We are on the back side of our 7-part series and it is time to bring it home to those who lead in an area of our conservative movement. But before we get to the essential tasks, let’s first ask; “Are you a leader?”
Here is one north-country way to answer that question: Leaders are the first ones willing to forge the difficult path through a deep new snow fall. Trudging through deep snow is a lot of work and the first person who walks through knee deep snow will expend 20 times more effort than those who follow. A good leader understands that leading means bearing more of the burden yet making it easier for all those who follow.
“If you are a leader, what kind of leader are you?” Many leaders will be a blend of traits from these three types.
- Leader (old style): the boss, commander, superior, chief, ruler, the main man, a lord, king or queen, leadership by the use of power, position or fear. Demanding style, often self-centered goals.
- Leader (modern style): someone who leads or guides others, results orientated, a person of directional influence, a risk taker, a boundary pusher, someone who goes where others generally do not go, someone with the characteristics of courage, intelligence, faith, compassion and work ethic to take the group to the desired goal, involves others in the process, goal orientated motivator, seeks the input of others, self-centered goals mixed with short term organizational success.
- Leader (servant style): leading by example, fearless, selfless, humility, real, approachable, genuine, first in doing the work, mission driven, Christ like self-sacrifice, someone present with and walking with the troops, a mentor, a supporter, an instructor/teacher, someone who inspires others, bearing the burden for others, sacrificial, washing the feet of others, someone continuously connected to the “Father”, shares rewards while bearing much of the burden, Mark 10:42-45, “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Someone who by thoughtful interaction with followers shapes them into future leaders, a leader who has no thought of personal gain nor personal wealth, the servant leader’s motive is to enrich the lives of others, ensuring each follower reaches the goal too. Servant leaders inspire others, reason with others outside their camp, and yet are willing to call out hypocritical actions and motives. Servant leaders are the first to bleed. They are focused on long term gains for each individual as well as the mission.
Something common to the three styles above is that each will have “top of the pyramid leaders,” individuals who with some frequency are not rule followers, rather rule breakers. Most people including many leaders “follow the rules” and do not venture beyond what the rules allow, but a few leaders will push beyond the established limits to forge new paths. For these top tier leaders, rules are viewed more as suggestions.
After pondering effort, style and traits, every leader must prepare for the journey. Let’s consider some of the essential tasks all leaders will think about when leading an organization of people. (No particular order)
- Know your destination: where is it you are going? What is the goal? Why would you or others desire to go there? Be able to not only articulate the destination, but inspire others to make the journey. Everyone in your camp must be focused on making it to the destination.
- Keep your own proper priorities in the proper place: A leader who burns out, or suffers from a personal or ethical failure, is a leader who sends a mixed message and who will never reach their full potential. As they say: faith, family, friends, everything else should come after these top three priorities.
- Build your base: in politics it takes numbers, so building the size of your politically based conservative movement is a priority. Free membership will grow you base much faster than requiring dues. Ask yourself, is dues your greater goal or a large quantity of members? Network with other groups, get your message out, and every message must include a “join-up” request. Build bridges to those outside your normal focus group.
- Fight strategically: a good general does not fight all battles. Spreading yourself or your troops to thin is never a good strategy. For the battles you do chose to fight, do your best to win them. If you think you can manage 50 battle fronts, do not be surprised that you retain few followers. Most people will be overwhelmed with that many battles. The aspects of each battle become too complicated for most people to keep up with. One of my most used analogies about what I see many conservatives doing is: “running around shooting bullets into the air. While shooting off rounds makes us feel better, it’s wasted ammo and accomplishes little. If you are in a war (we are) then do the best you can to hit what you are aiming at, make every round count”.
- Identify and know your enemy: there is nothing more frustrating than a leader who is not aware of who they are fighting. They will be continually reactive and off kilter dealing with political counter attacks. A good leader will not always respond to attacks, but do his or her best to anticipate and prepare for counter attacks.
- Simplify the complex: While it is more work for the leader, your followers do not want to read a 500 page document to learn what is bad. As the leader you (or someone else willing) must do that work. After digesting the content, pick the most obnoxious aspects and elaborate about each. Today, the U.N. and our federal government are overwhelming citizens with enormous and complex documents, regulations and studies.
- Be accurate, truthful, and sincere: It takes years to build an organization’s credibility, but it takes less than an hour to lose everything you’ve worked for. Be cognizant of the weakest link in the chain, never test your organization beyond the limits it can handle.
- Establish guardrails: Without proper guardrails every organization gets tempted to broaden its area of influence. It’s better to remain within your area of expertise and contain your energies within boundaries that keep your forward momentum from going off-track.
- Education: understand that while you may understand what it takes to preserve liberty and freedom, that many citizens have become so accustomed to various forms of socialist “slavery” that they do not know anything any different. Conservatives must always be educating citizens and washing away the scum of socialism from their thoughts.
- Be persistent: Never quit, imagine the next effort is going to bring success or weaken your opponent to such a degree that they may be the first to give up. The war is often a mental war of who will give up first. The federal agencies are not giving up, the LGBT movement never gave up, the anti-gunners have not given up, the socialists are not giving up, and don’t you give up.
- Don’t be so busy you do not have time to rest and to contemplate: This one of the most overlooked aspects of leadership. Even Christ took time to get away from others, to pray, to meditate and to rest. The time we spend contemplating things is the creative aspect of building your movement. If you are always working, you’ll be busy, but your expended effort might have been better used in another manner. Giving yourself down time and rest nourishes your mind and soul. Always have a pocket pen and note pad with you, good ideas come during these times and you need to write them down.
- Make the needs known and empower others: While funding and volunteers are often always in short supply, leaders should frequently make the effort to convey organizational needs and empower others to take initiative in solving problems. When we empower people we build a movement that will endure beyond our own limitations.
- Acquire trusted advisors: You do not have to run your organization by committee, but you will need people you can trust to be honest with you. When they speak, make sure you listen to them.
Part 6 is “Tools”
Bob Bingham is the founder of North West Property Owners Alliance and is a current candidate for Kootenai County Commissioner. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.