The Christian research organization, LifeWay, recently did a large study of Americans born in the 1980’s. All sorts of interesting findings there. Thom Rainer just shared some from the study that relate to leadership.

In short, a good leader for a member of the “Millennial” generation (born between 1980 and 1999) is a mentor, has a humble approach, matches their words with their actions, and is real. Those are my words to interpret their findings. Read more over at ThomRainer.com: “What Millennials Want in Leaders“.

All of this is in line with what I’ve been thinking and saying and trying to live. This is why “I” language is a good thing, and dogmatic grammar is a deal breaker. This is why authenticity trumps the false appearance of confidence. This is why listening is so key. In fact, this is why I have grown uncomfortable with the term “preaching” to describe what I am trying to do when I share a message about the application of truth to real life. I know many of you have suggested I get over this hangup, but there is a pretty powerful connotation to the word “preach” that really runs totally against both the grain of the coming generations and my own personal understanding of my role in the world.

This is why I try to remember to say, “I don’t know” when I don’t know, and “I think” when I think I do, and “What do you think?” when I’m done, whatever my answer is. Now, I’m not always good at it. I’m a pretty powerfully opinionated person who tends to feel certain and to sometimes act even more certain than I feel. And being an entrepreneurial leader of what is, frankly, a high-risk attempt to start something special from scratch, I feel a constant pressure to exude confidence, no matter how much doubt I may feel at times.

But here’s the good news (for me, anyway!): I am learning that if I put my trust in my Lord, then there is no contradiction between having self-doubt while also having total confidence in my creator and savior.

So here’s what I’ve been saying to anyone who will listen (and a surprisingly high number of people seem to find hearing this difficult): I have no idea what’s going to happen, or if my specific plans are going to come out the way I envision them, but I am completely confident that if we get people together and keep service to the Lord and to our neighbors at the center of our thinking, that He will make something wonderful come out of our efforts, one way or another. My personal ego has some very specific ideas of what the Lord ought to do with our efforts, but I know my God is wiser than me, and thinks bigger than I ever could, and sees the long-term big picture, and so I’m ready to find out what it is He will make of all our plans and efforts.

Emerson said:

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

True. I like more, though, what Irish martyr Padraic Pearse said in his poem, “The Fool”:

Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak that am only a fool;
A fool that hath loved his folly,
Yea, more than the wise men their books or their counting houses or their quiet homes,
Or their fame in men’s mouths;
A fool that in all his days hath done never a prudent thing,
Never hath counted the cost, nor recked if another reaped
The fruit of his mighty sowing, content to scatter the seed;
A fool that is unrepentant, and that soon at the end of all
Shall laugh in his lonely heart as the ripe ears fall to the reaping-hooks
And the poor are filled that were empty,
Tho’ he go hungry.
I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil.

Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.
I have squandered the splendid years:
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again,
Aye, fling them from me !
For this I have heard in my heart, that a man shall scatter, not hoard,
Shall do the deed of to-day, nor take thought of to-morrow’s teen,
Shall not bargain or huxter with God ; or was it a jest of Christ’s
And is this my sin before men, to have taken Him at His word?
The lawyers have sat in council, the men with the keen, long faces,
And said, `This man is a fool,’ and others have said, `He blasphemeth;’
And the wise have pitied the fool that hath striven to give a life
In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things,
To a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.

O wise men, riddle me this: what if the dream come true?
What if the dream come true? and if millions unborn shall dwell
In the house that I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?
Lord, I have staked my soul, I have staked the lives of my kin
On the truth of Thy dreadful word. Do not remember my failures,
But remember this my faith
And so I speak.
Yea, ere my hot youth pass, I speak to my people and say:
Ye shall be foolish as I; ye shall scatter, not save;
Ye shall venture your all, lest ye lose what is more than all;
Ye shall call for a miracle, taking Christ at His word.
And for this I will answer, O people, answer here and hereafter,
O people that I have loved, shall we not answer together?

Finally, on the topic of self-doubt, go check out what Seth Godin said about “the lizard“. Or, for a shorter version, read this, taken from his latest post, “A post-industrial A to Z digital battledore“:

L is for Lizard Brain: This is a huge impediment to getting what you want, finding your calling and satisfying your customers. The lizard brain is near your brain stem, including your amygdala. It’s the part of your brain responsible for anger, revenge, fear, anxiety and reproduction. It’s the original brain, the one that wild animals possess. Steve Pressfield has named the voice of the lizard: it’s the resistance. The resistance rationalizes, hides and sabotages your best work.

But I’m rambling pretty far, here. Tell me: what do you look for in a leader? And what kind of leader do you aspire to be? And how do you balance self-doubt with confidence?

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