Bloom where planted
If we are going to put down healthy roots, whether in a team setting or in a solo campaign, we must understand the environment in which we find ourselves. Disease, mold, too little water, too much water, and other conditions can lead to the destruction of the root base and the eventual failure of the structure of the tree.
Take some time to look at where you are at. What are the struggles that you face? Do you struggle to have quiet time with God? Do you struggle reading your bible? Do you have personal integrity issues that keep creeping into your life? Do you have glaring weaknesses in your personal leadership development? Answering yes to any of these questions shows a weakness in root development. You need to get to the root of the problem and begin to take the steps to shore up these areas.
Daily quiet time
Each of us needs a quiet place. A place where the world slows down and we have a moment to think. Psalms 46:10 invites us to “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”(NIV) Each day God wants us to slow our minds and purposely turn our attentions to who he is. When we exalt something we bring it into perspective. God is already high above us in every way. Our worship and attention to him does not elevate him, but it puts his splendor in perspective. It lowers us to a proper place, which allows our faith to remember that he is the one carrying us. He is the one that is guiding our lives. He is the one that is great, and deserving to be praised.
We must make this time in our lives a priority. Be it five minutes or fifty minutes, this small course correction keeps us on track. This is our daily time to align our personal moral compass back to true north. It keeps us grounded and moving in the right direction. God desires to lead our lives, but for Him to lead, we must be following. I look at it this way: God guides our lives through gentle nudges more than drastic shoves. He whispers more than he yells. So if we are daily walking, quietly with Him, then His spirit is able to come along side of us and nudge us in the direction he is going. He draws close to us and helps give just that minor course correction that puts us right in the middle of the path. He whispers in those quiet moments and restores our souls.
Daily Bible reading
God has spoken to us through is His Word. So many times we go through seasons where the whispers seem quiet and the nudges are so subtle they go unnoticed. We long to hear a word from God. That is why he gave us his written word. The Bible is his life giving words to us. It is our glimpse into the lives of others and the journey that they had with God. It shares the voice of Jesus, God’s son. It gives us the practical guidance from God’s servants, the prophets and disciples.
I don’t think that I can overstate the importance of reading God’s word every day. It is the nutrients that are added to the soil of our lives that we need. You will not see fruits in your life unless you are bringing in the nourishment of God’s Word, daily. Daily time in God’s Word is essential for proper root development in our lives.
As leaders, and people, we are only as good as our word. In a world that has moved to moral relativism, we have seen the decline of personal integrity. Do you lie? How about not tell all of the truth? Steal? Cheat?
Today’s leaders need to develop strong personal habits that will keep them grounded during the storms of life. A great place to start is with the 10 commandments. Since they have been removed from so many places in our culture, maybe you need a reminder of what they are. Here is the full list, as found in Exodus 20:
- “You must not have any other god but me.
- “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 6 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those[b] who love me and obey my commands.
- “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.
- “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
- “Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
- “You must not murder.
- “You must not commit adultery.
- “You must not steal.
- “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
- “You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.”
It is not just enough to know this list, but to begin to develop these traits in our lives. As leaders, we need for the people that we are working with and leading to be able to trust us. They need to trust the environment we created for them to work in. They need to trust in our word and in our actions. They need to have faith that they can thrive in a working environment that is not going to be toxic or one that is unsafe.
Our own personal integrity says a lot about our faith in God. For example, when we covet someone else’s things, we are saying that we don’t believe that our God loves us as much as them and that what He has blessed us with is not as good as the blessing he is giving others. It is more about our selfishness and lack of trust in God than our desire to have our neighbor’s things. When we steal, we are saying to God that we don’t trust in him enough to provide for our daily needs. When we lie, we tell God that we don’t trust the truth to set us free.
Our personal integrity development is directly linked to our crucifying of our flesh. The stronger our selfishness and selfish desires, the more our self-preservation will win over our personal convictions. We need to take an honest assessment of where we are weak. In a team context, we can use peer review, 360 review, customer feedback, and other tools to find our weak and blind spots. In a solo leadership role, you need to find people that you can give permission to be honest with you to help you see the places where you may need to grow. It can be hard to hear about our personal blind spots and weak areas, but if we are willing to listen, we just may begin to put down the strong roots that will make us stable and deep.
Just as an oak tree that grows alone in a field develops differently than a tree in a forest, a leader that is primarily working alone will have to develop their leadership skills in a different way than one who has a team. Team building exercises work great when you have a team, but when you are the lone leader they are difficult. A lone leader may feel that since they have no one to work alongside, they don’t need to work on developing their leadership style and skills. A team leader may hear the praises from his teammates and feel the synergy of their collective efforts and may neglect further leadership development because they feel they have arrived or are doing well enough to get by. Every leader should be a growing leader.
I remember when I was first starting out in ministry. I was at a small church in a small town and there was just me and the lead pastor on staff. We were two lone oaks growing in the foot hills of middle Tennessee. It was a beautiful place to be and a great season of ministry. However, I quickly learned that even though I was not leading a group of leaders, I needed to invest in myself. I needed to grow. If I wanted to be a better leader, I had to develop my skills. This became apparent to me mainly on Sunday mornings. There was a season where I felt like I was so busy doing church that I was not growing and being ministered to myself. My pastor would preach, but the words did not reach my roots so that I could grow. In those moments I had to find other leaders, other voices, which were able to feed my soul. I started getting sermons from friends, mentors, and others that helped me grow. I made sure to share them with my wife so that we both were being fed and growing. I wanted to make sure that I was not just maintaining myself for that day, but that I was preparing my leadership roots for the days that were to come. I may not have had a team then, but I wanted to prepare for when we would.
I have always been in ministry situations where I have been kind of a lone ranger. I have never, in twenty years, had my own secretary. Because of that, I know that one of my weaknesses in leadership is knowing how to delegate; I find it hard to trust people to do things when I feel like I can do them. Now that I find myself serving with a team, I value the days that I let my roots grow deep so that my leadership style is well defined; however, there is always room to grow. These days I find that I need to not just grow in depth, but in my reach as my roots intertwine with others around me. I have to trust enough to allow for the combination of our root structures to provide the synergy that we need to move our team ahead at warp speed.
No matter where a leader finds himself, as a part of a team or a lone ranger, we all need to be developing our leadership styles. Leaders are readers – we need to expand our knowledge. Leaders are networkers – we need to expand our relationships and connections. Leaders need to constantly be developing themselves, the team they currently serve with, and the team that they will one day be a part of.
If we are going to bloom where we are planted, we must make sure that the unseen world of our root system is vibrant and growing. Our daily prayer time and daily time in the Word cannot be neglected. Our personal integrity and our leadership development must be areas of our life that we are passionate about growing. The only way to stand strong in any leadership position is to grow strong enough roots to endure the storms and challenges that will come. If we are faithful in the unseen things, no one may ever see our roots, but they will be able to see it in the fruits that grow.