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What You Need to Know about the Visionary Leader

“Sometimes leaders are tyrants. Those are the people God often picks for leadership.“ This is some of the most insightful perspective I ever heard from an experienced mentor.

It was after I came home from the mission field that I went on staff at the church that sent us out. Within a year of coming home, the church split. The pastor had made a series of decisions that were perceived to benefit him more and supporting staff and congregation less. Also, there was a narrative about him that went something like this: “He’s great in the pulpit, but one on one, he doesn’t really seem interested in having a conversation.“

To make matters worse, the pastor was heard on more than one occasion by staff and other church leaders to say, “Oh, so-and-so is leaving. Good. Let them go. God is pruning the ministry.” People were disappointed that disagreements led to broken relationships and honest efforts were never made to repair them. “Let them plant their own church,” the pastor said.

Does any of this sound familiar? It happens over and over in faith-based organizations. A visionary leader plants a church or launches a mission project, but he can’t sustain it over the long run. He or she can’t keep an engaged support network in place to keep the effort moving forward and growing.

Visionary men and women see the future differently. In the beginning, they communicate vision and inspire people around them to pitch in for the cause and get things done. As the project moves forward, it becomes clear to everyone the visionary leaders are rarely good with details. In fact, they don’t want to be burdened with them. Details are delegated and often the visionary leader will put distance between himself and those carrying out daily tasks. He doesn’t want to be bothered. He likes to communicate, inspire, and watch the vision come to fruition. From the visionary leader’s point of view, the biggest hurdle to seeing results is the day-to-day grind. The second challenge is people quibbling about how to get things done.

The reason it was so valuable for a wise mentor to tell me, “these are the guys God picks to lead,” is because my role and giftedness as an operations guy is intended to complement and strengthen my leader’s short-comings. Where I blew it, personally, in the heat of conflict was I focused on my strengths and his weaknesses. I made myself the good guy and the leader the bad guy. The mentor I mentioned also confronted me. He said, “Quit making this about YOU! IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU!”

If you are the visionary leader, you need to be self-aware. If you support a visionary leader, you, too, need to be self-aware but also aware of the leader’s traits. In order to carry out God’s work, knowledge about this is crucial; it can be the difference between success or failure of the work God has called you to achieve. For this reason, ministries and businesses are turning to personality tests to give people more education for communicating and collaborating with the ones they work with daily. This is what the Myers-Briggs personality test has to say about “the Visionaries”:

Positive Traits:

•  “Idea people” – always working towards some grand scheme or idea
•  Love to come up with new ideas and possibilities, though following through with implementation is often a chore for them
•  Very curious and possess a deep love for learning
•  Generally self-confident and comfortable in their own skin
•  Generally open and friendly – people are drawn to them
•  Can be charismatic, charming
•  Laid back and flexible
•  Highly imaginative and creative
•  Tend to have great senses of humor
•  Ambitious
•  Highly strong-minded
•  Generally upbeat and enthusiastic
•  Ability to spread their enthusiasm to others and, by doing so, motivate others to help them fulfill their visions
•  Usually popular and easy to get along with
•  Usually possess great communication skills
•  Highly interested in self-improvement and growth within themselves and their relationships
•  Tend to be great at making money
•  Usually take commitments and relationships seriously
•  Able to move on after the end of a relationship
•  Love to and are great at absorbing information
•  Have a much deeper understanding of their environments than most other types
•  Ability to quickly and accurately size up situations/their surroundings
•  Strong intuitions
•  Adaptable
•  Good at almost anything that interests them
•  Can be quite resourceful
•  When well-developed, can be highly visionary, inventive and enterprising
•  Base decision-making on rationality and logic
•  Quick-witted, clever, fluent conversationalists
•  Love verbal-sparring and debating with others
•  Tend to have the kinds of personalities that would make great lawyers
•  Always seeking higher understanding in life
•  Good at improvising and coming up creative solutions to problems
•  Conceptual and theoretical

Negative Traits (don’t start reading here:

•  Can be insensitive and unintentionally hurt others’ feelings
•  Can be impulsive
•  Tend to jump from one idea/plan to another, but many times will not finish what they start
•  Can fall into trap of becoming egotistical and overly self-absorbed
•  Doesn’t always think things through sufficiently before acting/speaking
•  Often not good with managing money – tendency to be big spenders and risk-takers
•  May change partners often as they are always excited by something new
•  May provoke arguments due to their love for debating
•  May fall into trap of becoming overly logical and overlooking the subjective, personal side of things, which could result in them coming across as unethical/uncaring/dishonest to others
•  Tendency to overlook/ignore details

As a missionary preparing for the mission field, you need to know this about the boss you may be working for especially since the guys getting most things done on the mission field fit this visionary profile.

If you’re the visionary leader, you need to know this about yourself and how you’re really perceived by those that work for you. The more of these facts you own, the more loyalty and trust you’ll earn from those that follow you.

Personality tests are a great tool, but ultimately, in order for God to get glory for the work He has called us to, we, each of us – leaders and workers alike – need to serve the other. The Message puts it succinctly in its version of Romans 15: 1-2”:

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”

This principle applies to both the visionary leader and those that take direction from him or her.

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