Leadership Activities

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Leadership activities tell us if leaders are actually fulfilling their leadership roles. I mean, what is it that leaders really do when they are leading? An anonymous writer once humorously wrote that nearly everyone knows an executive leader has virtually nothing to do except:

  • To decide what is to be done;
  • To tell somebody to do it;
  • To listen to reasons why it should not be done, why it should be done by someone else, or why it should be done in a different way;
  • To follow up to see if the thing has been done;
  • To discover it has not been done;
  • To inquire why it has not been done;
  • To listen to excuses from the person who should have done it;
  • To follow up again to see if the thing has been done, only to discover it has been done incorrectly;
  • To point out how it should have been done;
  • To conclude that as long as it has been done it might as well be left where it is;
  • To wonder if it is time to get rid of a person who cannot do the thing right;
  • To reflect that the person probably has a large family and certainly any successor would be just as bad and maybe even worse;
  • To consider how much simpler and better the thing would have been done if one had done it oneself in the first place;
  • To reflect sadly that one could have done it right in twenty minutes and now one has to spend two days to find out why it has taken three weeks for somebody else to do it wrong.

I'm sure this has never happened to you, but it has happened to many leaders and it is a great waste of time and effort. This scenario is humorous but it would be even more humorous if there were not so many elements of truth to the story...which makes it sad.

But back to the question...what do leaders really do when they are leading? In his book "7 Practices of Effective Ministry" Andy Stanley says what he thinks leadership activities involve and what leaders do:

  • Leaders define what is important at every level of the organization.
  • They make sure at the start that what they are doing takes them where they need to go.
  • They do fewer things in order to make a greater impact
  • They say only what they need to say to the people who need to hear it.
  • They focus on who they are trying to reach, not who they are trying to keep.
  • They learn to hand off what they do to others.
  • They take time to evaluate their work as well as to celebrate their wins.

You would do well to get a copy of this book. It's actually by Stanley, Joiner, and Jones and the first half of the book is in story form providing one big illustration for the second half of the book, which explains the above principles of leadership and ministry.

Years ago, Lawrence Appley, a former president of the American Management Association, in his book "The Management Evolution," gave us his "Ten Commandments" of leadership management:

  1. Identify the people of an organization as its greatest asset.
  2. Make a profit in order to continue rendering service. (Of course for non-profits this would mean continue to profit those served.)
  3. Approach every task in an organized, conscious manner so that the outcome will not be left to chance.
  4. Establish definite, long and short-range objectives to insure greater accomplishment.
  5. Secure full attainment of objectives through general understanding and acceptance of them by others.
  6. Keep individual members of the team well adjusted by seeing that each one knows what is to be done, how well it is to be done, what his or her authority is, and what the work relationships with others should be.
  7. Concentrate on individual improvement through regular review of performance and potential.
  8. Provide opportunity for assistance and guidance in self-development as a fundamental of institutional growth.
  9. Maintain adequate and timely incentives and rewards for increase in human efforts.
  10. Supply work satisfactions for those who perform this work and those who are served by it.

Most of these deal with human relations and serve to teach us that leading people is mostly relating to people and providing what they need to accomplish what they have been asked to do.

In fact, after reviewing these commandments of leadership management, Ted Engstrom in his book "Managing Your Time" noted that eight of the ten commandments directly affect human beings and he concludes that leadership management is unquestionably a matter of individual conduct as a basis for inspiring the finest of thinking and practice on the part of other people.

In other words, the best leadership activities include the best relationships with your people.

The American Institute of Management has concluded that there are good leaders and there are not so good leaders. After studying what makes for good leadership activities, they developed a "Manual of Excellent Management."

What they did was study the leadership activities of excellent leaders where they identified five areas in which these leaders of excellently managed organizations surpassed others. The five areas that I call "leadership thinking" for leadership activities are as follows:

  1. More of them had a clear understanding of the nature and function of entrepreneurship and of the need for continuity in it.
  2. More of then had a clear, inclusive and fundamental concept of what leadership management is.
  3. More of them had a clear view of the full range of their moral responsibilities, and of the need for maintaining a balance among them.
  4. More of them were intelligently dissatisfied with their own results.

Now that is what the good leaders think before they act, but what are their leadership activities? What do they actually do? Louis Allen studied leadership management and reduced it to several general functions which encompass all of the various leadership activities.

In his book "The Management Profession" he lists the four functions of leadership management with nineteen leadership activities. Notice the functions and activities of leadership management of Allen:

1. PLANNING
This is the part of the leadership activities that involves predetermining a course of action.

  • Forecasting: Estimating the future.
  • Establishing Objectives: Determining the end result to be accomplished.
  • Programming: Establishing sequence and priority of steps to be followed in reaching objectives.
  • Scheduling: Establishing a time sequence for program steps.
  • Budgeting: Allocating resources necessary to accomplish objectives.
  • Establishing Procedures: Developing and applying standardized methods of performing specified work.
  • Developing Policies: Developing and interpreting standing decisions that apply to repetitive questions and problems of significance to the enterprise as a whole.

2. ORGANIZING
This is the part of the leadership activities that involves arranging and relating work so that it can be performed most effectively by people.

  • Developing Organization Structure: Identifying and grouping the work to be performed at various positions.
  • Delegating: Entrusting responsibility and authority to others and creating accountability for results.
  • Establishing Relationships: Creating conditions necessary for mutually co-operative efforts of people.

3. LEADING
This is the part of the leadership activities that involves the leader causing people to take effective action.

  • Decision Making: Arriving at conclusions and judgments.
  • Communicating: Creating understanding.
  • Motivating: Inspiring, encouraging and impelling people to take required action.
  • Selecting People: Choosing people for positions within the organization.
  • Developing People: Helping people improve their knowledge, attitudes and skills.

4. CONTROLLING
This is the part of the leadership activities that involves assessing and regulating of the work in progress.

  • Establishing Performance Standards: Establishing the criteria by which methods and results will be evaluated.
  • Performance Measuring: Recording and reporting work in progress and completed.
  • Performance Evaluating: Appraising work in progress and results secured.
  • Performance Correcting: Regulating and improving methods and results.

There is a tremendous amount of work involved in leadership management. That is why leadership activities must involve training others to whom you can delegate parts of the work load. Remember what Engstrom said, "When God creates a leader, He gives him the capacity to make things happen."


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