City Limits

I am a Pastor at Christ Fellowship and I get to look after the Stuart Campus. I love it!

Now if you did not know any better, you would assume that the campus is located in Stuart, Florida. But the truth is, the property lies just outside the city limits of Stuart. Actually, it is in unincorporated Martin County. We call it “Stuart Campus” because Stuart is a clear, known city nearby that serves as a great identity marker.

Stuart is a great little city. It even has its own Police Department. If you go outside the city limits of Stuart and you need help from Law Enforcement, you would call upon the Martin County Sheriff’s Department. The Stuart Police Department only serves the people of Stuart and stays within the city limits.

As I was pondering this one day and I thought it served as a great picture of how leadership plays out when it comes to relationships. Leadership works only within the boundaries of how well relationships are developed; much like the city limits for Stuart.

Years ago, as a young pastor serving as the Worship Leader of my church, I was given leadership over people. My musical ability catapulted me high up as a leader, yet I did not truly understand the essence of what leadership was, how it worked or at least how it worked best.

I remember having conflicts with people on my team and facing many challenges as I tried to lead them. It seemed I was always putting out fires. What I did not understand early on is that my leadership could only extend to the level of relationships I had built.

Because I was a young, ambitious leader with great ideas and vision I tended to move fast! I was implementing new plans, new systems, new styles that I loved however, not what was best for the church or the people. When someone “got in my way” or was not on board with where I was going, I would try to “lead them” to where I thought they needed to go. I assumed they would follow me simply because I was their leader. I assumed they would not have any questions and that they would understand clearly having no doubts or concerns. I was here to lead, to make things great – great for me really, not necessarily for them.

I also remember trying to speak my mind to people – colleagues I was on staff with and the leaders above me. Not only did I feel like I wasn’t being heard, I felt like I was not connecting. There is nothing more frustrating than to want to make your point, only to not be accepted or be understood. It’s like beating your head against a wall but you’re not getting through – you’re just hurting your head.

Through the years of being mentored and through much experience of trial and error, I have learned that the key to getting your voice heard and connecting to people in order for them to follow your lead is this:

Know your City Limits

As mentioned earlier, the city of Stuart has clear signs that show where the city limits end and where unincorporated Martin County begins. Likewise, with each relationship we manage, we need to look for the signs of the city limits. We can only go as far with people as we have built mutual trust and respect.

Here are a few practical keys to expand your “city limits” with people around you and your leadership towards them:

Invest Time

The greatest way to begin the process of building a healthy relationship is to spend time with people. Spend intentional time where you are sharing life together, sharing your hopes and dreams with one another.

Do fun things with them. Make memorable events and moments together. You can do this in groups to maximize moments but you also need to be intentional with high capacity and loyal people by spending one on one time with them. In a world of automation, social media “Friends” lists and using the art of delegating, a leader CANNOT DELEGATE time investment to someone else. I would recommend planning meaningful FACE-TO-FACE time with your key people. Seek them out.

Make plans in the coming days and weeks. For this, get out from behind your desk. Don’t work with your assistant to arrange this – YOU arrange this. Make sure there are times when you are not training, not coaching, not pushing your agenda. Your agenda can wait so that you build authentic relationships with your people. You need to do this with your colleagues, certainly with your boss and for those in leadership above you. YOU initiate this. It will look different than how you create it for people who serve under you. But make sure to make time with people you serve and work with.

Invest Trust

To get trustworthy people, you must give them trust. That seems backwards, doesn’t it? I mean, you only give trust to people who have earned trust. Right? I get that. However, the way to BUILD trustworthy people is to begin offering them some trust up front. This is a powerful concept.

Here’s why it works. When you understand that people want to succeed, they want to please, they want to do their best – you need to set them up for success. You LEND THEM TRUST and put high belief in them. When you do this, you communicate value, respect for who they are and you encourage them to become the great person that they can be. This takes seeing the best in people even before they display it. Start finding small areas where you can empower people and trust them. When they see that you are willing to take a risk for them, they usually will rise to the level and become trustworthy. They will thank you for it!

Invest in their Talent

The true purpose of leadership is this: help others get where they want to go. Help people around you be successful in their calling. That’s it. Leadership is not meant for you or me to be successful or look successful. The most celebrated leaders are recognized because they are SERVANT LEADERS, serving people.

When the people around them are successful the leader feels a sense of accomplishment. Whatever your vision, whatever your mission, it must work through utilizing people’s talents and tapping into their calling. When people see that you are developing their gifts and helping them live out their calling, they will be on board with your vision. They will embrace your mission like it is their own. Secure leaders are not afraid of letting people under their care shine brighter than them. Secure leaders are thrilled when people rise to higher levels of accomplishment. That is a sign of a great leader! Find ways and opportunities to feature people’s gifts and successes. Celebrate them! Get behind them and support them. They will always turn around and thank you for helping them reach their calling.

Passionate leaders want to break through barriers to reach higher levels, to realize their great vision. But wise leaders understand that they can only lead and influence their people according to the boundaries of the city limits. Outside the city limits, they have no jurisdiction, no influence. They may try to shout orders but people will not come along on the journey. When the leader makes demands or threats, people only do the minimum requirement. They drag their feet. They question everything.

As you endeavor to lead people, work to expand the borders in every relationship you manage by investing time, investing trust and investing in their talent. You will find that people will embrace your vision and your leadership!