You’ve probably heard of the New York Times bestseller Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and It’s All Small Stuff by Dr. Richard Carlson. I copied this snippet from the book’s Amazon listing: “Are the little things in life driving you crazy? Isn’t it time you put these small annoyances into perspective once and for all?”
This #1 New York Times bestseller offers suggestions for daily changes that can add up to a more relaxed, stress-free life. Richard Carlson reveals ways to calm down, live in the present moment, let others have the glory at times, lower your tolerance to stress, trust your intuitions, and ultimately live each day as if it might be your last.
I have not read this book, but I get the point and agree with it.
But the title of this blog, “Every Little Thing Means a Lot,” is also true.
Everything communicates. Our body language, the tone of our voice, the exact content of the words we use. The font, the color and the size of the words we read. The accuracy of the things we say. The things we do, the things we don’t do.
I have an appreciation for good lawyers, because this is something they grasp. Details matter so much that they get paid real money to worry about them.
Leaders need to pay attention to the details.
Don’t sign anything you have not read or don’t understand. Ugh. It is hard work to go the extra mile with proofing. It takes time and most often the document is fine anyway. When you have a leadership role in your family or at work, know and act like signing something means you are acknowledging its value.
Send well-written and well thought-out thank you notes. Few people do this anymore, even fewer make them sound personal. When I receive these and they are well done, I become more of a fan of the person who sent it.
Make good on your word. Do what you say. Through your follow-through, trust is built or diminished. Quit saying you will call someone to get together when you never intend to. This habit quickly wears down trust. I keep a note card in my pocket and write down what I promise.
Remember birthdays, anniversaries and important dates.
Learn people’s names. One of the most important words we hear is the sound of our own names.
While walking around our campus I witnessed one of our Vice Presidents bend down and pick up some litter and throw it in the trash. This was not in the job description, but man, was I impressed!
A person I work with on campus always rises when someone enters their office. This shows value and appreciation for the person paying a visit. I am trying to do the same thing.
The list could go on. Make your own. My point is that these things may seem small to us, but to others they will probably have a big effect. Have fun doing random acts that make a big difference.
The closer you get to Jesus, the more powerful you become as a leader.
The value in our own walk with Christ is not only to make us into all that He desires for us to become, but to be the light of the world. We are called to make a difference in this life, and the closer our walk with Jesus, the bigger difference we will make in a world that desperately needs hope and love.
Why is this?
Jesus was the most powerful leader who has ever walked this earth. I would define ‘powerful leadership’ as both how many followers you have, and the effect you have on others’ lives for the good. Jesus wins hands-down on this measurement. Therefore, we need to learn how Jesus led, and get our power, insight and direction from Him.
The problem is that the Bible is very clear that “God’s ways are not our ways” (Isaiah 55:8). Here are some things the Bible challenges us with in regards to powerful leadership:
Humility trumps lording over people.
Great leaders know it is not about them, but about inspiring followers to a transforming vision.
Wisdom comes from multiple voices. Listening trumps talking.
The things we see are not the real and important things. The unseen things are more valuable than we know.
You cannot fake leadership. In the end we are all “found out.” Leaders know that the biggest challenge they have is in leading themselves, not others. Leading is just as much about who you are as what you do.
You can’t lead without knowing those you lead and being known by your close followers. This, in turn, casts a big shadow. When you make a point to know your team, they are more likely to do the same with the people around them.
You can do nothing of eternal importance without being grafted into Jesus who is the fruit-producing vine. We are only the branches. (John 15)
An intimate relationship with Jesus that is lived out daily, moment by moment, is the whole ballgame.
What is your reaction to these leadership concepts? Many of these I have heard and believed for a long time. But these truisms only empower you as a leader when you actually put them into practice, constantly and faithfully working them into your daily life. We know from experience that this is a nonstop battle. Our own humanity works against this and the evil in our world tries to interfere with the transforming process that Jesus wants to carry out in the lives of leaders.
As President and C.E.O. of CRISTA Ministries, it is my hope that every one of our leaders sees the purpose and value of walking the narrow path. We do this by recognizing that everything we do, great or small, has great significance.
Someone once asked the Pope how he is able to carry the burden of his office and to get so much done in a day. His answer was that he rises early and prays for five hours before he starts the day. “How can you actually do more when you’re spending so much time alone?” came the reply. The simply answer was, “how can I get anything done without being on God’s agenda every moment of the day?”
Jesus called this the narrow gate. I want to be a leader who goes through that gate!