5 Habits of a Discipled Leader

Preston Poore was a top performer at a large corporation. He was on the fast track to a high-level position. At least, he thought he was.

“I always thought that if I performed well, I'd be promoted and do well in the organization,” he recalls.

There was just one problem: he didn’t know how to lead. “I could perform the various management functions that the company required,” he says, “but management is totally different than leadership, and I stunk at leadership.”

After Poore received a promotion, he had problems with two of his direct reports. “Instead of developing them as valued individuals, helping them achieve their goals, and having them buy into a shared purpose and shared values, I tried to replicate myself through these two individuals,” he recalls. Neither of the direct reports performed well.

The day came for annual reviews. As he prepared to meet with his manager, Poore called one of his direct reports to deliver his case that the individual had a lot of work to do to improve his performance. Shortly into the phone conversation, the individual said, “Preston, I quit. You're condescending. You're a jerk. I'm done.”

A short time later, Poore’s other direct report quit, too.

Poore’s manager didn’t mince words. “If you want to continue in this organization and rise through the ranks,” he told Poore, “You’re going to have to fix some things.”

A Breaking Point

“That was a breaking point for me,” says Poore. “I thought I was a success in the workplace but, in reality, I was a failure as a leader.”

While praying, Poore admitted to God that he didn’t know what to do. Then Poore realized that the wrong person was calling the shots in Poore’s career.

Poore decided to surrender himself to God in the workplace as well as in other areas of his life. He asked God to shape him and mold him. “I realized that I was dealing not with a career issue but with a heart issue,” he says.

One of Poore’s first steps was to hire an executive coach, with whom he met once a month. Poore’s coach ended each meeting with some reflective questions for Poore to ponder during the ensuing month. As he wrestled with these questions, Poore began to seek God, earnestly.

And God, of course, came through. “God shaped and molded me so he could use me to be a positive influence in the workplace,” says Poore. In the process, Poore became what he calls a discipled leader, as he explains in his book, Discipled Leader: Inspiration from a Fortune 500 Executive for Transforming Your Workplace by Pursuing Christ.

Here are five habits of a discipled leader:

1. Be the Same Person on Monday Morning as You Are on Sunday Morning

The story of the two direct reports quitting is an indication of how Poore used to treat people in the workplace. “I saw people as a means to an end in the work environment,” he admits.

At the same time, he treated other people – such as members of his family and people at his church – very well.

It was more than compartmentalization. It was a sacred and secular divide. He was one person in “sacred” settings, such as at church and with his family, and a different person in “secular” settings such as in the workplace.

“I had to learn to integrate my faith in the workplace,” he says. If he wanted to become a man after God's own heart, then he needed to be that man in all settings and situations: at home, at church, at work, in the community. . . everywhere.

By putting God first and following God’s direction, a discipled leader can be the same person, wherever he is and whatever he’s doing.

2. Rely on God for Decisions

One key area where a leader should follow God’s direction is in making decisions. After all, some workplace can have a significant and lasting impact on many people and can even affect the current and future success of the organization.

Making decisions is so important that Poore dedicates a significant portion of his book to defining and explaining a process for better decision-making.

He has been surprised at how many Christians don’t involve God in their decision-making process in the workplace.

“The number one missing factor in decision-making for believers is seeking God,” says Poore. “If we believe that the Bible is what it says it is, and the Holy Spirit works in you and through you, why aren't we relying on God’s input and guidance when we have to make decisions?”

3. Focus on the “How”

Poore has encountered many executives and middle managers who are professing Christians but are reluctant to express their faith and live out their faith in the workplace. Some of them, he says, have the wrong idea about what living out the Christian faith means.

“You don’t need to walk the halls preaching the gospel or confront people as they come off the elevator,” he says. Instead, you need to remember one principle: how you do things is more important than what you accomplish.

Poore recalls a story told by a man who was a long-time leader of a prominent Christian ministry. The man was a tennis star in high school. When he went back for a reunion, he saw that the school had cleaned out a trophy case and thrown one of his tennis tournament trophies in the trashcan. The man realized that people don’t remember your trophies; they remember how you acted . . . and especially how you treated them.

4. See Yourself through Other People’s Eyes

According to Poore, people are going to evaluate you based on the answers to three questions that they will ask about you:

  1. Do you care about me?
  2. Can you help me?
  3. Can I trust you?

When Poore’s two direct reports suddenly quit, he discovered how they answered those questions about him.

“They knew that I didn’t care about them,” he says. “I cared about me. I wasn’t as interested in helping them as I was in using them to help myself. And they couldn't trust me because I didn't do what I said I would do.”

Seeing yourself through other people’s eyes can be painful. But it’s an essential part of the process to become a discipled leader.

5. Set a Strategic Goal of Significance

There’s nothing wrong with achieving great things in the workplace, says Poore. But you should set your sights on a strategic goal of significance.

“What I mean by significance is making a positive difference in your environment and with the people around you,” he explains. “It’s leaving a legacy, a lasting positive impact on people.”

To have such an impact, you need to invest in people’s lives. Often, your investment begins when you serve them in some capacity.

Poore is quick to point out that you don’t have to choose between significance and results.

“I don't want to mitigate results at all,” he says. “I'm not proposing that either you serve people or you are successful at work. I'm saying that you can do both.”

Poore recalls a statement by a former Coca-Cola C-suite executive in response to this question: What are you going to do to increase the company share price? The executive’s response was that, if Coca-Cola employees “did things right” in their day-to-day operations, the stock price would take care of itself.

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Fizkes 

Chris Bolinger is the author of three men’s devotionals – 52 Weeks of Strength for MenDaily Strength for Men, and Fuerzas para Cada Día para el Hombre – and the co-host of the Empowered Manhood podcast. He splits his time between northeast Ohio and southwest Florida. Against the advice of medical professionals, he remains a die-hard fan of Cleveland pro sports teams. Find him at mensdevotionals.com


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