I first read Rudolph Giuliani's book on leadership a few years ago and since then it has been a book that I never tire of. Giuliani was a two time mayor of New York and was mayor during the September 11 terror attacks. The book will not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you have an interest in politics (and leadership) then I am sure you will find the book very interesting. While I do not agree with Giuliani on some political and moral issues, I have come to admire him tremendously as a leader. The book is jam packed with fantastic leadership principles and examples of how these principles worked in changing New York City. So for the next few days I will discuss a different chapter of the book.
#1 First things first
"Every morning at exactly eight o'clock, I make my mother very happy. Throughout my childhood, she would lecture me on the virtues of finishing my schoolwork before I went outside to play ... That's why I've begun every single morning since 1981 with a meeting of my top staff"
Giuliani goes on to explain throughout the chapter that as mayor of New York City the task could be completely overwhelming. So to ensure he dealt with the vital things first he met with his key leaders first thing every morning. This would give the opportunity for key issues to be dealt with in a timely manner. He credits this meeting as one of the keys to his success as mayor.
While this may be leadership 101, in rereading the book it has challenged me afresh. Often I find myself getting drawn to what appears to be urgent rather then what is truly important. The other challenge is to avoid tasks that while important are not exciting and instead rush to tasks that are exciting regardless of importance.
As a Christian leader (or even just as a follower of Christ) the first things first principle means that time with God needs to be the first part of your day. One of the things I have discovered is that you never know who you are going to encounter on any particular day. As a Pastor, people will ask you for advice and they are hoping for more then just your opinion – they are looking for Godly wisdom. If I am regularly connecting with God and putting him first, there is a much greater chance that I will be able to have an informed perspective on a situation rather then just regurgitating cliché answers.
The first things first principle is all about living life according to priorities and doing the right thing at the right time. Jesus constantly lived by this principle – His life was driven by his mission, not the agendas of other people. In Luke chapter 2, Jesus as a 12-year-old boy goes missing and when his parents eventually find him he is in the temple. When they question him about where he has been he replies, "Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?"
Later in John Chapter 4, prior to Jesus meeting the woman at the well, the Bible says that "Jesus had to go to Samaria". The interesting thing is that he was taking a journey to Galilee, which would not usually necessitate going through Samaria. The reason he had to go to Samaria was that he had to visit the woman at the well. His life was ordered by his mission not convenience, and he knew the principle of completing everything at its appointed time.
In John Chapter 11 Jesus finds out his friend Lazarus is sick, this seemed to be an urgent situation. It would appear that the first things first principle would dictate that you would go and visit your friend. However as Jesus knew what he was going to do, he knew that this was not the time to visit Lazarus. Instead he waited until Lazarus died and then visited. When Jesus arrives, Lazarus’s sisters say, "Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died". In other words, “If you had just put first things first then we would not be in this situation”. But Jesus was looking at a bigger picture than their agenda. Jesus wanted to raise Lazarus from the dead but to perform this great miracle he had to delay what other people deemed to be urgent. I am not suggesting we leave our friends to die! But the first things first principles does mean not being ruled by others’ opinions and agendas but always acting out of true priorities