The Key to Success

I was talking to some friends recently about what makes for a successful day in leadership. I have the great privilege of leading worship for several different groups of people on a regular basis so I often walk away thinking about what could have been different. I am always curious about the different responses I get in different scenarios.This applies to any kind of leadership, inside or outside of the church. Have you ever wondered what you could have done differently to make that presentation land better? To lead that meeting in a way that connected with people and added value to them? What’s the secret?

There are certainly more variables than I would ever want to keep track of, but it is interesting how preparation can help or hinder me when I am leading people. I want to be as prepared as possible to lead people but it doesn’t always seem to be the determining factor. Sometimes it seems like my best days are those that I feel overwhelmed and incapable of leading. At other times I feel like all my preparation made no difference in winning people over and successful leading them.

Have you noticed that to be true? Try to think about something you have leadership over on a regular basis (you have something, trust me), particularly something that requires preparation ahead of time. Isn’t it a mystery what makes it work well? For me I feel miles away from figuring it out. As a worship leader, I can pray and prepare and get fired up and go into a service thinking that the roof is going to get blown off of the place. Sometimes my sense of expectation was right, but many times I can walk away wondering what I missed. On the other hand, I sometimes go into a service feeling down and distracted, only to look up and see the entire congregation enthusiastically engaging in the songs of worship. This can be really irritating, especially when I try to come up with the best formula for leading people well. The problem with formulas is that they rarely work when people are involved.

While I don’t have it all figured out, I have learned a couple things at this point in my journey. First, worship of God is not formulaic but relational. It is a purely human tendency to try and reduce God to a + b = c. We have a difficult time letting mystery be mystery and relating to God for who and what he is, God in three persons (with personality traits much like our human relationships). Second, the defining nature of my approach to God must be humility if it is going to produce any kind of reward. This is the key to success.

Humility is one of the most overlooked virtues in all of scripture. James chapter four states that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. This is quite a statement, especially for leaders! If you want to lead others to God, you must have humility if you want his help.

Sometimes my preparation masks my pride in my own ability to produce results in people. Without really knowing it, I begin to believe that my preparation is what will make the day go well, that my prayers and my heart is what makes it all happen. There is of course a paradox here, because I have responsibility as a leader to be prepared and to carry extra weight. But I am never the one who produces results. I just show up as prepared as I can be and I let God handle the rest.

No matter what you have leadership over, you have the ability to secure God’s grace or require his opposition. If you want God to give you grace to carry it through, pray for humility. Be as prepared as you can but trust him with the results.

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