People long for leaders with substance – leaders who don’t merely have a title or hold a position but actually make a real difference. Sadly, too many leaders settle for image management, empty promises, and choosing the path of least resistance. Coach, as someone in a significant leadership position, how can you lead with genuine substance?
It starts with your words. It’s not hard as a coach to say the right things and give lip-service to the right values. Verbal leadership that has substance goes beyond this. The Bible spends a lot of time addressing how we use our words. Consider two dimensions of how God’s Word directs us to use our words as part of difference-making leadership:
1. Lead with words of integrity. To speak with integrity means there is consistency between what we say we will do and the actions we then take. In addressing those who were focused on making commitments that sounded impressive, Jesus gave this instruction: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’” (Matt. 5:37). According to Jesus, to lead with words of integrity means we actually do what we say we’ll do and we don’t do what we say we won’t do. Coach, if you say your program is going to be characterized by certain values, follow through in coaching with those values and enforcing those values. If you commit to doing something for your team or for an individual player, do it. This is essential to having Christ-honoring substance to your leadership.
2. Lead with life-giving words. At a time in Jesus’ ministry when many stopped following him because his teaching made them uncomfortable, Jesus asked his twelve disciples whether they were going to leave as well. “Simon Peter replied, ‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.’” (John 6:68). As hard as Jesus’ teaching may have been to hear at times, Peter rightly recognized that he needed Christ’s life-giving words. Coach, those you lead need life-giving words as well. Resist speaking in ways that might generate short-term results but in reality are life-draining to your players because they tear down or treat your players as merely a means to an end. Instead, speak in ways that reflect Jesus’ character and kingdom values, that treat each individual as someone created in God’s image, and that point them to the gospel – even if you can’t openly talk about Jesus and the gospel in your setting. Speak the truth in love, even when it’s uncomfortable. Offer your players the life-giving words they need.
The substance of your leadership is measured by what results from how you lead. Coach, lead with words that demonstrate integrity and encourage integrity in those you influence. Speak in ways that bring life to your players because your words embody Jesus Christ, the source of true, lasting, and fulfilling life (John 10:10). When your verbal leadership has this type of substance, God will use you to make an eternal difference.
For reflection: In what ways have your words fallen short in the areas of integrity or being life-giving? Confess this to the Lord and receive his forgiveness and grace. Ask God to continue to grow you as a leader who reflects and honors him.