D. Michael Lindsay, president at Gordon College, has just released a new book that was ten years in writing: View from the Top: An Inside Look at How People in Power See and Shape the World. James K.A. Smith conducted an interview with Lindsay about the book. It provides an important and insightful look at the importance of mentoring, ability, capacity and leadership.
I highlight three important principles gleaned from the interview, which can also be applied to pastoral ministry:
- One does not have to know or to have learned everything by the time you graduate from college, and what is done there is not necessarily determinative of what occurs later.
- Mentoring best happens organically, not as a project. True, lasting and formative relationships occur in the midst of life, not as a project on a to do list.
- Though leaders are specialists, i.e. they have some focus in a degree or gifts, they work intentionally to be generalists, i.e. they need to understand some things deeply, and many things generally, being interdependent on others to provide the specialty or expertise they lack.
Another comments favorably about the book and focuses on 10 characteristics shared by great leaders, which I include below.
1. A mentor
Having a mentor early in a career is by far the most important contributor to a person’s success. It matters far more than a privileged upbringing, the college attended, extraordinary early life experiences, or what they did in their teenage years.
2. Two loving parents
The majority of leaders interviewed came from households with two loving parents with the critical factor being the amount of time they spent with their parents.
Virtually everyone in the study graduated from some college. Only 3% of the leaders did not graduate from college, and among this small group, most attended for some amount of time. Many of the leaders who grew up in poverty had used education to neutralize their disadvantage. Two-thirds of the leaders attended state colleges/universities (i.e. non-Ivy-League).
A surprisingly large proportion of leaders were varsity athletes – 41% in high school and 23 % in college.
5. Global awareness
Most leaders had a wide worldview, often achieved through learning a second language or international travel. 65% traveled abroad for the first time between the ages of 16 and 30.
6. Servant spirit
The most successful leaders did not use their leadership primarily for personal benefit or advancement but for a greater cause.
Those who use their authority to control others or simply for their own gain are not leaders at all, but only power-wielders.
Transformative power (at an institution, in a personal relationship, or in our daily work) almost always comes from great sacrifices. And moral authority—which is the leader’s greatest currency for influence—develops not through usurping power, as some might contend, but through self-giving sacrifice.
While increasing mastery of their specific field of expertise, the best leaders maintained a generalist orientation. They are “dabblers of sorts, conversant in other kinds of business, knowledgeable about current affairs, and able to connect across divides.”
8. Exposure and Experience
Leadership cannot be taught but it can be caught. The key to developing leaders is to expose students to leadership and to experience it. There is no substitute for trying to do it, and the earlier people try, the more likely they’ll get good at it.
9. EQ (Emotional Intelligence)
In leadership, IQ takes second position to emotional or relational intelligence.
Leading others is significantly easier when followers enjoy being around the leader, and interpersonally gifted people are at a significant advantage in power… The higher the level of the job, the less important technical skills and cognitive abilities were and the more important competence in emotional intelligence became.
10. Positive attitude
They are positive about their work, exuding energy and enthusiasm. They are positive about people, investing in them and encouraging them, and they are positive about the future, tending not to look backwards but forwards.
One military leader said, “I don’t spend a lot of time in the regret locker.… I’m careful about what I let rent space in my head.” Or as Senator Tom Daschle put it: “I have a philosophy that the windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror, which means that you always do most of your best effort looking forward rather than looking back.