Everybody wants to leave a legacy. But the reality is we can’t control the impact or the length of our legacy. We’re prophets to our own generation (Acts 13:36) who serve God, play our role and are gone.
That said, how we live and lead does have an impact on our endurance. Our perspective, the way we love our people, our dependability and our sense of security all directly affect our ability to lead and serve effectively for the long haul.
1. Maintain Perspective
Don’t take yourself too seriously. We’re just a mist that’s here today, gone tomorrow (James 4:14). When our work is done, God will say, “Next!” and the kingdom will go on quite well without us.
I tell pastors I’m mentoring to simply do your best, then take a nap. Because at the end of the day, all we can do is prepare the horse for battle. Ultimately, the victory or defeat belongs to the Lord (Proverbs 21:30-31).
2. Love Your People
Solomon said that a throne or leadership position is made safe and secure by two things: love and faithfulness (Proverbs 20:28). These two traits are essential to a lasting leadership run.
The first trait, love, is simply treating those we lead with a 1 Corinthians 13 attitude. This means responding to them with patience and kindness, not being self-seeking or keeping a record of wrongs. Treating the people we lead with this kind of agape love is directly tied to Jesus continuing to show up. When the church at Ephesus lost the agape love that it had at first, all of its passion, hard work and endurance came to naught. Jesus said he would stop showing up if they didn’t repent and go back to loving one another.
3. Be Dependable
The second trait Solomon extols is faithfulness. We call it dependability today. It means keeping our promises and fulfilling our responsibilities, being someone people can count on.
When we say God is faithful, we mean he keeps his promises. We can count on him. He won’t let us down. A leader who keeps his promises and consistently fulfills his responsibilities is the kind of leader people will gladly follow for the long-term.
4. Develop a Thick Skin
Servant leadership is a great idea until people begin to treat us like a servant. But that’s exactly the kind of leadership we’ve been called to emulate. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. He said the way to the top was through taking on the role of a servant and the way to the very top was to take on the role of a slave (Matthew 20:25-28).
Leaders who are easily hurt, offended or need oodles of affirmation don’t usually last very long. Their insecurity betrays them. But those who develop a sense of security in Christ respond differently. They learn that it’s a glory to overlook an offense (Proverbs 19:11) and that forgiving as we’ve been forgiven isn’t a cliché—it’s a command.
As Sam Chand pointed out in his excellent book, Leadership Pain: The Classroom for Growth, our leadership is closely tied to our relational pain threshold. Those with thicker skin can keep moving on with God’s greater glory in front of them and the cross behind them. Those with thin skin have to stop and lick their wounds, lash back or go into hiding.
Keep these four vital things in mind as you consider how you’re running the ministry marathon. They’ll help make sure you don’t run out of gas or hit the wall before the race is over.
If your hope is to lead well for the long term, consider joining me at one of our upcoming Sticky Teams conferences. In addition to being a main speaker, I’ll be hosting a special pre-conference session: Leadership For The Long Haul.