Your Leadership Workout


Fat happens! Eating poorly, eating too much, or skipping physical exercise is like taking the autobahn to obesity. It's fast and easy. On the other hand, adding muscle is going to take work. The same is true with leadership. Leaders get "flabby" if they don't work out.

Train yourself for godliness

God calls his leaders to "lead with zeal" (Romans 12:8). Paul exhorts Timothy, "train yourself for godliness" (1 Timothy 4:7), and "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed" (2 Timothy 2:15). A leadership workout helps us take deliberate steps to stay fit and get stronger in our leadership for God.

Elements of a well-rounded routine

Leaders find lots of ways to get the workout they need. Here are four elements of a well-rounded routine:

  1. It is a discipline. - My physical workout regimen is pretty simple: Long walks and push-ups. The walks are easy, the push-ups are a pain--especially when I start increasing reps. I don't do it because I like it, but because I need it. The same is true with my leadership workout. Carving out an hour to read, or an afternoon to meet with my leadership development group, or day to attend a seminar is time-consuming and inconvenient. I don't always do it because I want to, but because I need to. Discipline is "the good grind," or as a friend of mine calls it, "the blessed rut."My Monday routine consists of taking a 4.5 mile walk while I listen to a Defining Moments leadership talk from the Willow Creek Association. I listen, reflect, and then make notations for myself and our church via a voice app on my phone. This time is invaluable. What leadership develoment routines have you established?
  2. You cross-train. - I am a pastor charged with teaching our people "the whole counsel of God." At the same time, my Ph.D. is in leadership. I naturally gravitate to that subject. My routine must include both. There are other subjects I need to study to stay savvy for God. The key is to cross-train. Cross-training means I include theology, leadership, communication,  biographies, and some current events as a part of my workout. But my theology always informs and trumps other subjects I study. What areas do you need to study to stay savvy for God?
  3. You chart your progress. - Years ago I injured my back and had to endure a lengthy period of rehabilitation. Part of my rehab included strength training. I remember charting my progress. That means of keeping score was really helpful. These days I keep a chart in my journal that shows my progress in some key areas, including what I am reading and what I am writing. Charting helps me stay on track. Would charting your leadership development help you? What should you chart?
  4. You stay accountable. - I need accountability and I get it in different ways: I make notations in my journal to stay honest with myself. At times I ask a friend to be a "reading buddy" so I'm accountable for progress in a book. I check in with some fellow pastors once a month for a "low agenda lunch" that helps keep me from becoming insular. Where are you accountable for your leadership development? Does anything need to change?

Two signs of a good leadership workout

  1. You get the payoff. - Yesterday I geared up for my Monday morning walk and leadership workout. I didn't want to listen to Defining Moments. I have a biography that I am working through, and like the mythological Sirens it was calling to me. But I stuck to my routine and I'm glad I did. I learned a valuable lesson on change management -- one I needed. Leadership workouts do that. They build leadership muscle and increases leadership wisdom.
  2. You feel the pang of neglect - I know when I am in a good workout groove because I feel the pang of neglect. If I go a few Monday mornings without doing a Defining Moments/Leadership listen on my walk, I know it. Sure, that could be the result of unhealthy guilt or maybe even indicate the need for a change-up in my routine, but for me it is usually the sign that I've been out of my routine.

Workouts are never really easy, hence the word "work" in workout. But leaders who engage in that "blessed rut," gain wisdom and build the kind of leadership muscle that helps them stay sharp as workers for God and servants of Christ.