Thought leader Tim Elmore in his latest work, A New Kind of Diversity: Making the Different Generations on Your Team a Competitive Advantage, says that our youngest working generation, Gen Z, doesn't believe they need leaders.
I don't disagree, but a moment to reflect on what the world has been like over the last 20 years might shed some light onto the reason why. Generation Z has never known or experienced a world without technology. Their entire lives have been characterized by terrorism, mass shootings, corruption at the highest levels of leadership like we've never seen, a global pandemic, and the transgender movement to name just a few.
But here's the good news! The real truth is that we were all made to need and desire values-based, servant leadership, even us leaders!
Let me lay out 5 profound purposes a leader fulfills in the lives of his or her followers and remind you of why the world needs you to step up your leadership game no matter how successful you've been up to this point.
1. Leaders catalyze faith in those they lead
Harold Eberle, founder of Worldcast Ministries, writes: "People want someone in whom to believe. They both desire and need a person to respect—a champion of the faith—someone who stands for what they themselves believe. If they have an individual to whom they can point as an example of success, a person who has gone through the trials of life, yet has overcome using the very principles to which they hold, then they can continue believing and hoping that they, too, will succeed." Without a leader, it's difficult for people to believe in themselves, but a leader's courage to live authentically and with integrity even against the odds imparts the same to his or her followers.
2. Leaders create self worth in those they lead
It's one thing for a spouse, child, or friend to give of themselves for your personal growth and well-being. It fills an entirely different need when someone you respect gives you his or her time, energy, and resources to help you to improve. When someone like this believes in us, we begin to believe in ourselves. There's a reason that we make up Christ's body here on this earth. We're meant to fulfill our purpose and call interdependently. Remember, without our followers serving us out of their unique calls and gifts, we are also unable to serve them out of our call to lead. That's a sobering truth and a powerful reminder of the importance of community.
3. Leaders tell people what to do
Now before you get all puffed up, I don't mean the obvious here. In Romans 10:15a, the apostle Paul says, "How will they go unless they are sent?" Most people won't typically step out unless they're encouraged to do so. Leaders carry an authority to send others. Plainly stated, we help those we influence to recognize, step out in, and fulfill their God-given call. Are you getting goosebumps yet? There are people waiting for you to step up your leadership game!
4. Leaders provide a standard by which others measure themselves and help to clarify their own thoughts and beliefs, in essence acting as a catalyst toward personal security
We judge our own beliefs and how we're living our lives based on what those we respect say and do. Oftentimes this is happening at a subconscious level. What's interesting here is what we do next. If we agree, our own beliefs are validated and strengthened, but if we disagree, we are faced with another choice. (1) We reevaluate and change our views or (2) we become stronger in our opposing view. Our leadership influence allows those who follow our lead to constantly weigh their own beliefs and perspectives. The best leadership is not threatened by empowerment like this, and leaders who cultivate this kind of safety have many perspectives to draw from on their team because they've made it clear that powerful and respectful relationships can still exist even when everyone doesn't agree. They have learned how to engage in healthy conflict where every voice is valued and ultimately to submit to and trust the final authority.
5. A leader provides purpose and unity through a shared vision
Without a vision, the people wander aimlessly. John Maxwell says, "Unhappiness is not knowing what you want and telling yourself to get it." Leaders do two things here: (1) they cast and recast a common vision to keep the picture right in front of their people and (2) they push through difficulties necessary to make a way for others to come along. The most effective leaders understand that a vision grows and changes because what satisfies you now will not in a few years. The vision changes with the people and the people change with the vision, but the leader is the one to keep it all in perspective and provide the guidance and equipping necessary so that the team can work together in peace and harmony. When people follow visionary leaders, they can live productive, happy, and blessed lives in a culture of belonging and interdependence.
Ultimately, a leader gives what can't be seen. He or she produces the visible fruit of transformation. People are fulfilled and secure in their beliefs and values. There are healthy relationships among people, and individuals are leading themselves well. They're spurred on by faith and hope in what they carry and the impact they can make by living true to themselves and what they uniquely carry for the betterment of others.