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Leading others with excellence

“They will follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity to see what dumb thing he’ll do next.”   Are you a leader? Why do people follow you? You want them to follow you not because they’re curious or because they have to, but because you add value to their lives. As a leader you take th…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
“They will follow him anywhere, but only out of curiosity to see what dumb thing he’ll do next.”
Are you a leader? Why do people follow you? You want them to follow you not because they’re curious or because they have to, but because you add value to their lives. As a leader you take them places they want to go and can’t go by themselves.
My previous blog compared the task of leading yourself to riding a bicycle. We can extend that metaphor and say that leading others is like riding a tandem bicycle. Together you maintain balance, momentum and direction. And while the person upfront must steer, if the person in the second seat chooses not to follow, then they won’t go anywhere together. I see three steps in leading another person.


The first step in leading someone is to listen to them and understand a) where they want to go and b) what they are skilled to do. In positions of greater authority you also want to understand more about who they are as a person and the kind of people they want to work with.
Steven Covey defines this step as the habit of “seeking first to understand and then to be understood.” Good job interviews ask the kind of specific questions that reveal where a candidate wants to go and what competencies and character they bring to the table.


The era of leading from positional authority is over. People in today’s world expect more involvement in the direction of an enterprise. A good leader, understanding the subtleties of influence, will engage followers in a more advanced conversation about where they are going together and how they are going to get there. Such conversations act as road maps clarifying future direction. They are important signals of future direction. They are important signals of mutual respect.

Covey calls this step the win/win and defines these five components:

1) Expectations
2) Guidelines
3) Resources
4) Accountability
5) Competencies

The negotiation step is not a one-time event. In a complex world where people are expected to lead themselves and new projects require new teams to come together for prescribed times, a good leader will continually clarify the five components of a new win/win. Of course the less prepared a person is to lead themselves or the shorter the time frame, the more a leader may need to use positional authority to get a job done. Conversely, more complex projects requiring a high level of initiative and skill need leaders who are able to negotiate more detailed win/win agreements.

A one-man-band can entertain for a while, but put a group of instruments together under the direction of a conductor, and you may have an orchestra capable of beautiful music.

A good conductor knows how to mesh the sounds of each individual instrument so that they complement one another and blend with one another.
Many people are content to play their own one-man-band music and may entertain small clusters of people. But to fill an amphitheater, you need an orchestra that has practiced together and is skilled at playing together. In good orchestras, not only is there respect for one another, but the timing between the various instruments has been carefully refined.
Ultimately the conductor doesn’t make any sounds, but has more to do with the sound produced than anyone else. He knows what each orchestra member is capable of and pulls the best performance from everyone. He’s a true leader.

Comments (8)

  • Seth
    I love the leadership topic as well. Great stuff! I’m actually in the middle of teaching a leadership class. We just covered positional leadership last week. Over the years, God has opened me up and has increased maturity in my leading. Leadership has now become more about bringing people into their dreams and less about mine. It is a heart change.
    Thanks for the thoughts.

  • Seth,

    YES! In response to Mark’s response (above). It is so much about “BRINGING PEOPLE INTO THEIR DREAMS AND LESS ABOUT MINE”! Serving others and helping them dream Kingdom stuff, and then serving them to achieve their dreams…

    I love your heart Seth. Thank you for all you do.

    Bless you.

  • Currently I’m working on simply building trust between me and the team. After three years, it’s still not there. I spent the first year assuming it would be by virtue of my position – mistake, I know, but that’s where I started my last two positions, and that’s where I start, so it seemed right at the time. Last year I spent realizing these issues and trying to buck them – blaming, fighting, etc., though I also made some good leadership choices. This school year I’m endeavoring to be more proactive, gracious, etc. It’s working, thankfully. Last night we had an amazingly open and honest staff meeting, definitely the best since I moved here. We may never share the same values in ministry, but I think we’re slowly building that trust through honest and non-judgmental communication. Thanks for your blogs on leadership. They’re encouraging and helpful, Seth. I also appreciate rereading some of them, as I need an encouraging reminder regularly of some of the basic principles.

  • the one-man-band/orchestra illustration is the best way i’ve ever heard leadership explained…and i’ve participated in some pretty cool leadership courses, conferences, etc. thanks, seth! praying for safe travels, a great debrief & a spirit-guided vision trip for all taking part in that. can’t wait for the updates!

  • Seth,

    There is so much to consider here. The role of conductor is not understood by most of us. Neither do many comprehend the role of leadership, as Jesus led. I can see Jesus the conductor with his band of 12 disciples and all that is implied in a picture like that. I suppose it is equally important to note that there are generally more musicians than conductors around. A real determination has to be made whether one is a conductor, a musician or simply a one man band. Thanks for the insight and for creating the opportunity to take it up one step higher…

  • The one man band sure does not have a great influence. It seems like a lot of times conductors attempt to run around and show everyone how to play instruments and maybe even try to play during a performance instead of letting the team mess up developing their own skills. The conductor is no more important, he needs to do his job as a servant.

    My question is, as a team member under authority, how do I maximize the effectiveness of our team? I want to help my leader develop us, delegate to us and, especially, help us dream with him. How do you think one would do that from the bottom up, without usurping authority?

  • Brian,

    Good question. I refer you to “7 Habits” – the part about the circle of influence, circle of concern.

    Will meditate more on plane to Africa tomorrow. Have a teaching on authority i’ll send you.

Comments are closed.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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