Improve your Leadership, Learn Long Distance

February 6, 2011 — 4 Comments

I met a guy from Virginia for breakfast this morning to talk about how to be better leaders. Our only connection – he knew a couple Arkansas students from SP and he reads this blog.

John Maxwell, in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, shares:

Leaders are Learners. Leadership experts Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus made a discovery about the relationship between growth and leadership: “It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from their followers” . . . I have made it a practice to read books, listen to tapes, and go to conferences on leadership. . . I also had another idea: I wrote to the top ten leaders in my field and offered them $100 for a half hour of their time so that I could ask them questions. I can’t explain how valuable those experiences were for me. Those leaders shared insights with me that I could have learned no other way.

Whenever you have access to great Leaders, take advantage of it by grabbing time with them and taking copious notes.

Better yet, seek access to great Leaders.

A few practical ideas on how to do this:

  • Summer of 2009 I got a list of the best Cru Campus Directors in the nation (from recommendations from my regional and national team) and set up 1 hour phone calls with 5 of them. Those conversations dramatically impacted how we do ministry. And it started relationships with guys whom I continue to go back to and ask questions (via email/phone).
  • Cru staff – take advantage of CSU and Local Leader conferences to pick the brains of some of the best College Ministers in the world. Be intentional to set up appointments (and take notes)!
  • I’m going to consistently bring in great Leaders to spend time with my team and student leaders. Last fall it was Mary Beth Minnis and Tim Norman – our Regional Directors. In 48 hours they met with our team for 3 hours, spoke at our weekly meeting and Student Leadership Meeting, met with over 30 students and staff (mostly one-on-one), and briefed/debriefed with me over two lunches.  I can honestly say those 48 hours shaped our movement more than anything else we did in the fall. This spring, Dan Allan (St. Louis Cru director) will be coming.
  • Read and interact on blogs and Twitter. I love that technology and the Interwebs allows incredible access to Leaders. None of my leadership peers and “mentors” live within 500 miles of me. I love being spurred on by friends that I’ve never met (Brian Barela, Russ Martin, Matt McComas and many others on Twitter). But you won’t grow nearly as much if you are just a passive reader – comment on blogs, start a blog, dialogue with friends/leaders on Twitter.

What are ways you have learned long-distance from other leaders?

photo courtesy of neocorsten


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  • Great post Tim. You’ve covered everything I can think of in terms of the mechanics of growing as a leader, long distance. Enjoy being able to learn alongside you.

    • timcasteel

      Thanks Russ – you strike me as a pretty comprehensive thinker so “you’ve covered everything” is pretty high praise! I appreciate the kind words.

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