This past month has been a special month for me. I turned 32 years old on the 21st (wohoo!), and on the 11th was Veterans day (I was a soldier in the US Army back in the day).
As I think about my time in the Army there is one massive thing I am grateful for in that experience - the opportunity to learn how to lead. Now, I am not a perfect leader by far. I make tons of mistakes all the time. But the military gave me a solid leadership foundation I can always go back to. In today's post, I would like to share three leadership lessons I learned from the Army that are a must have for pastors and church leaders.
1. Live by the Leadership Singularity.
A singularity is basically the most simple state of a thing. It's used in science a lot when discussing the origin of the universe and points to a time where everything we now see in the universe was once "single" thing (this is like the super elementary definition). Leadership is the same way. It can be complex. It can have many variables, scenarios, hacks and tricks but if you boil effective leadership down to its most simple "singular" state you would arrive at this four letter word:
Caring about others is the leadership singularity. A Sergeant First Class taught me this as I was getting ready to become a Sergeant myself. "Just care about your soldiers" he said, "and the rest will follow".
So pastors, care about your church members. I mean really, truly care. You will make lots of mistakes as a leader. Don't let the lack of care be one of them. You can bounce back from many a fumble. But if you don't care about people and they know it (and trust me they will) there is seldom any bouncing back from that.
2. Embody your people.
In the military, good leaders are those who embody their soldiers. In other words, they don't look at their soldiers as employees, volunteers, stepping stones or tools to accomplish the mission. Rather, they look at them as family. These kinds of leaders will live and die for their people. They will take any flack, endure any heat and remove any obstacle to see their people succeed. They are not interested in their peoples performance so much as they are interested in their people. They don't have a "me" and "them" approach either. Everything to this kind of leader is "us". If you insult their team this kind of leader will stand up for them even if you compliment her/his leadership personally.
Pastors should learn this lesson, and learn it well. I don't know how many pastors and church leaders I have met who go on and on about how bad their church members are. When others speak badly of their churches these leaders take no offence so long as their personal "amazingness" is recognised. And many times, they view their churches as a stepping stone to future and better opportunities. They don't embody their people, and it shows.
3. Be a bearer, not a wearer.
In the military everyone wears rank insignia. When you become a sergeant, you receive the three stripes in the picture below. These three stripes symbolise your role as a leader and are recognised and respected everywhere you go. However, there are two types of sergeants in the military: the wearer, and the bearer.
This is the sergeant who wears the stripes and enjoys the respect that comes with them. He/she can give commands, demand respect and exercise control in certain situations. However, the stripes also come with a burden to bear. The burden of care, nurture and sacrifice. The burden of standing up for your people and, at times, taking a punishment on their behalf so they don't have to. Wearers do none of that. They wear the rank and welcome all its accolades while refusing to bear the burden that comes with it.
By now, you know what the bearer is. They welcome both the kudos and the burden. They lead selflessly and see themselves as servants not taskmasters. These kinds of leaders are loved and people follow them because they are inspired, not required.
So there you have it! My top 3 Army leadership lessons for pastors and church leaders. And if you haven't noticed, Jesus exhibited all three of these as well. He cared deeply for his people, embodied them and bore the burden of leadership all the way to the cross. So you don't need the Army to teach you this stuff. You just need to look to Jesus. Let's lead like him.