Every leader wants to be relevant. Relevant leaders are in sync with the moment, have a perceptive understanding of the past, and anticipate the future consequences of their decisions. Those people fortunate enough to be associated with a relevant leader recognize someone who meets life head on in a pertinent and appropriate manner.
It is not difficult to find biblical examples that identify persons who characterize relevance. King David was blessed to find men who “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” King Xerxes of Persia “spoke with wise men who understood the times” regarding a conflict with Queen Vashti. Relevance is well recognized by others.
Ways to practice relevance
1. Relevant leaders redefine the word ‘now.’
A relevant leader has a better comprehension of the word now. It is more than a narrowly defined moment in time. The notion of now is extended to include some of the past and a bit of the future. Now can be assigned any applicable length of time enabling a leader to think more critically about their situation.
2. Relevant leaders develop empathy.
A relevant leader takes the time and makes an effort to build relationships. Empathy increases the ability of a leader to know the needs and concerns of others. They know the pace and perspective of those around them and listen responsively. They appreciate the experience of others and connect with them in ways that are mutually beneficial.
3. Relevant leaders become stewards.
A relevant leader makes an intentional effort to steward and care for those around them. They recognize the importance of their role in enhancing and developing others. There is a deliberate shift away from self-interest. They know their leadership style and how it influences and shapes the daily experience of their peers. They recognize that they are accountable for their leadership actions.
4. Relevant leaders enjoy a balanced life style.
A relevant leader knows what it takes to balance all of life’s demands. They have a personal development plan that includes feedback from others as a way of keeping conflicting priorities from getting out of control. Relevance requires being open to new ways of thinking and acting by a well-defined personal value system.
Ways to become irrelevant
1. Irrelevant leaders confuse information with meaning.
An irrelevant leader perceives a need to know more but is unable to make sense of what they believe they know. Today an overwhelming amount of information is available without the way to discern its true value. The future is a surprise because the present is a question mark. Trends are unrecognized, and the real needs of others go unmet making the leader irrelevant.
2. Irrelevant leaders do not understand their purpose.
An irrelevant leader has difficulty leading others because they do not know how to practice self-leadership. They are a mystery to themselves. They cannot imagine the positive steps that will result in a better tomorrow and attract others to join them in creating optimistic change. They fail to help others identify their roles as part of a larger and purposeful change process.
3. Irrelevant leaders fail to remain flexible.
An irrelevant leader becomes rigid in their thinking and fails to give choices to others. This squelches creativity and innovation. There is relevance in extending options to others as a way of motivating their best efforts. Intrinsic motivation coupled with a flexible attitude is empowering and produces positive results.
4. Irrelevant leaders are over controlled by their feelings.
An irrelevant leader allows their emotions to overwhelm clear thinking. They appear inconsistent and unpredictable to their peers. There is an emotional rush in the decision-making process sometimes with less than adequate information. Clear goals are blurred by a confused emotional sense of what is relevant.
Relevant leaders skillfully practice the art of relevance. The key to true relevance over a lifetime of leadership is a proper understanding of the past, a keen insight into the present, and a clear vision of the future that aligns with God’s eternal plans and purposes.
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Paul E. Greasley holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership and is an experienced servant leader, a retired aerospace engineering manager, a big rig driver, an active community volunteer, an adjunct professor and an entrepreneurial business owner.www