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Top Leaders Remain Teachable

Joe McAlpine
Joe McAlpine Tuesday June 21, 2016
<? echo $type; ?> Top Leaders Remain Teachable

We have all had the volunteer or parent over the years who seemingly pushed against every little thing we would want to do, right?

In my early ministry years, I had a lot of pushback from a particular volunteer. It would frustrate me that she acted as if she knew more than I did. After all, I was the leader . . . I was the one with all the answers, right? I would often think she was intentionally difficult and purposely creating problems. After some time and a ton of arguing with God, I decided to slow down a bit and listen to her instead of just waiting for my turn to talk when we would have our interactions. I realized she really did care about our ministry and wanted to help improve areas that were not at their best. I decided to embrace the discomfort of someone not agreeing with my approach and actually allow her to mentor me in areas where I lacked knowledge. It ended up being one of the best decisions I have ever made in terms of my growth as a leader. She taught me things about ministry that I didn’t know and helped me become better than I ever knew I could be. If I had not chosen to humble myself, listen to her, overcome the hardship and allow her to speak into me, I wouldn’t have had many of the leadership opportunities I have had today.

Top leaders understand that they are only where they are because of their willingness to remain teachable. We will never reach a point when we know it all. Let’s be honest, when a leader thinks they know everything there is to know, that is when things get dangerous. When a leader stops being teachable they leave themselves open to falling. When a leader falls there is a wake of destruction that can leak down into future generations. Needless to say, there is a lot on the line and our ability to always remain teachable is at the heart of our ability to succeed. Here are four ways you can remain teachable:

  • Be humble: How much do we really know anyway? There is a vast world of knowledge out there. If we acknowledge how little of it we really know, then we can see how much we still have to learn. How do you know when to be humble? Always try and be humble but particularly in the moments where you feel compelled to defend yourself to someone. That is usually when you can learn the most. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom,” (Proverbs 11:2).
  • Listen to Others: Do you listen when others speak or simply wait for your turn to talk? Are you forming your next sentence while people are sharing their thoughts and perceptions with you? If you are then you are missing huge opportunities. Be willing to listen and reflect on the words of others. Everyone can teach us something. Listen to your kids, volunteers, co-workers and spouse. What do they know that you have yet to learn? What can they teach you? Ask more questions and listen more. Remember, when you are talking, you are only reiterating what you already know. It is only when you are listening that you can learn something new. Listen more than you speak. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” (James 1:19).
  • Accept Hardships: Just because someone or something is difficult, doesn’t mean it is bad. Successes make us feel good about ourselves but our failures help us become better. The leader who never accepts failure is an unteachable one. If you have made a mistake, learn from it. I often say, “You win some and you learn some.” There is no loss in learning. If you learn something from a difficult situation, then it wasn’t a loss. Let your hardships teach you.
    But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry,” (2 Timothy 4:5).
  • Have Mentors: Have someone who pours into you. Position yourself as a student. Take notes when someone you respect is talking. They won’t mind if you write something down or even ask them to repeat it for future reference. They will be honored that you are listening so closely. “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master,” (Matthew 10:24).

What other ways can you continue growing through your learning? We would love to know! Leave us a comment below.

Joe McAlpine has been in ministry for over a decade, serving in staff leadership at churches ranging in attendance from 500 to 7,000. In 2015, Joe joined the team at Slingshot Group and works toward helping great churches connect with great teams. Joe has been happily married to his wife Christy for longer than he can remember and has four children, Elijah, Selah, David, and Elisabeth. In his spare time, you can find him hanging with the family and playing his ukulele.