The Art of Leadership

By Ryan Smith

Over time, it seems as people we tend to lose sight of what true leadership is. Employees do not exist to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the employees. The best leaders do not bark orders at those under their command but instead guide them with a gentle hand. True leaders see the value in positive reinforcement and affirmation. They see the potential in their workers rather than highlighting mistakes.

Leadership is not a role or a title, it’s the responsibility of directing intentional relationships with others for a unified purpose.

leadership-climbingOnce you have these talented individuals working together in unity towards one goal, that is when you see true progress. For increased productivity in the workplace, there is no doubt you need to motivate your team. If you’re a leader and struggling with this topic, the problem can be found by drawing a circle around your own two feet.

The greatest leaders of all time understood this. Compare the leadership styles of Nelson Mandela and Adolf Hitler. Both were effective leaders and overcame many obstacles during their time in power. However, what was the long term effect of their leadership? Hitler did not look past his own selfish desires. He had no genuine care for those who followed him and certainly had no intention to develop their potential. His work only left scars and shame for everyone involved. On the other hand I have been to South Africa and seen the way the people are in awe of Nelson Mandela. He is a national hero and an inspiration to all, even after his death. He lead with compassion, even to those who imprisoned him for 30 years. It is with his great love which he was able to inspire the country and stop a national crisis.

However, let’s not forget the best leader of all. Unlike the tame and quiet paintings we’ve seen of Jesus, his leadership style was quite the opposite. He was extremely passionate and inspired the masses. Christ cared deeply for each of his disciples and knew them intimately. He guarded and protected them. The great love he had for them inspired them and he constantly pushed them to their full potential. He was and still is the great shepherd, leading his sheep.

That is the way in which we should all lead. Motivate and inspire your team, find the good in them and take advantage of and build upon their strengths. By investing yourself and your time in your employees, you can better understand them as people. This will allow you to put them in roles in which they will strive and exceed expectations rather than struggle. You can not judge a fish on its ability to climb trees. If you want to increase productivity for your team, you must allow your swimmers to swim, and your climbers to climb. You will only know who they are until you build a relationship with them.

Leadership is an art that should be a labor of love.

It will take years of refining your leadership style until you see the desired results. However if your only reason for investing in your employees is to achieve results than you don’t deserve to lead in the first place.

If you’re still confused about what great leadership looks like, think of a father raising his son. The father sees the best in his son, encourages him, listens to him and offers constructive criticism for the sole purpose of making him a better person. Like being a stand up father, becoming a great leader requires the same amount of commitment. It will be hard, it will be frustrating, you won’t always know the right thing to do…but it will be worth it.

After going through the East Mountain Leadership Development program I had the opportunity to build my leadership skills to a level far beyond the majority of my peers. It is an art I am always developing and will continue to develop. I hope my words will light a fire and inspire you to improve the way you think about leadership. It is a gift from God and a responsibility. The world needs great Christian leaders and strong individuals who commit to bringing us together. Be thankful for the privilege to lead God’s people and bring them to be united.

About the Author

Ryan Smith is currently a college senior at the University of Alabama majoring in Advertising & Graphic Design. He was the first intern at East Mountain, a program dedicated to developing Christian Leaders for global missional service, and currently works as a Marketing Specialist for United World Mission.