What “Flavor” of Leader Are You Looking For?

April 30, 2012

How do you describe a leader?  When you think of a leader within your organization, what “picture” pops up in your mind?  Now be honest on this next question!  Answer your first and instinctive response and not what you think you ought to say – no one can hear you anyway!  When you are looking for leaders within your organization, what is the first thing you look for?

Why is this important?  It is important because none of us are completely objective.  We all have biases and we all tend to work from stereotypes to one degree or another.  If you have a bias towards a certain “type” of person or if you are working off a stereotype or a picture of an ideal leader then you will gravitate to only those types of people and possibly overlook others of a different type that have tremendous potential.

Quite honestly, when someone says leader, I automatically picture a charismatic individual, who is sharp-looking, standing in front of a mesmerized group of people exhorting them on to great things with eloquent words with great passion.  Pretty much the stereotype popular in our culture.

There is a slight problem with this picture.  It seems, inconveniently, that leaders come in all sorts of flavors.  In fact, in Jim Collins classic book, Good To Great, ALL of the great companies he researched were led by people who had what he called a “charisma bypass”.  Did you see another problem?  It has to do with classifying someone as having potential based solely upon externalities – not their character.

In all organizations, but most especially ministry, it is first and foremost about the person’s character.  It is about WHO the person is – not about how they look or sound.  “Of course it is!” you say, “Everyone knows that!” I know, I know – however, in over thirty years too often I have seen people who espouse these values and say that these things are important begin conversations on spotting potential leaders with things like, “He speaks well and is very persuasive, so he is bound to be a good leader.” or “He is a sharp-looking man and is involved in so much.” or “People really like being around her!”  Looks, image and verbal ability too often subtly trump character, even in organizations where it is of utmost importance.

Leaders truly come in all sorts of “flavors” regarding how they look and sound and personality type.  If you have one stereotype (or one flavor) in mind, you will overlook some highly gifted people with great potential.  However, things that should be the same in regards to leaders are the things on the inside – WHO they are.  This should be consistent and as a developer of future leaders, you should be looking deep inside people and not basing your decisions on the externalities.

Just some food for thought for you as you start this week.

“For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

Blessings on your week,
BG