High Caliber Leaders

Several years ago I had a ministry where I was the only person who officed at the church. There were a lot of things wrong with that arrangement, but I was able to accomplish a lot of work in that environment. I found I could accomplish most of the things I needed to accomplish in the day between the hours of 8am and noon. That left me four or five hours in the afternoon where I was able to invest in my own personal growth.

That was a point pretty early in my ministry, and I was at a stage in leadership where I realized the best thing I could do to invest in ministry was to learn as much as I could learn about leading well. So I read almost anything I could get my hands on about leadership. I studied the lives of leaders; the things that made them tick, the way they spent their time, the habits they generated that served them well in their area of leadership.

One of the things I noticed that was true about almost every high-caliber leader I read about was other high-caliber leaders. Virtually nobody who was a successful leader - in the realm of the church or the realm of business - got there (a) by accident, or (b) alone.

So, I started trying to find the highest caliber leaders I could find, and scheduled time with them. I found that most of them - even some leaders who are pretty high-profile and busy - would take time to meet with a young guy if they felt like it was a good investment. So I got to visit with all kinds of people across the spectrum of leadership who had some really great input for me as I continue to develop.

Today, I'm still in the early stages of leadership and ministry; but I feel as though the time I took to allow high-caliber leaders to invest in me is one of the greatest leadership decisions I've made.

A couple of things are important in that process. The first is staying humble. There's a temptation when you're surrounding yourself with high-caliber leaders to become a name-dropper, and everyone hates those guys. I tried to stay completely humble, and rarely told anyone I knew about the meetings I had. If you're a name-dropper, and it gets back to the leader you've surrounded yourself with, they'll feel used and dishonored and will hesitate to ever invest in you again.

The second thing that's important in the process is asking the right questions. The more specific and direct you can be, the more valuable your time together will be. If he/she wrote a book, read it and take notes prior to getting together. If he/she spoke at a conference, or made a significant decision, or did something else significant, know as many details as you can. Those things will give you a glimpse into the leader's passions and areas of expertise; sometimes they'll give you a window into the leader's weaknesses too. When you're able to be direct and give a high-caliber leader a chance to speak about his passions, you won't have to ask many questions. And the person you're meeting with will realize that you care enough about spending time with them to use the time wisely. There's nothing worse than wasting a high-caliber leader's time.

So, make a call today. Find the person you respect most and get on his schedule. The worst he/she can tell you is "no." Surround yourself with high-caliber people, and you can't help but amp up your own leadership.