Leadership Lessons from Skip Gray

Skip Gray is a senior leader in The Navigators. When he speaks, people listen. Much of what he learned about leadership came through the years as he faithfully served in the shadow of such notable leaders as the ministry’s founder, Dawson Trotman.
Skip’s tenure as a Navigator began in 1952 with training in San Diego. It continued through the years with such activities as raising money to purchase Glen Eyrie, The Navigators Colorado Springs “home,” and then directing the conference center. Skip went on to lead the entire U.S. work. Now in his mid-80s, his public speaking and life-to-life ministry continues all across the United States.
Recently I sat down with Skip over lunch and asked him about leadership: “What are some leadership lessons you've learned in the shadow of many leaders and in your many leadership roles with The Navigators?“ Here are several “gold nuggets," sure to encourage you wherever you are in your leadership journey.
Leaders pray. God answers yes, no, wait awhile. We can be assured of this, Skip adds, “As Tim Keller puts it, ‘God always gives you what you would ask for if you knew what He knows.’ ”
Leaders think. Skip emphasizes that godly leaders have a high view of God’s Word, scheduling time not merely to read the Bible but to meditate upon it, ponder it, think about it. He points to Paul’s words: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). 
Leaders delegate. Don’t hand things off to just anyone, he emphasizes, but only to people who can be trusted. This goes to the heart of Jethro’s counsel to his son-in-law Moses, “You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone” (Exodus 18:18).
Leaders teach. “Teach what you know; reproduce what you are,” Skip says. He recalls a conversation he once had with a Navigator who was going to teach on suffering but hadn’t experienced it in his own life. “Years later when I preached the funeral of his son,” Skip says, “I knew he understood the topic of suffering.”
Leaders ask questions. This was Jesus’ practice, Skip points out, as reflected in these questions: “What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?” (see Luke 10:25-26) and “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” (see Matthew 22:17-22). Good leaders, he adds, often answer a question with a question.
Leaders model. Skip observes that Jesus didn’t merely talk about humility, integrity, and sensitivity at the outset of His ministry in the Sermon on the Mount; “Jesus’ life incarnated Micah 6:8, ‘He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ What verse does your life incarnate?
Leaders influence. This brings to mind John Maxwell's words: “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Skip says this reflects David’s example (see 2 Samuel 5:2a): “In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. . . . ”
Simply by his own life and priorities, Skip demonstrates another key leadership characteristic he learned from those in positions of power through the years: Leaders mentor. What an invaluable lunchtime conversation!
What lessons are you learning in the shadow of leaders around you? Who’s in your leadership shadow . . . and what are they learning from your example?
Skip Gray is the author of a just-released book titled Navigating Insights: The Wit & Wisdom of Skip Gray, a collection of his famous one-liners through the years. You’ll find it here on Amazon.com.
Dean Ridings is on staff with Navigator Church Ministries and the author of the Pray! Prayer Journal.