I spent a good deal of my life in the Air Force flying airplanes and when I became a commander, I used to tell my younger pilots that if they ever returned from a flight and hadn’t learned anything it was time for them to quit flying. Technical knowledge and flying skills are a requirement for any pilot who wants to lead other pilots and quite frankly, it is a requirement for avoiding complacency, remaining safe and succeeding in combat. Pilots and leaders should always be learning.
Then there are those situations where you “the leader” find yourself in a position where you don’t have a clue about what is going on. Those situations shouldn’t really happen in the life of a pilot and they shouldn’t happen very often in the life of you “the leader.” But in the business of exercising leadership, if your organization is moving forward into uncharted territory, you may find yourself without the necessary knowledge to make those critical decisions. In those times, you need a teacher, an advisor.
I had this happen when I was Executive Director of Officers’ Christian Fellowship and responsible for a major building project. It was a stretch and I needed a teacher. I had no knowledge with respect to architectural design or construction contracting. The solution was to turn to people who were experts in those disciplines. People who had no direct interest in the project, but who were friends willing to give of their time.
There are other situations where one of the easiest avenues for advice is through those for whom you have a direct responsibility. Fortunately, I had a person like this who was part of my building project. Those closest to you can be the greatest help and they’ll be delighted that you “the leader” cared enough to seek their expertise. And then there is the Yogi Berra method; “You can learn a lot by observing.” You’d be surprised at how much you can learn by just showing up, wandering around.
Last, you can hire a consultant. All consultants have one thing in common; they’ll leave you with a pile of work. There are great ideas and solid learning, but you “the leader” are still going to have to lead your organization through the work at hand. And there are good consultants and there are not so good consultants. On our building project we used both. The advice we were seeking had to do with fundraising for the building project. But what the first consultant didn’t understand was that how we achieved our goal was just as important as raising the required funds. The first consultant missed the mark; his methods did not align with the core values of our organization. This cost us two years of unproductive time on the project. But the second consultant was right in line with our organization’s core values. He knew that our fundraising was more about ministering and “friend-raising” with people than it was about money. The second consultant was a coach and he stayed with us throughout the process, but we still had to do the work. He also guided us with a long view toward eternal values that were so important when it came to people. This was just as important as hitting the funding target. But guess what, the Lord was in this, and we were blessed to do both.
So how do you “the leader” find the “right teacher?” For me, I seek out THE ONE, who will advise me on who might be the right source of information for my current situation. In His Word He talks about “many advisors”. I found this to be true. “Listened to advice and accept instruction.” (Prov. 19:20) Hopefully, we’ve all done that many times. It was an important part of our building project, so I had a building committee that was invaluable as advisors on this project.
But how does one find those right advisors? Is there a greater advisor? I think so. “. . . the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26) Maybe what you hear from the Holy Spirit is not just for your profession, but more importantly, to help you find Jesus and build your relationship with Him and then to build on your relationship with your family and others. Are you listening and learning?