaders know how essential it is to maintain healthy outlets to cope with their stress. Whether it’s working out, running, reading, music or a hobby of some kind, you cannot afford to cheat yourself in the midst of crisis.

3. Prayer is the Backbone of Perseverance.

If you survey the lives of great leaders in the Bible and study how they dealt with adversity you will find 1 common denominator: prayer. Nehemiah’s leadership was marked by it; Christ consistently sought moments for it; Paul repeatedly asked for it. Simply put, prayer is a major key to persevering. Prayer pulls our eyes off of the problem and helps us instead seek God’s strength, wisdom and leadership for whatever we are facing. Don’t treat this as cliché! God makes it clear: the leader that prays, perseveres.

4. Confront the Brutal Truth

Challenges to our leadership can often feel like threats and often in the face of a threat our natural inclination is to defend ourselves, our actions and our leadership. But that will only tank your leadership in the long run. To lead well we must be willingness to ask whether there is any truth to the criticism or issues we are facing. To do this we must surround ourselves with people willing to confront us for the good of the organization. Leaders that don’t duck the issues survive longer and lead with greater health than those that do. And teams that are led by such leaders not only respect that kind of leadership but they back it up. If you do this and do it well, soon you will find you have a lot of support fighting the battles within your organization.

Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” The principles above are just some of the ways I seek to ‘stay with the problems’ as I lead. What are some of yours? I’d love to hear what lessons you’ve learned. Leave me a comment below…