Becoming the Leader Others Want to Follow
Four Questions with Scott McChrystal
Chaplain (Retired Army Col.) Scott McChrystal presently serves with the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions Chaplaincy Department as military representative and endorser. His leadership experiences, both military and civilian, have afforded him many opportunities to study and practice leadership in a variety of contexts.
Influence: Given your leadership experience within the military, the corporate world, and the church, what advice would you pass along to our ministers, particularly those who are pastoring churches?
Scott McChrystal: I’ve observed that effective leaders adopt the attitude of being lifelong learners. Proverbs 9:9 captures this idea well: “Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.” In the busy world of ministry, this requires intentionality, making time and not simply hoping to find time.
Besides Scripture, serious learners practice mining knowledge and wisdom from an array of sources: books, magazines, podcasts, documentaries, the Internet, talking with others and everyday experiences. Occasionally visiting other churches, both within and outside the Fellowship, is another source for learning.
We’ve all noticed the growing hostility to Christianity throughout our society. What advice would you give to Christian leaders?
It’s no secret: Christian leaders are battling on the frontlines. The enemy of our soul seeks “to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). That said, effective leaders refuse to take a victim mentality. They know who they are and recognize their calling. They set priorities and stick to them, knowing others will not always agree. But as Nehemiah told his enemies, “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down” (Nehemiah 6:3).
While most things can be stripped away from us, character cannot.
In your experience, is there a specific leadership trait that effective leaders possess?
Leadership skills and abilities receive the most attention these days, but character is far more important. Character governs thoughts, words and actions. In recent years, many great leaders have fallen due to character flaws. But we can learn from this.
No leader has a monopoly on skills and abilities; some leaders have more than others. But character is a choice. Any leader can choose to become a person of character. While most things can be stripped away from us, character cannot. It only happens when we surrender it.
Comment on the importance of leaders discovering their strengths and weaknesses.
Identifying our strengths and weaknesses is huge; it’s about knowing the truth. We’ve all been around leaders who were “legends in their own minds” but certainly not perceived as such by those being led. Any leader sincerely desiring to discover personal strengths and weaknesses can do so.
King David in Psalm 139 courageously prays to God, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (verse 23).
God will help us discover who we really are, but it takes guts to seek out that truth. Additionally, we can turn to others for honest feedback. But it all hinges around sincerely desiring to know the truth about ourselves.
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2017 edition of Influence magazine.