The DNA of a Thriving Leader: Three Observations from ReThink Leadership

As I wrote about in an earlier blog I recently attended the ReThink Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference continues to give me lots of things to think about, and at the same time has refilled my tank so that I can continue to pursue God’s calling in my life.

I took a ton of notes, and got great nuggets of wisdom. One of the best realizations of the conference didn’t come from Andy Stanley, Pete Wilson, or even Carey Niewhof. It came from Greg Moehl, Greg is one of my closest friends, and serves with our student ministry. We were hanging around outside, getting ready to leave the conference and he said, “Well, I know what the speakers had in common; they had counselors, they all self-professed focus issues, and they all loved food.”

When he said this I was struck by the simplistic diagnosis of the DNA of a thriving leader:

1.     Counselors. Thriving leaders have a care plan for themselves. They take the time they need to dump the stuff they’ve been carrying. Over and over again I heard stories of leader burnout, moral failure, and leaders who were battling things like depression or anxiety. The thriving leader has a plan for taking care of their mental health so they can continue to lead well. Most of them had professional counselors, all of them had a plan.

2.     Focus issues. I must have heard the word “A.D.D.” a thousand times during the conference. Leader after leader stood up there and talked about how they had a hard time focusing on something, or they tended to get hyper-focused. The take away for me was that the thriving leader is always focused on something, and for some that was one something, while for others it was multiple projects happening at the same time. All of the leaders knew which was was best for them, and made sure they worked in agreement with that rather that in conflict with how people thought they should act.

3.     Food. A LOT of the leaders talked about some sort of food while they were communicating. Now, at face value this has to do with a low level connection point for the audience, I mean, c’mon – everyone has to eat. However, the more I thought about it, thriving leaders used meals as a way to connect with people within their organization. If they are going to eat they should use the time to pour into someone else’s life. It also reminded me of how much the “table” is used to bring people together for restoration and hope. Jesus used meals to align His followers and these leaders seemed to do the same.  

Many of the leaders from the conference talked about these things without actually talking about them. They didn’t go out there and overtly say these topics were important, but by discussing them they validated what thriving leadership looks like. The old saying continues to remain true: More is caught than taught.