10 Wise Leadership Lessons I’ll Never Forget

The following is a guest post by Faith Whatley. Faith serves on our team in the Church Resources Division at LifeWay and is the director of adult ministry. She is an incredible leader and it is an honor to serve churches alongside her. While some of her articles on our leadership channel are directed to women leaders, God has given her insights that I believe apply to all leaders. Faith and her husband, Jimmy, have two grown children, an amazing daughter-in-law, and live in Nashville, Tenn.

I am so grateful for the leaders who have poured into my life and development over the years. It’s those same leaders you find yourself quoting as you mature into your leadership voice. When you start to lead a team, these treasured nuggets of advice are put to the test. Here’s some of the best advice I’ve ever received:

1. Cultivate Relationships. More than 20 years ago, a very wise leader told me to work hard and build a lot of relationships. No matter the size of the company or your team, make sure you know everyone.

2. Learn from Weakness. If you find yourself under poor leadership, take time to learn from that weak leader. You can learn just as much from a weak leader as you can from a strong leader. When you have a weak leader, you learn things you should never do, which can be more important than the things you should do.

3. Just Get Happy. Sometimes we just need someone to reset our emotions and expectations. There have been times I have felt unsettled and wondered what life would be like if I made a drastic career change. In other words, could the grass be greener on the other side? These times have been rare, but someone really important to me said, “You need to get happy, you are in a good situation.” When my attitude changed, I found new energy in my work.

4. Dress for Success. When I was first asked to step into a leadership role, I had a leader who really believed in me and wanted me to succeed. He told me that if you want to be taken seriously as a leader, be sure the male leaders aren’t distracted by anything you’re wearing. If you select an outfit from your closet and have to ask yourself “Is this appropriate for work?” the answer is no. Make a different choice. If someone is distracted by anything exposed from the neck down, your leadership voice won’t be heard.

5. Own the Hard Times. Lean in to the hard situations no matter how much you want to run the other way. Whatever seems to be the hardest problem to solve or hardest decision to make, lean into it, especially when it involves people. Your biggest blessings will come out of those moments.

6. Be an Avid Reader. As you lead you can learn so much from other leaders in your church, in the community, or in the business world. Become an avid reader and a continuous learner. Always read to stimulate your thinking.

7. Learn to Say No. A respected leader in my life gave me permission to do whatever it took to balance work and family. It was OK if I had to be at a certain activity that involved one of my kids or my husband. Never feel guilty if you have to say no to a request. The requester will get over it, but someone in your family may not.

8. Own Your Mistakes. Always tell the truth even when you make a mistake. And when you lead, you will make mistakes. Don’t hide it or blame others. Own it, admit it early, identify what you learned, and don’t let it happen again.

9. Show Mercy. Realize that the people you lead all have concerns or problems. Be sensitive and let them know you are aware, you care and you’re praying for them.

10. Pray Fervently. Be on your knees before the Lord daily, and seek His leadership in all you do.

Are you seeking wise leaders and asking them for advice? What are they teaching you?