Your normal life is the most important thing about your leadership. If the people around you buy into something you can only produce once a year when the stars and planets are in perfect alignment, you won’t be followed for long. But when people buy into your normal, leading becomes like breathing—natural and life-giving. This means that creating your normal as a leader is the most valuable activity you can do. It’s your most rewarding investment. How do you normally handle finances? What about conflict? Do you take initiative? What about responsibility—do you own your mistakes? Time management? Self-awareness? You get the picture.
Perfection isn’t possible and will never be your normal.
So how do you deal with your imperfections? Do you cover them up through rabble-rousing (like a demagogue or emotional racketeer)? Or, instead, do you humbly and wisely admit your imperfections and surround yourself with other leaders whose strengths help cover your weaknesses?
The metaphor of an athlete is often used to discuss leadership performance. Although inspiring, one major difference makes this metaphor unhelpful: Athletes train every day to reach peak performance for a specified time and event. And life doesn’t work that way. Most of us are not judged by how we perform during a dozen specified events throughout the year. Our normal defines our performance.
Which means that our best days and our worst days are not what we need to be most concerned about. It’s our normal days that matter.
What does your normal look like?
By normal, I don’t mean unintentional. Normal is not the right word for that—sloppy, lazy, and haphazard are better words for unintentional. I mean the state you operate at when huge opportunities and massive setbacks are not fueling your actions.
Most of us rise to the occasion when faced with giant open doors or huge challenges… it’s the average day we struggle with. And it’s the average day we have the most of, which means we better be intentional about seizing it.
What you build as a leader is based on your normal moments, your average state of being.
You will manifest—in the lives of others, in the culture of your community, and in the systems and procedures that form around them—that which is typical for you.
If you tried to enforce your best day as the standard for everyone else’s normal day, people will see straight through it as the hypocrisy it is. Or, if you impose someone else’s best or normal day onto your community (which happens more than leaders are willing to admit when they use another leader’s ideas like a coat of paint over rotting plasterboard), the scent of inauthenticity can be picked up from miles away.
Quite simply, your best days and someone else’s strategies will never create lasting change. Your normal is the primary template in what you will build. The good news is this simplifies your life and leadership. Your primary task no longer feels like spending all your time, energy, and efforts seeking some magical leadership formula like hunting for the Holy Grail
Here’s the formula you need: Always start with you.
- How are your normal study habits?
- How is your normal prayer time?
- How are your normal relationships?
- How is your normal financial life?
- How is your heart’s normal state? Humble or proud? Self-ambitious or God-submitted? Size-focused or fruit-focused? Integrous or cutting corners to get ahead? Image-first or substance-first?
Before we launched Ramp Church Manchester, one of my closest advisors and a seasoned church leader told me that if he could do his leadership journey again he would focus more on his heart and less on what he was building. He was trying to drive home the reality that you can’t build a healthy community or organisation from an unhealthy heart.
King Solomon expressed the same sentiment from his own leadership journey:
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV; emphasis mine).
The Apostle Paul also practised this principle:
“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us… What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practise these things, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 3:17; 4:9 ESV).
Even modern life coaches shout about it:
“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently” (Anthony Robbins).
Have you ever tried to build something that you, yourself, didn’t even live? How did it work out?
My wife and co-pastor, Stacie, recently gave a powerful message on something we talk a lot about at Ramp Church: lifestyle leadership. It’s a great place to start in your journey of reshaping your normal to look, sound, and, most importantly, be a life others want to follow.