My Leadership Style Had to Change – Here’s How I Knew It!

Nick McNabb
December 16th, 2019

I grew up with a ball in my hand. And, with the changing of the seasons, the ball changed too. In every sport I played, I was usually the biggest on the field or court. I realized very early in my sports-life, because of my size and ability, that I was going to be viewed as a leader. In athletics, it seemed to me that leadership was equated with size, skill, and dominance. So, that is how I started leading.

In my first ministry job, I led the way I learned from my experience in athletics. I demanded. I leveraged my position. I gave orders. I expected compliance. And, one day, I looked up and wondered where everyone was. They had all left. I was there, but had no one to lead. So, at first, I made excuses and started to blame them for lack of commitment – but then it hit me. I was the problem. Why would anyone want to follow me?

After some self-reflection and a lot of prayers, I came to a crossroads. I started to challenge myself to be the type of leader I would want to follow. This challenge changed my perspective on leadership forever. I knew I had to decide to change, or I would be without a group to influence. I knew that God had put it on my heart to disciple people and to help them follow him. If I were going to be an effective leader for God, I needed to change.

That change brought me to a moment where I decided on three essential questions. Questions I needed to ask myself every time I am given an opportunity to lead. These questions are what mark my philosophy as a leader today and still prove to be the rubric of measuring my effectiveness. There are three essential questions every leader must answer:

What is it going to take to get there?

Of all the questions, this one begins with you, the leader. If we ever expect anyone to follow us, we must be the first to step out and go. Therefore as a leader, we must work to calculate what it is going to take to get there. We have to be the first to “count the cost.” Once we have begun to understand what we need to accomplish our goal, then and only then, can we begin to articulate the vision for those we influence. As you know, leadership starts with sacrifice and knowing what it is going to take to get there is an excellent place to start.

Where are you going?

Every leader needs vision. If we want to head in the right direction, we must first know where we are going. And leaders, it’s not just our decision. We must know our group. If we are going to lead, we must have a goal to point toward, or we will never get anywhere. If people don’t know where we are going, they won’t follow. So, leaders must ask themselves where it is they want to go. Then work on getting there.

Why should we go there?

Many times leaders have a destination in mind. As a youth minister, my end goal is to create disciples of Jesus who will create disciple of Jesus. But why? Why should anyone want to be a disciple of Jesus and why would anyone want to create more disciples? In other words, why should they follow me? I have noticed answering the “why” question usually takes a bit more work than answering the “where” question. It causes the leader to do a lot of self-reflection, and as we know, self-reflection can hurt. But, if we are going to be effective leaders, we must understand the “why.” Understanding why we do something is the power that propels the ship. And, to start moving, you must know why you need to start moving!

In Stephen Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about a great many admirable traits of leadership. In my opinion, the gist of Covey’s book is this: To lead others; you must first be able to lead yourself. Leading myself and being the kind of leader I would follow was missing from my original understanding of what it means to be a leader. And, I will forever be thankful the Lord had a plan for me. That plan was to change my understanding of leadership. Leading must be from in front, and it starts with us. I hope these three questions will help shape the way you lead. My prayer is that your leadership will be fruitful and effective.

Nick McNabb

Nick has been in student ministry for almost twelve years. He has served the past 9+ years in Jr. High Ministry at the College Church of Christ in Searcy, AR. He and his wife Amanda have been married for 14+ years and have one daughter, Lily. When Nick isn’t serving the families and students of his ministry - he is likely planning a trip to Walt Disney World.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.