This week I was riding on a plane returning home from a conference in Atlanta.  While on the plane, I was reflecting on some leadership principles I had learned during the conference. 

Andy Stanley was one of the speakers at this particular conference and these are a few high points that he shared:

1)   There is an unmistakable correlation between leadership and change.

2)   Great leaders love to fix things that are broken.

3)   Great leaders want to change the world.

Another speaker at the conference named Christine Caine added: “We have a whole bunch of ‘leaders’ who want to change the world but not have themselves changed.”

As I drank my “complementary” ginger ale, I was challenged by these comments and the fact that I need to seek change in my own life before I passionately seek to change the broken parts of the world.

I actually paid attention during the pre-flight emergency plan overview during this flight.  During the explanation, the flight attendants show that if the plane goes into a state of emergency and the oxygen masks are deployed from the compartment, the rule is that you are to put your own oxygen mask on before you try to help somebody else with their own mask.  As I reflected on this demonstration, it made perfect sense to me. 

My initial reaction to this oxygen mask rule was critical.  It seemed to me to be “more right” to help other people to safety before I try to help myself.  Helping others first seems like a noble rule and the most “honorable” thing to do.  But in reality, how would I be able to help someone else, if I don’t put my oxygen mask on first?  I might be able to help a few.  But there is no way for me to LEAD others to a better life situation if I am passed out or dead.  I have to get myself into a place of health and then I can more successfully help others and help more people than the alternate way.

The visual made sense toward the leadership principles I received at the conference.  As an effective leader, I have to put some measures in place, for my life, that will help me stay mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy so that I will be fit to best help others that I am leading.  I have to be willing to change some of my habits.  What good is my leadership if I am constantly drained, burnt out, and running on empty? 

The question I then have to ask myself is what are the measures that I need to have set in my life that will help me be a healthy and effective leader?  What do I need to change if I am not currently leading well?  What needs to be improved?  For example, what mentor(s) should I have in my life that will consistently challenge me and hold me accountable?  What should I be doing to stay physically healthy so I have the stamina to get through a hard day and still be a great husband and dad when I get home from work?  To continue with the flight analogy, what are the yellow oxygen masks in my life that I need to put on (and keep on) before I try to help lead others?