The Life-long Learner
Nothing so stifles a leader as an attitude of, “I already know that” or “Yes, I mastered that some time ago.” This attitude of “I’ve arrived” has its roots in pride and destroys one’s ability lead effectively.
God does not take the sin of arrogance lightly. Three times (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5) He says that He opposes (actively works against) the proud person. We will learn humility, either by humbling ourselves or having God humble us. The choice is ours as to the means.
The learning leader is humble enough to admit that one never arrives. Yes, we may gain altitude in some areas, but it’s all relative. Altitude compared to what or whom is what’s important. Comparing ourselves to others often leaves us feeling good about ourselves. But comparing ourselves to Christ should quickly remind us of how far we have to go. Look up, not around!
Good leaders are learners. They are not learned in the eyes of the world necessarily (Luke 10:21, 1 Corinthians 1:26), but they are ever striving to develop in areas of character, skills, and abilities; seeking to maximize their potential impact and for Christ. They set the pace for others in their personal pursuit of God and their service for Him, always sensing how far they need to go, not how far they’ve come.
From where do leaders learn? There are multiple sources, but let me suggest two. One primary source for learning is from those who are older. Job 8:8-9 says, “Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing.” From what older person are you mining their years of experience and wisdom?
A second important source for a leader’s learning is from observing what goes on around us. In Proverbs 24:32 we read, “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.” Rushing from one thing to the next greatly hinders the learning one can do from observing. We must take the time to stop, think and reflect. When was the last time you just took some extended time to think about life, your family, your ministry or some other important issue?
Learning leaders are also passing on what they learn to others. Jesus and Paul modeled this well. Jesus learned and passed it on to his friends, “I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Paul says to Timothy, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others”( 2 Timothy 2:2). Are you passing along what you are learning? Who looks to you for coaching, mentoring or discipling help?
Maintaining a learning mode throughout life continually increases our effectiveness for Christ as leaders. But what we learn is not for us only. We can use it to help others. Let others benefit from the things God is teaching you. Perhaps we should begin by sharing more with our friends, spouses, and children.