Are You Challenging Your People? A Call to Our Higher Selves
People yearn for their leaders to challenge them to become better versions of themselves. But many times we, as leaders, let this slide because we are too busy, and we resort to just being nice. It can easily become a burden to keep telling people what to do and who to be, so we stop asking.
I love when those who lead me challenge me to become better. Don’t you? I love for my pastor to challenge me to live a more godly life, for my wife to challenge me to make healthier choices, for my business partner to challenge me to become more aware of our finances, or for my coach to challenge me to achieve more balance in my life.
We need to be challenged, and I think we like to be challenged by those we trust to lead us. So in turn, we must do the same for those we lead. Let me show you how.
On January 20, 1961 President John F. Kennedy gave his Inaugural Address. In it he uttered the now famous sentences, “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”
Any time I hear or read these words, something inside of me is invigorated. Even though these words were first spoken over fifty years ago, they still apply to all of us today. They are a call for us to live at a higher level, to honor and regard our beloved country, to contribute and serve—not just exist and partake from society. What a beautiful challenge. I think I can safely say that most of us can do better in this area. It is an area of deficiency for many leaders; it is definitely for me.
So what is it about a challenge from a leader that makes us feel good, that actually draws us to him? When I hear President Kennedy saying these words in grainy old videos, I almost want to respond, “Challenge me more. Tell me more about what I should do and how I should grow.”
The Type Of Challenge
We can challenge our people to do many things. We can challenge a person to bring in more business by saying something like, “I would like to challenge you to sell fifteen cars this month,” or “see fifty patients a day,” or “have ten people join the church monthly,” or “make one touch down per game.” But that’s not the type of challenge I am talking about. That’s not what will move our people. That’s not what moves us. These type of challenges may be necessary to maintain our business or our organization’s viability, however, I would see these as organizational goals.
The way we must consistently challenge our people is to urge them to become better: better human beings, better leaders, better citizens, better parents, better coworkers, better professionals. More effective, more patient, more loving, more sacrificial. When you call on people to rise to a higher level of functioning and thinking and living, they will respond to you—of course if done tactfully, kindly, and in the right time. Do it in the context of a good relationship, when there is a good connection. Don’t just blurt out the words. Find the right time and the right way, but say it. Challenge people to become a better version of themselves.
Why People Like to Be Challenged
Why do people respond to that kind of challenge? Because human beings in general desire to improve. Here are some other reasons. When we are challenged by our leaders, we think…
- Our leader is an individual of deep thought, a person who has the capacity to think reflectively and globally. We are drawn to leaders like that.
- Our leader is not merely interested in the here and now, the profit, the expansion of the organization, and the things that exclusively benefit him or her. The leader is also interested in me.
- Our leader must be challenging himself. People love working for leaders who are growing themselves.
- Our leader must have strong character since he is challenging ours. We are proud to work with someone who demonstrates deep character.
I hope you approach leadership not just as a way to accomplish things that will benefit you and your family. I hope you approach leadership as an opportunity to impact the lives of those you lead. I promise when you genuinely aim to impact lives with your leadership, people will want to be with you and go with you to the farthest places. The key is to genuinely care for people, help them, love them, serve them, and yes, challenge them.
For Further Reading: