Leadership is more of a posture than it is a position. An employee can have great influence on their organization, whether they are the CEO or the new intern, if they are willing to be an example. Hard work is contagious and when a lazy CEO sees a new intern going above and beyond the expectations, it is both convicting and motivating. As my undergraduate professor, Dr. Victor Oladokun, taught us, leadership at its core involves influence, and an employee’s workplace posture can help them influence colleagues at every level of the organization.
What is leadership?
In his bestselling book, Leading Change, John P. Kotter writes, “Leadership defines what the future should look like, aligns people with that vision, and inspires them to make it happen despite the obstacles.” According to Kotter, effective leadership will paint a beautiful picture of the future, will unite people under a common vision, and will motivate them to carry out this vision despite the possibility of resistance. This requires leaders with a strong foundation whose purpose is larger than themselves.
Reading Expands Communication
Regardless of the position we hold within our organization, the Lord has called us to lead well for his glory. One way to lead well is to read well. Reading helps us grow in the knowledge and wisdom of God, which strengthens the foundation our lives are built upon. I work for a seminary, and I am constantly amazed at the reading habits of our dean. He is a man at the pinnacle of his profession, and the bibliography for his publications spans pages. Despite his vast academic achievements, he never stops learning. At a recent faculty and staff meeting, he encouraged all our faculty to read at least one book a week in addition to their regular teaching loads because of the need to steward our vocations with excellence. His reading habits are now affecting the reading habits of the entire faculty and staff, and this is leadership.
I attended Bible college and seminary for all three of my degrees. While I am thankful for the education I have received, I have very little formal education in other areas such as business or political science. I found myself teaching a course in recent years where knowledge in fields outside of my own was helpful. Reading broadly has expanded my ability to communicate with people whose education and worldview backgrounds are different from mine, and it has made me a more effective witness of the Gospel because I am more aware of the ideas that are seeking to challenge the truths of God’s Word.
Even in theological education, there are various subcategories such as biblical studies, historical theology, systematic theology, and practical theology. While faculty members will have a good amount of knowledge in each of these areas, their expertise will normally reside in one of them. By reading broadly, it strengthens their ability to minister to people with different backgrounds, and this makes them more effective witnesses of the Gospel.
Reading Well Helps You Lead Well
You can lead well in your organization, and one way to increase your influence is by reading well. You must discipline yourself to spend consistent and substantial time in God’s Word because his Word is the source of wisdom and knowledge. Furthermore, stretch yourself by reading one book a week in addition to your Bible reading. If this seems difficult, reevaluate your schedule to see what can be removed, and then fill that void with dedicated time for reading.
In Ephesians 5:15-16, the Apostle Paul writes, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (ESV). We have one life to give the Lord, and we need to make sure we are making the best use of our opportunities. Disciplining ourselves to become students of the Word positions us to be effective messengers of the Gospel. Reading theology, philosophy, political science, and economics will better position us to have a biblical response for society’s most pressing issues.
Start Reading Again
If you find yourself feeling stuck in your vocation, start reading again. Ask the Lord to give you a sensitive heart toward his Word. Read a book on a topic you have never read. Broaden your education through personal discipline and watch as the Lord uses your hard work to influence those around you for his glory.