I have been asked the difference in being a leader of leaders and leading followers. It’s one of my favorite questions. The question ultimately points to a paradigm of leading people by which I try to lead.

I know I want to attract and retain leaders on our team. I don’t want a bunch of people waiting for me to make a decision or who fail to take initiative. Ultimately, I want people who will lead me.

Even though I have a leadership blog, podcast and book, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I am not a perfect leader. I have so much room to grow as a leader. I have discovered, however, is the difference in how I lead if I want to lead leaders. And the difference is huge.

I could choose to be a boss and simply require people to perform for pay. To lead leaders requires a different skill set. It challenges the way I lead.

As a leader of leaders…

I say, “I don’t know” a lot. If I have all the answers, the team will have fewer of their own. I need to be leading people – encouraging them to lead – more than I’m instructing people.

I often have to admit “I didn’t know about that”. Whatever “that” is – until after a decision has been made, I simply didn’t know it was happening until it was. Granted, I don’t like surprises that may cause controversy in our church, but our team needs the freedom to “lead out” on things without my involvement if they are truly leaders. And if I’m leading well you won’t hear me say anything negative about what I don’t know, because I support my team’s ability to make decisions.

I encourage learning from someone besides me. After all, I don’t have all the answers. Some days, without my team, I don’t have any. They need to be learning from others so they can bring new ideas back to the team.

I allow people make mistakes. And I’m glad they let me make some too. It’s one of the best ways we learn from life and each other. This is created by culture. People know whether or not they can try new things by the way a leader responds when things don’t work as well as they team hoped they would.

I try to steer discussion more than have solutions. And I find meetings become more productive. Work becomes more efficient.

I believe in dreams other than my own. People have opinions and ideas. The best ones aren’t always mine.

I say “we” more than I say “me”. (Except in this post) A team is more powerful than an individual effort. A leader of leaders has a leadership vocabulary that’s inclusive of others. It’s not “my” team it’s “our” team.

I strive to empower more than I control. Leadership stalls when we try to determine the outcome. It thrives when we learn and practice good delegation.

I’m not afraid of being challenged by people on our team. I’m not saying it “feels good” to be critiqued, but I know it’s a part of making us better.

I seldom script the way to achieve the vision. In fact, I never script it alone. I try to always include those who have to implement the plan into the creation of the plan. And, by experience, it seems to be a more effective way to do things.

If you try to lead leaders, what would you add?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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