This article is an excerpt of Chapter 36, “Leaders Making a Difference,” in Johnny Hunt’s book Building Your Leadership Resume: Developing the Legacy That Will Outlast You.
Today may just look like any other day. Another page to turn in your calendar. Another coffee and a bagel. Another drive to the office. Just like yesterday. But it’s ordinary days like these that comprise a life. And if our hearts aren’t serious about making a difference this morning, this afternoon, this evening before we go to bed, we’ll wake up one ordinary day and wish we had another. We’ll wish we’d done more when we had the chance. We’ll wish we hadn’t viewed our meetings, appointments, and planning sessions as ordeals to slog through but as opportunities to effect lasting change.
Leaders don’t make a difference by rallying people’s enthusiasm at some big event or by launching major programs and initiatives. They make a difference by going full throttle on the Tuesday nights and Thursday mornings when everyone else is watching TV or reading cereal boxes. They make a difference by being everyday difference makers. That’s what I’ve always wanted to be. Each time the Lord has led me to begin pastoring a church, I’ve never seen it as a position to fill but as a challenge to embrace. If I was going to be serving there, I might as well be leading these people to make a dent in the kingdom of darkness and make a difference for the kingdom of God. I can sit here today and tell you that this passion has never dried up or grown the least bit stale for me. On the contrary, it burns more white-hot in me this very hour than it did this time a year ago. Making a difference. Changing the landscape. Going all out. We don’t do anybody any favors by settling for less.
If I had to put my finger on the three things that are most important when striving to lead for maximum change, I’d name these.
1. Be intentional
Today starts with a purpose in mind. Do you know what yours is? If you don’t, you certainly can’t expect to make any progress toward fulfilling it. Begin thinking more intentionally about everything you do, not wasting the daily experiences and encounters that are bulging with possibility for those who see them that way. When I stand to preach and proclaim the Word of God, I have a particular purpose in mind about what I’m saying. And if I’m going to be a leader and life changer, I need to have the same kind of intention when I go to the bank window, or take a walk through my neighborhood, or sit down at a staff meeting. What am I needing to accomplish here? Who would the Lord lead me to speak with today? What is God’s will for this next two hours in my afternoon? This may sound mighty radical to those who like to lollygag through life, not overthinking things or getting too bent out of shape. But you’re a leader. You’re a difference maker. And nobody does much of either if they’re not intentional about it.
2. Be relational
I’m not sure there’s a stronger, more significant word in the leader’s vocabulary. We’re not out to change structures and programs and processes but people; people who need God, who need encouragement, who need guidance, who need tools for life and the motivation to use them. Our visions and goals and dreams should not just be diagrams on a restaurant napkin. They are transformations in people’s whole lives and outlooks. And in order to see them through to this end, we must be serious and intentional about engaging ourselves in significant ways with others on a regular basis. Every time you meet with a person, be thinking about how you can add value to his or her life. Be thinking about how you could help the person experience more of God’s victory through Christ. Be thinking about what God would have you to say or perhaps what God would have you to hear as you listen to him or her. The only differences worth making are those that are made in others’ lives. You earn the right to make them when you take the time to seek relationship.
3. Be practical
It may seem merely spiritual to some that Jesus came and died and rose again, that He enters any human heart who becomes desperate for His grace and accepts Him by faith. To me, though, the results of this glorious transaction are also very practical. If the God who is drawing the world to Himself is the same God who lives and operates in me, it just stands to reason that my job as a leader, my job as a Christian, and our job as a church is to draw others to Him as well. This is as practical a mandate as it is a spiritual one. It means thinking specifically about what others need and how to show them, to tell them, to demonstrate for them that Jesus meets this need in the most complete way possible. It means encouraging our people not to view evangelism as a clinical exercise but as a natural, living part of their day, whether it’s chatting with the refrigerator repairman or extending a kindness to the guy who swipes your membership card at the gym. Leadership, like all of life, even Christian life, is much more practical than we give it credit for. By seeking to be practical in your teaching and methods, you will avoid talking over people’s heads and will make a real difference in people’s hearts.
Sometime soon, lay all of your leadership activities and attitudes out on the table and see what they could become if these three words really got into them. How could they be more intentional, more relational, more practical? The conclusions you come to could make a world of difference.