This is taken from my brother's blog (www.JeremyDunlap.com):
I am not an acronym kind of guy. However, I do dabble in the art of acronymics (I made that word up) from time to time. On one of those occasions, I was driving to speak to a local Rotary club back in Ohio to update them on a project and address the topic of leadership. While driving, I began thinking out loud:
What can I give them, a quote, a story, anything that will help them remember the importance of being a leader?
After a little time of thought, with no stories, analogies, or catchy phrases coming to mind I began thinking about leadership - as life giving.
Leaders impact and (hopefully) bring positive change for the lives of people. Leaders take people on a journey to a new promise land, thereby freeing them from their current life. Leaders paint pictures of a preferred future, many times seeing things others may miss. Leaders give hope. (Cue cinematic music, I am on a roll.) Leaders delegate and train, giving people a new lot in life. Leaders stand for something, giving people a sense of security. That is it! Leaders are life givers!
And then it hit me: (No, not the car in front of me because of my lack of attention to my driving.)
What does it mean to be a leader ... a life giver?
L - Life givers, leaders, are life long learners. We never stop learning. We never stop growing. There are many ways to learn but two of the most effective ways: from personal mistakes and from the mistakes of others. John Maxwell tells the story of a pastor friend who was bemoaning his current situation and did not understand why things were not going well, "after all he had twenty years of experience." Maxwell corrected him, "no you have one year of experience - repeated twenty times." The pastor never learned from his mistakes. Life givers take the time to study their past and the pasts of other life givers ... looking to learn and make future corrections.
I - Life givers, leaders, are influences. We influence people, thereby influencing systems, groups, cultures, and the world. If you know the gospel message but do not share it ... it does nothing for the rest of the world around you. Life givers bring positive change by influencing others. And influencing people comes in many shapes and sizes. While some are ridiculously outgoing others are more reserved ... and their influence takes on a different look. There are influencers who go one on one with people and there are influencers who prefer larger group settings. Ronald Reagan always had trouble "working a room." He would rather stay in the corner with one person, talking about life all night, then meeting a large amount of people at once. Bill Clinton, on the other hand, worked the entire room, making each person feel like they were the one person Bill had come to see that evening. Different people influence in different ways.
F - Life givers, leaders, form valuable relationships. Life giving is draining! We need people who pour into us on a regular basis. And since life giving is draining, we need to find other life givers to pour into our lives, encouragement, and learning. With the fear of sounding negative I feel that I need to make an observation about this life giver trait and the one below (E). Pouring into the lives of people, dreaming for people (see below) with the sole intent of receiving something in return - is wrong. This is not influencing people - this is using people. In my world, the church world, I have watched people in positions of authority emotionally pump up people who would possibly volunteer, run sound, play music, or deliver cookies for their kingdom. These people were not being invested in ... they were being used.
It is true that leaders have to spend time in ways that will receive the greatest return. But using people, pumping them up in order to make them feel as though they are being invested in, under the guise of advancing the Kingdom, is wrong. Enough said.
Life givers form valuable relationships that invest in themselves (growth, emotional healing) and relationships that invest in others (learning).
E - Life givers envision. We envision not just for organizations - but for people personally. We dream with people about their lives. We help them see a better picture of tomorrow. We take them on a journey, based upon their giftings, showing them what they can be according to how they have been wired by God. We listen to the dreams of others...and cheer. (Sometimes, when knowing the person well enough, we caution and help them refocus their dream in a different direction.)
Life givers bring vision ... where there is only a view of today. Life givers bring vision ... where there is no direction.
My LIFE giving acronym is pretty simple. Maybe for you - too simple. So I will ask a simple leadership question: Can you find these four characteristics in your life? Are you - a life giver?