Why Learners are the Most Resilient Leaders

Updated: Apr 13

The tired clergy couple walked into a crowded banquet hall for a breakfast meeting. They had flown throughout the night to be at a meeting at the seminary where I serve, because the evening before they had led a public worship event in their home city of Bogota, Colombia, to nearly one million people. Pastors Ricardo and Ma. Patricia Rodríguez of Centro Mundial de Avivamiento, a church of one hundred thousand members hosts a clergy leadership conference with twenty-five thousand pastors each year. They traveled to this breakfast to share a testimony of what God’s Spirit was doing in their country. Three times during the message they implored the gathered educational leaders,

“We are having a revival . . . and we need you to train us.

Sitting in that meeting that morning on the last day of 2017, I said to myself, They are having a revival, we need them to train us. But that was not why they had come. They had come to this gathering—amid staggering success—to ask for help. So many of the people being saved needed in-depth discipleship. So many of the churches being planted in a rapid movement of God throughout South America were being led by pastors with little training. As leaders of a movement that was growing bigger than most of us could even imagine, they had found the grace to remain teachable, and by traveling across two continents to ask for help, they demonstrated their humility. And the gathering was stunned by it. By all the usual markers of ministry they were having tremendous fruitfulness. Literally, hundreds of thousands of people listen to their voices and accept their wisdom and insight. Yet, at a moment of great blessing, they had humbled themselves to fly all night to ask for help so their movement could be all that God wanted it to be.

Great leaders are committed learners. Resilient leaders remain the most teachable. While it is true that the best teacher is the leadership experience itself, Warren Buffet estimates that he spends 80 percent of his time reading. The most successful entrepreneurs of our day readily acknowledge having a coach to help them lead well. And the advocates for the development of talent through “deliberate practice” insist that to achieve the level of effectiveness needed to truly be great in any field requires coaching, feedback, and ongoing instruction—even for those who are the most successful—as well as tremendous amounts of effort.

Studies show that a critical attribute for leaders to continue to lead effectively is a teachable learning mindset. And this learning mindset is a critical element for resilience. A teachable learning mindset leads to a greater capacity for staying in a difficult position, taking on a particularly difficult task or standing up to resistance, because there is an inherent assurance that if all else fails this trial will—if nothing else—lead to further growth.

At AE Sloan Leadership we are committed to helping faith leaders thrive as change leaders and one of the ways we do that is to accompany our clients through the learning journey. We do this by offering coaching, consulting, and—at times—sharing resources that we have found helpful in our own learning. In this newsletter, we introduce a new section that we call The Change Leaders Library. Each newsletter or so, we’ll share with you the books and resources that we are using for our own learning. I hope you’ll find them helpful.

And if you have a book to share, please send an email to me with the resource title and link and a brief description of what you found so helpful in your own learning. We’ll feature it in a future newsletter.

Keep learning. Keep going!

PS. This is an edited excerpt from Tempered Resilience: How Leaders are Formed in the Crucible of Change, (IVP, 2020)

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