The only time you are guaranteed 100% accuracy is when you aim at nothing! Given what we have learned in posts #4 (Characteristics) and # 5 (Barriers) what can we do to facilitate a journey to finish well? What can we do to begin living a life worth leaving in the lives of others? What can we do to ensure a pleasing aroma rather than a stench lingers long after we are gone? What can we do to further God’s redemptive purposes in this world before we leave this earth?
J. Robert Clinton and his team extracted five ‘enhancements’ from their research data gleaned from the lives of biblical, historical, and contemporary leaders (~ 3800 case studies using grounded theory methodology) that when applied will help a leader finish well. We have to be intentional about exercising these enhancements. It will take time and practice. Although the principles he espouses are focused on leaders in ministry, they apply as well to organizational leadership. I have practiced these principles for the better part of my leadership life and I can attest unreservedly of their effectiveness and utility.
Once again, in Dr. Clinton’s own words…
Enhancement 1. Perspective
We need to have a lifetime perspective on work. Effective leaders view present efforts in terms of a lifetime perspective. We gain that perspective by studying lives of leaders as commanded in Hebrews 13:7-8. I have been doing intensive study of leaders’ lives over many years. Leadership Emergence Theory (LET) is the result of that research. Its many concepts can help us understand more fully just how God does shape a leader over a lifetime.
Enhancement 2. Renewal
Special moments of intimacy with God, challenges from God, new vision from God and affirmation from God both for personhood and work will occur repeatedly to a growing leader. These destiny experiences will be needed, appreciated, and will make the difference in persevering in a job. All leaders should expectantly look for these repeated times of renewal. Some can be initiated by the leader. But some come sovereignly from God. We can seek them, of course, and be ready for them.
Most leaders who have been effective over a lifetime have needed and welcomed renewal experiences from time to time in their lives. Some times are more crucial in terms of renewal than others. Apparently in western society the mid-thirty's and early forty's and mid-fifties are crucial times in which renewal is frequently needed in a leader's life. Frequently during these critical periods discipline slacks, there is a tendency to plateau and rely on one's past experience and skills, and a sense of confusion concerning achievement and new direction prevail. Unusual renewal experiences with God can overcome these tendencies and redirect a leader. An openness for them, a willingness to take steps to receive them, and a knowledge of their importance for a whole life can be vital factors in profiting from enhancement 2 for finishing well. Sometimes these renewal experiences are divinely originated by God and we must be sensitive to his invitation. At other times we must initiate the renewal efforts.
Enhancement 3. Disciplines
Leaders need discipline of all kinds. Especially is this true of spiritual disciplines. A strong surge toward spirituality now exists. This movement combined with an increasingly felt need due to the large number of failures is propelling leaders to hunger for intimacy. The spiritual disciplines are one mediating means for getting this intimacy. Such authors as Eugene Peterson, Dallas Willard, and Richard Foster are experts in this field of spirituality. Leaders without these leadership tools are prone to failure via sin as well as plateauing.
I concur with Paul's admonitions to discipline as a means of insuring perseverance in the ministry (and organizational leadership). When Paul was around 50 years of age he wrote to the Corinthian church what appears to be both an exhortation to the Corinthians and an explanation of a major leadership value in his own life. We need to keep in mind that he had been in ministry for about 21 years. He was still advocating strong discipline. I paraphrase it in my own words.
I am serious about finishing well in my Christian ministry. I discipline myself for fear that after challenging others into the Christian life I myself might become a casualty. 1Corinthians 9:24-27
Lack of physical discipline is often an indicator of laxity in the spiritual life as well. Toward the end of his life, Paul is probably between 65 and 70, he is still advocating discipline. This time he writes to Timothy, who is probably between 30 and 35 years old.
...Instead exercise your mind in godly things. 8 For physical exercise is advantageous somewhat but exercising in godliness has long term implications both for today and for that which will come. (1Timothy 4:7b-8)
Leaders should from time to time assess their state of discipline. I recommend in addition to standard word disciplines involving the devotional life and study of the Bible other disciplines such as solitude, silence, fasting, frugality, chastity, secrecy.
Enhancement 4. Learning Posture
The single most important antidote to plateauing is a well-developed learning posture. Such a posture is also one of the major ways through which God gives vision. It sounds simple enough but many leaders don't heed it. Two Biblical leaders who certainly were learners all their lives and exemplified this principle were Daniel and Paul. Note how Daniel observed this principle. In Daniel 9 when he is quite old we find that he was still studying his Bible and still learning new things from it. And he was alert to what God wanted to do through what he was learning. Consequently, Daniel was able to intercede for his people and become a recipient of one of the great messianic revelations. Paul's closing remarks to Timothy show he was still learning. "And when you come don't forget the books Timothy!" (2Ti 4:13).
There are many non-formal training events available such as workshops, seminars, and conferences covering a variety of learning skills. Take advantage of them. A good learning posture is insurance against plateauing and a helpful prod along the way to persevere in leadership. An inflexible spirit with regards to learning is almost a sure precursor to finishing so-so or poorly.
Enhancement 5. Mentoring
Comparative study of many leaders’ lives indicates the frequency with which other people were significant in challenging them into leadership and in giving timely advice and help so as to keep them there. Leaders who are effective and finish well will have from 10 to 15 significant people who came alongside at one time or another to help them.
The general notion of mentoring involves a relational empowerment process in which someone who knows something (the mentor) passes on something (wisdom, advice, information, emotional support, protection, linking to resources) to someone who needs it (the mentoree, protégé) at a sensitive time so that it impacts the person's development.
The basic dynamics of mentoring include attraction, relationship, response, accountability and empowerment. My observations on mentoring suggest that most likely, any leader will need a mentor at all times over a lifetime of leadership. Mentoring is available if one looks for specific functions and people who can do them (rather than an ideal mentor who can do all). God will provide a mentor in a specific area of need for you if you trust Him for one and you are willing to submit and accept responsibility.
Simply stated a final suggestion for enabling a good finish is find a mentor who will hold you accountable in your spiritual life and work and who can warn and advise so as to enable you to avoid pitfalls and to grow throughout your lifetime of organizational engagement.
To be continued…