So You Want To Be a Leader?
The journey to becoming a great leader can take a lifetime. I can’t think of a better pursuit—or a more potentially overwhelming one.
There are literally thousands of books, podcasts, blogs, articles, conferences, and webinars available on the elements of effective leadership. So many great books and resources have shaped my own understanding of the topic. Here are just a few:
- "The Measure of a Man" by Gene Getz
- "The Ideal Team Player" by Patrick Lencioni
- "The One Thing You Need To Know" by Marcus Buckingham
- "Good to Great" by Jim Collins
- "Primal Leadership" by Daniel Goleman
- "Leading on Empty" by Wayne Cordiero
- "Impact Players" by Liz Wiseman
- "Exponential" by Dave Ferguson
- "Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown
With so many excellent resources available, where’s the best place to start?
I want to suggest a model that we can all use for understanding the basics of leadership. It’s also a framework that we can use to put together a plan to help us grow as leaders. I call it the "Five-tool" leader model.
In baseball, there is a term for a special type of player: the “five-tool” player. These rare players excel in five distinct areas: fielding, throwing, hitting, hitting for power, and running. Lots of players have talent and ability in one, two, or even three skills from that list. But if a player can excel in all five areas, they are considered truly great. I think we can use this idea to describe a “five-tool” leader—one who carefully cultivates excellence in five critical areas.
Here are the five strengths of a five-tool leader. Notice that these elements build upon each other.
Character refers to the internal traits that guide external behaviors. Many people have described character as "who you are when no one is looking."
Leadership starts with character; it is the foundation upon which effective leadership is built. Character formation begins at a young age and is strengthened over time through a number of ways. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 describe the type of character that a leader needs to have.
2. Good Self-leadership
I define self-leadership as practicing rhythms that allow you to flourish. Leading ourselves well incudes practices like being able to define our needs, being aware of our emotions, managing our relationships, engaging in various spiritual practices, and paying attention to regular exercise and good nutrition.
Leadership is a life-long journey, and if we are going to journey well, we must lead ourselves well before we think about leading others. There have been so many gifted leaders who were stopped in their tracks due to poor character and poor self-leadership choices. Ephesians 5:15 reads, “Be very careful then how you live- not as unwise but as wise.” Paying close attention to how we live is good self-leadership.
I think of drive as a determination to achieve. That achievement can be in all sorts of arenas based on our own story.
Our purpose, passions, experiences, personalities, and values serve as guides for our drive, and discovering these things takes time, intentionality, and guidance. The magic of our own leadership development happens when we align all these things and fully utilize them.
It can be extremely frustrating if we haven’t done the hard work of discovering these things. We can run from opportunity to opportunity with drive but no common purpose, chasing an endless number of achievements that are disconnected.
Judgment is wisdom in action. It is synonymous with discernment.
I have a close friend who says, “Leaders are paid for their judgment.”
As I lead more and more, I find that my main contribution is in this area. Leaders must make decisions often; how we use our judgment to make those decisions (and the decisions themselves) will make or break us.
As for cultivating good judgment, let me suggest a few growth avenues. The book of Proverbs is full of wise instructions for living and leading. Experiences, especially stretching ones, are also great catalysts for learning how to improve judgment. People are a third source for developing judgment. I have multiple mentors who have saved me from so many poor leadership decisions. (Don’t get me wrong—I wish I had put more mentors in my life to save me from some of the poor decisions I have made.)
Judgment is an area that has endless opportunities for growth.
Influence is the amount of impact a person has on how people think and act. I list this one last because it is usually the one that we think of first, but it only comes from the combination of the previous four elements.
We don’t have to stretch ourselves very much to increase our influence. Influence usually comes at the invitation of others, and those invitations come due to strength in the previous areas.
We will unpack each of these areas more fully in future articles. For now, take some time to think about one of these five areas to focus on for growth and development. For the next 90 days, put a few plans together to help you develop that area. Share your plan with a close friend so that you have support and encouragement on your leadership journey.
Want to be a leader? Let’s pursue five-tool leadership together, and help each other learn, live, and laugh along the way.