I am blessed to be surrounded by lots of leaders in my life. Those who lead down (mentors and disciple-makers), those who lead across (leaders in the trenches with me), and those who lead up (those who I technically lead but influence me equally).
Today, I want to give some shout outs to those who lead up.
Of the three different kinds, these leaders are my favorites. Technically follow me-- either because they are paid to do so or volunteer to do so-- but that's not why they are my favorites. They are my favorites because of the unique ways they find to lead me and how often I find myself following them. I love them because I admire their courage, their humility, their confidence, and their insatiable desire to grow.
Some of my favorites are Will
, and Josh
. My beloved "Team D." These poor souls are paid to follow me but certainly are not paid enough to do so. And for that matter, as a Protege, Josh isn't paid at all. They lead up. They influence decisions, change my mind, challenge me personally, and initiate new things that I would have never dreamed up. They are changing the way community happens at NCC because they are willing to influence the one who leads them.
We've got some great volunteers at NCC who also lead up. People like former zone leaders Nathan Gonzales and Sarah Owen whose opinions I trust when we contemplate new directions. Guys like Jonathan Shradar who I could always trust to shoot straight about ideas. Leaders like Dennis Bourne and Brandon Brown who jump into all kinds of crazy projects and roles and offer the kind of advice and counsel that I need to hear.
Some of the teenage girls I hang out with also lead up. Michelle and Summer do not hesitate to boomerang my probing questions right back at me. I can't encourage them to do something without being willing to be held accountable to the same thing myself. They challenge me to try new things, to look with new perspective, and to grow.
Here are some things I have observed about those who lead up effectively.
- They follow well. Great leadership-- no matter which direction you are leading-- always begins with following well.
- They are not "yes" men. They shoot straight in a humble yet confident manner.
- They are solution oriented. They don't offer criticism unless they are willing to be part of the solution. And they offer solutions.
- They have a team mindset. They aren't looking out for number one. They are committed to being one-- unified as a team.
- They find creative and genuine ways to let their leader know they are "for" them. They've cultivated a soft skill of affirmation that is not patronizing or self-serving.
- They offer their opinion but are willing to fully embrace and personally commit to the final decision.
- They aggressively seek out responsibilities that they are not required to take.
- They look for excuses to be with their leader outside the context of their job requirements because they realize those environments are great times to influence.
- They send their leaders gift cards to Zaytinya, tickets to Nats games, and game cards for Dave and Busters.
I'm kidding about one of those...but I won't tell you which one...