Three Keys to Effective Leadership

In Leadership by Chris Marlow2 Comments


Three Keys to Effective Leadership.

Many people desire to be a great leader. We want to be the best we can be so we devour information on the topic of leadership. We subscribe to the blogs, listen to the podcasts, attend seminars and read all the books. Sometimes the leadership conversation can feel old and stale, as if it’s all already been said. Over and over. And over! Can I really add any value? That’s the question I’m pondering as my fingers touch the keyboard and letters come to life on my screen.

The Importance of Leadership

The reality is simple — leadership supersedes all aspects of life from for profit, not-for-profit, government, religion, education. To be effective, they all require leadership. Every major cultural influence needs leaders to drive and implement the vision. In my experience and the more I travel globally and see healthy and unhealthy communities, it’s always based on a leader who is leading well or a lack thereof. As John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” I believe that now more than ever.

Leaders Are Followers

Before I jump in on some nuts and bolts, let me also say this. I think the best leaders are those who follow first. The mainstream Christian evangelical culture needs to re-shift the conversation and prioritize discipleship/followership first and leadership second. Ultimately, the goal is not to be a great leader but to leave a great legacy and to live on mission. And, the best leaders in the world are mostly unknown — no huge social media following or massive platforms. They’re faithful servants doing the hard work with little fanfare of attention — these people are my heroes.

Three Keys to Effective Leadership

I wanted to take a moment and reflect on leadership and ask one question. “What makes a leader great?”

1) Reading – I love to read. The older and busier I get, the harder it is to find time to read. Our current world is driven by distraction and interruptions. That said, the best leaders read. And usually, they read a lot. They read material that will stretch them and cause them to think and process. Knowledge is powerful. How will I do this? In 2013, I’ve committed to reading one biography a month. (I already read a ton of leadership books) I want to study the life of leaders. I want to know their history, their struggles, how they made decisions, what obstacles they had to overcome. Basically, I want to know their story! I’m currently reading this book. (Affiliate Link)

2) Listening – I’ve realized that the leaders I respect most always seem to be thoughtful. They tend to hold their tongue until just the right time. And when they speak — everyone listens. Why? Because they have a confidence in themselves; they’re not trying to prove their worth. They don’t need to feel important. They don’t always have to voice their opinion. They pick their conversations well and they pay attention to details and then add value through words and action. They know that less is more!  These leaders are a gift to mankind. How I will do this?I want to focus my energy on being a good listener. Even when I have an opinion, it does not mean I have to share it. But, when I do share my thoughts, I want them to count. I want them to have meaning and create beauty.

3) Discerning/Intuition – This is hard to put into words, but the best leaders just know how to make good decisions. And here’s why – they have character and wisdom. I’m currently reading Proverbs – it’s amazing how much Solomon sees the need to seek wisdom. It’s also amazing how much is promised to those who HAVE wisdom.

Too many folks are pursuing platform, but they’re failing to live a great story. These people are not leaders–they’re pretenders. They want the stage without the battle. They want to write a book without living a great story. No one cares about them. But, they keep shouting from the rooftops, “SOMEBODY pay attention to ME!”

Leaders, live a great story first and the platform MAY come second. But, platform is never the reason to desire leadership. Impact is the reason to desire leadership. Leaders want to impact:

  • The world through their life.
  • Their family through their love.
  • Their work because they have gifts and passions.
  • Their community because they care and want to give back.

Great leaders can discern because they have the foundation that is needed, the experience that is required and the courage to take action each day. Malcolm Gladwell’s research states that you need 10,000 hours of work to become an expert on a topic. If you focus on 10,000 hours of work on a key subject, imagine the experience and wisdom that you will have and the potential influence you can use to make a difference.

How I will do this? I will continue to set goals and ensure they’re implemented. Which creates wisdom, maturity and influence. I will commit to being a finisher.

Start Becoming A great leader today

Read well, listen often, make good decisions again and again. When you fail, get up and keeping moving forward. When you succeed, stay humble and focused. And do it over and over. If you’re doing this, you’re well on your way to building a solid leadership foundation.


  1. Jeremy Copeland

    Love it Chris. Read. Listen. Discern. Seems that reading is sort of listening too isn’t it? It’s a different sort of listening I guess. But I love the lesson here – 2 of the top 3 keys to leading involve listening to other people well.

    1. Chris Marlow

      Thanks Jeremy,
      I feel like our generation deals w/ so much noise and everyone is trying to talk. Listening is by far a great trait, esp for pastors/spiritual leaders who are trying to help the church live differently, with a holistic approach to life.

      We need to crab a cup soon and connect.

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