IVP - Online Pulpit - Reading - A Critical Need of a Leader

July 1, 2008

Reading - A Critical Need of a Leader

Each summer for the past several years my family has vacationed in a small Florida town on the Atlantic coast. During those vacations while waiting for the next wave on a boogie board, I have made some rather astute observations: Waves are always changing, unpredictable. Don’t turn your back for long to the waves. Don’t envy those near you catching waves or you will miss the “big one” coming toward you. Knowing which waves to let pass and which ones to take is the key to great rides. Knowing how to get off the wave before it throws you onto the beach will prevent scraped elbows and knees.

An effective leader, like an effective boogie boarder, must understand the waves of culture. One of the critical needs of a leader is to read the waves. Effective leaders don’t make waves but recognize the waves of culture fast approaching them. “Reading the waves” means assessing the events and occurrences in our world and drawing conclusions (often educated guesses) about what will happen in our world tomorrow.

How does a leader read the waves?

Look at the world. Yogi Berra spoke an inadvertent mouthful when he said, “You can observe a lot just by watching.” Our society admits all too often that they “should have seen it coming.” Leaders have a responsibility to see what is coming down the road so as to better inform their organization.

Eavesdrop on society. First look, then listen. What are people saying? What are they thinking? Where are they going? What are the trends? What are the turning points in society? Overhearing “conversations” often leads to a world of information.

Talk to people. One of the best ways of reading the waves is to talk to people. Leaders don’t always need to hire a marketing firm; they just need to get out of the office and see what is going on in the world. In Urban Christian Ray Bakke suggests “that pastors should invest one day a week in ‘networking’ their communities—building personal relationships at all levels.”

Read. An effective leader is a well-read leader. Look for what’s different, incongruous, new, worrisome, exciting. Read broadly. Read for different points of view. Read the feature stories and skip the celebrity profiles, crime reports and the latest scandal. Read up on at least one new subject every week. Read the local newspapers. * Assess the present.* Peter Drucker is considered by many as “the father of modern management.” Leadership Network recently excerpted some of his most important lessons. The one that jumped off the [page] at me was, “Know the value of foresight; … you can’t predict the future, but you must assess the futurity of present events.” * Know what God is up to.* Scripture tells us that there are some things that only God can do. We need to have spiritual eyes to identify those things. The fact is that we have been so ingrained in a cause-and-effect way of doing things that sometimes we fail to see when God is working. We need God to open our spiritual eyes so we can see him at work.

God works through big waves and little waves. Let’s learn to read the waves so we might successfully ride with God into the future.

Posted by Rick Ezell at July 1, 2008 9:32 AM Bookmark and Share

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