In the book Elemental Leaders, we identify 4 critical elements every effective leader must exercise: Integrity, Passion, Servanthood, and Imagination.
In our research, all four must be engaged in order to have a well-rounded, foundational approach to leading others.
Integrity refers to the leader’s wholeness: are they integrated within themselves, self-aware, and vulnerable? Do they walk their talk?
Passion is obvious. Every successful, motivating leader we know had a “fire in their belly” for a cause, a mission, a desire to move people toward something.
Servanthood is simply an outward focus. When leaders become enamored with themselves and entitled, they lose any sense of real purpose. We base this on Jesus, our greatest leader, who said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Imagination is about the leader’s ability to imagine beyond the status quo. These are “what if” leaders who dare to dream of what would be better or could be done better. These four are foundational. But behind all of those are a myriad of skills that connote emotional intelligence and health.
Because of our current pandemic crisis, there are two in particular that are absolutely critical for leaders to exercise and vitally important for their followers to witness and experience:
(1) Empathy and (2) Decision-making.
Empathy is the leader’s ability to feel the pain of their followers.
Followers will quit following when they sense their leader is out-of-touch with their reality. We have key passages in the New Testament regarding the compassion that Jesus felt, such as this account: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” We get our word compassion from two Latin words, passio meaning suffering, and the prefix com, meaning with.
It is the true spiritual leader who “suffers with” during a crisis. Decision-making offers a sense of certainty in uncertain times. Leaders who waffle or procrastinate or appear paralyzed during a crisis are quickly sidelined by followers who will look for someone else to bring surety, decisiveness, and movement. Calculated, well-executed plans are absolutely crucial for any organization, but when war breaks out, everything can change in a heartbeat. Or as the American philosopher, Mike Tyson wisely said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
The ability to adapt and make new decisions—even when you don’t have the luxury of time to gather all the info you need—is vital.