Lessons Learned From 50 Years in Leadership

Chuck Swindoll, Chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, received  a Lifetime Achievement Award at Catalyst 09.  He then spoke on “10 Things I Have Learned During Nearly 50 Years in Leadership”.  Because I am in the process of retiring from UGACCF after 28 years here and after 41 years of ministry what he had to say really resonated with me. His “top 10” list of leadership lessons were:

  1. It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.
  2. It’s dangerous to succeed. He expressed especial concern for those who are under 30 and are very gifted and successful.  Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but it is rare because He usually uses leaders who have gone through “crushing and failure” first.  This was a reference back to what he was told by an experienced minister when he was fresh out of the military and a freshman at Seminary: “When God wants to do an impossible task, he takes an impossible person and crushes him.”
  3. It’s hardest at home. Swindoll was quite humorous in relaying the truth that no matter how “famous” you are as a leader, speaker, or teacher at home you’re not anything special.  No that I am famous but as one who has traveled and spoken a lot over the years I can testify that this is so true.  Instead of applause you get “Dad, you’re not wearing that in public are you?”  No one ever told me this in Seminary.
  4. It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders.  Stay real.
  5. It’s painful to obey. There are rewards but the Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice.  Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.
  6. Brokenness and failure are necessary.
  7. Attititude is more important than actions.  Swindoll joked “Your family may not have told you, but some of you are getting hard to be around.”  His point: A bad attitude overshadows good actions.
  8. Integrity eclipses image.  Our world highlights image but what is really important is what you do out of the spotlight and behind the scenes.
  9. God’s way is better than my way.
  10. Christlikeness begins and ends with humility.

2 Corinthians 4:5-7  tells us that we must be willing to leave the familiar means without disturbing the Biblical message. We get that backwards. This was written in the first century, and now we are in the 21st century. Methods change but the message stays the same. Don’t miss the message. As you alter the methods, don’t mess with the message.

Swindoll also gave 3 important observations abotu minstry:

  1. With every ministry a special mercy is needed.
  2. In every ministry the same things must be renounced and rejected: hiding shameful things, doing deceitful things, and corrupting truthful things.
  3. Through every ministry a unique style should be pursued.
    We don’t preach or promote ourselves (it isn’t about us). We declare Christ Jesus as Lord (it’s all about Him). We see ourselves as bond-servants for Jesus Christ.

Swindoll concluded with “5 Statements Worth Remembering During Your Next 50 Years of Leadership”:

  1. Whatever you do, do more with others and less alone.
    It will help you become accountable.
  2. Whenever you do it, emphasize quality not quantity.
  3. Wherever you go, do it the same as if you were among those who know you the best.
    It will keep you from exaggerating. it will help keep your stories true. A good friend will tell you things that others will not. They will hold you close to truth.
  4. Whoever may respond to your ministry, keep a level head.
  5. However long you lead, keep on dripping with gratitude and grace.
    Stay thankful. Stay gracious

I would love to hear which of these lessons strikes you most.  So please add your comment.

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