In our digital society, face-to-face interactions are no longer the norm. Our days are filled with quick interchanges of 280 characters or less, sound bytes, YouTube videos and Instagram photos that relay snippets of our lives. We don’t often find or make time for long talks, leisurely lunch dates or marathon phone conversations. Our world is much smaller as a result of technological advances, however, this has created greater relational distance in many people’s lives.
Our busy lives lend themselves to taking advantage of simplifying communication. It can be much easier to send a quick 10-second text rather than a 10-minute phone call, or the commitment of stopping by to see someone for a 30-minute conversation. Simple often leads to shallow, though, when it comes to building relationships.
A sign of a good leader is someone that knows how to build and maintain healthy relationships, both personally and in business/ministry. Relationships take time and intention. Most people don’t have time to invest in superfluous relationships. However, there are three kinds of relationships that are worth the investment. They can create growth and be life-giving to you as a leader.
Find a Mentor
“A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Proverbs 1:5
We all have times where no matter how confident we may appear, inside we desperately want to admit to someone that we don’t know what we are doing. Find a godly person that is 10-15 years ahead of you in life, that you admire and ask them to mentor you. What does this look like?
-Meeting for coffee once or twice a month to simply catch up and talk about life.
-Ask them to be available for a phone call or quick meeting when you might just need a bit of advice.
-A willingness on their part to share their story and the wisdom they have gained from their journey.
-A willingness on your part to listen and glean wisdom from their experience and insight.
-Someone that will pray with you and for you as you walk through hard things.
Your mentor does not have to become your best friend or your counselor, but with time he/she can become a significant voice in your life. And remember, you might not find your Dumbledore or Yoda the first time you ask someone, but it is worth trying again.
Invest in Healthy Peer Relationships
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17
It is far too easy to become too busy for friendships. However, you only have to flip on your television to realize that a desire and need for friendship is a core need for us as humans. Some of us only need one or two meaningful relationships, while others need a larger circle. However, research shows that having at least one or two good friends has positive benefits both physically and emotionally. This kind of friendship looks different than someone you laugh with at work or simply an acquaintance you see at your child’s school events. The challenge is to deliberately invest time in a friendship with a person of the same gender with similar values that will intentionally push you to be a better Christ-follower. So what does this look like?
-Find someone who is in a similar stage of life and begin to do life together. This means being involved in one another’s lives so you can really know what your struggles and joys look like.
-Opening up with this friend and allowing him/her to provide accountability. This requires sharing the areas in your life that you are working on, possibly areas of sin that need to be surrendered and allowing them to ask you hard questions. It also requires honesty and vulnerability on your part. This is often where leaders decide to take shortcuts and not truly allow for accountability. Everyone needs someone that knows where the chink is in their armor.
-Be willing to give hard feedback and accept constructive criticism given in love. Accountability only works when you accept it, it doesn’t mean anything if both parties aren’t willing to have hard conversations when needed. It is in our nature to avoid hard things, but relationships can become stronger when we are willing to walk through conflict face to face.
-Pray for each other, together and individually. Prayer has a way of binding hearts and strengthening us and our relationships. It brings the Lord into the midst.
-Have fun! Make time to laugh and do things that you both enjoy! The best part of friendship is the joy it can bring!
Be a Mentor
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
The third kind of friendship that can take you to the next level relationally is to be a mentor. This can sound intimidating but it simply means passing on what you know. You can invest in someone the way your mentor invested in you. Look around and find someone at work or church that you see potential in and you feel you have something to offer. Then invite them into a mentoring relationship. What does this look like?
-Be available to meet once or twice a month to simply catch up and talk about life.
-Listen, listen, listen! Remember how much it meant to have someone listen to you.
-Be willing to offer advice when asked; but, first, always listen.
-Be willing to share what you have learned in life, both through mistakes and successes.
-Pray for your new friend and with humility share how he/she can pray for you.
These three kinds of relationships take time to cultivate, but the rewards are great. As a leader you are truly rich in friendships when you have the wisdom of a mentor relationship from someone that has gone before you, the accountability of a peer that walks beside you, and the perspective of a mentee that continues to walk behind you.
Have you been part of a positive mentoring relationship or could you use accountability in your own life?