Does Your Organization Produce Innovative Leaders or Managed Followers?

A friend of mine called recently to discuss his business.  He wants his employees to assume more ownership for their work and take more initiative on their own, without having to be asked to do something.  He wants to lead an organization that produces innovative leaders, not a bunch of managed followers.  Knowing a little about his workplace, I asked him an important question.  “Have you created an environment conducive to produce the kind of employees you say you want?”

The way an organization is structured (often called the DNA of the organization) determines the type of employee it attracts and retains.  An atmosphere that produces innovative leaders, for example, has more to do with the culture of the organization than it does specific programs or activities the organization does. Leaders determine, therefore, whether they will create an environment that can produce innovative leaders or whether they will be an environment that merely produces managed followers.  Here are some general characteristics of those two environments:

One that produces innovative leaders

  • More rewarding
  • More entrepreneurial
  • More freedom
  • More encouragement
  • More open-minded
  • More creative
  • More informal
  • More changeable
  • More risk-taking
  • More trusting

One that produces managed followers

  • More oversight
  • More corporate
  • More rules
  • More controlling
  • More closed-minded
  • More defined
  • More formal
  • More static
  • More penalties for failure
  • More critical

I realize there are not clear-cut divisions between the two types of environments.  Obviously “more” is a subjective word, but if you apply these broad characteristics to most major corporations you can probably tell which ones attempt to encourage innovation and which encourage a more compliant environment.  If you are a leader, ask yourself which of the two descriptions fits your organization best. Then ask yourself if this is the environment you want to lead.  (If you really want to know the correct answer, let your employees answer a survey anonymously.  You may be surprised at their response.)

What other characteristics would you add to the lists above?

(My next few posts will have further thoughts on this issue, including some specific activities to help foster innovation among your team, but remember, it begins with culture, not activities.)

My Strengths Finder, Strength # 4

Over a course of five days, I am sharing each of my five strengths as indicated through the StrengthsFinder indicator.  Of the 34 themes, these are my “top five”.  Hopefully this will give insight into who I am, how I am wired, and why I lead and blog the way I do. I am simply sharing the feedback results the indicator gave to me after I took the assessment, , but after that paragraph I will share some additional thoughts on the negative aspect of this strength.


Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an Achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

The negative of this strength is that I never really take a break. On my day off I have to achieve something.  When I am in the shower I have to use it as thought time. (Some of my best thoughts are produced here by the way.)  I can be hard to satisfy, always wanting more from myself and others around me, which I realize makes me hard to live and work with at times.

In The Darkest Days…Get Alone

pd_darkness_071029_msThis is a re-post of one of my Mustard Seed Ministry devotionals. Perhaps you need this encouragement today.

Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” 2 Kings 4:4 NIV

Elisha told the widow and her family to be alone. Sometimes, especially during the darkest days of life, we just need to be alone…with our God! Are you in one of those times today?

It is great to have Christian friends. They are one of the great highlights of my Christian walk. I love to go to church to fellowship with other believers. If I have a problem, I want to be able to seek the counsel of others. I think God has certainly given us the ministry of encouragement to each other.

I should tell you, however, that there are some times in life when the only One you need is Jesus! There will be times when you need to excuse yourself from the crowd, close the door behind you, and be alone with your Creator!

It is those quiet moments with the Father, which will become the source of our hope and strength. It is those times, which God will use to refresh us for life. It is then that we can “Be still and know that He is God”.

Do not try to go at your problems on your own! And, as great as they are, do not rely on friends exclusively to bear your burdens. In the darkest days, get alone with God, pour your heart out to Him, and let Him fill your cup to overflowing again.

My Strengths Finder, Strength # 3

Over a course of five days, I am sharing each of my five strengths as indicated through the StrengthsFinder indicator. Of the 34 themes, these are my “top five”. Hopefully this will give insight into who I am, how I am wired, and why I lead and blog the way I do. I am simply sharing the feedback results the indicator gave to me after I took the assessment, but after that paragraph I will share some additional thoughts on the negative aspect of this strength.


The Strategic theme enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route. It is not a skill that can be taught. It is a distinct way of thinking, a special perspective on the world at large. This perspective allows you to see patterns where others simply see complexity. Mindful of these patterns, you play out alternative scenarios, always asking, “What if this happened? Okay, well what if this happened?” This recurring question helps you see around the next corner. There you can evaluate accurately the potential obstacles. Guided by where you see each path leading, you start to make selections. You discard the paths that lead nowhere. You discard the paths that lead straight into resistance. You discard the paths that lead into a fog of confusion. You cull and make selections until you arrive at the chosen path—your strategy. Armed with your strategy, you strike forward. This is your Strategic theme at work: “What if?” Select. Strike.

The strategic strength can cause me to get frustrated and impatient with those who do not share this strength and for them to get impatient with me.  I want progress that makes sense.  I want to plan things through.  I want to question the status quo.  Not everyone is wired this way.

My Strengths Finder, Strength # 2

Over a course of five days, I am sharing each of my five strengths as indicated through the StrengthsFinder indicator.  Of the 34 themes, these are my “top five”.  Hopefully this will give insight into who I am, how I am wired, and why I lead and blog the way I do. I am simply sharing the feedback results the indicator gave to me after I took the assessment, but after the paragraph describing the strength I will offer some commentary on the weakness of this strength.


Command leads you to take charge. Unlike some people, you feel no discomfort with imposing your views on others. On the contrary, once your opinion is formed, you need to share it with others. Once your goal is set, you feel restless until you have aligned others with you. You are not frightened by confrontation; rather, you know that confrontation is the first step toward resolution. Whereas others may avoid facing up to life’s unpleasantness, you feel compelled to present the facts or the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be. You need things to be clear between people and challenge them to be clear-eyed and honest. You push them to take risks. You may even intimidate them. And while some may resent this, labeling you opinionated, they often willingly hand you the reins. People are drawn toward those who take a stance and ask them to move in a certain direction. Therefore, people will be drawn to you. You have presence. You have Command.

I wrote about the negative side in a previous post HERE.

3 Steps To Get Started Delegating

One absolute necessity for effectively leading a growing environment is the art of delegation. The leader who fails to delegate will inhibit growth of the organization and stifle leadership development of the team.

Delegation is something to be learned and practiced. To get you started, here are 3 tips to delegating effectively:

Give Away – You have to start somewhere. Find a project or task you would normally do and give it away to someone. Of course you want to trust the person, but one of the main excuses for not delegating is an issue of control. If you want to be an effective delegator you eventually have to trust someone else to complete a task.

Be purposeful – There are lots of good reasons to delegate. Having a purpose will help you wrap your arms around the process of delegating. A few reasons I delegate:

  • It clears my desk and allows me to focus on other tasks
  • To give other opportunities and develop his or her leadership
  • It enhances teamwork
  • To improve efficiency – Some people can do parts of my job better than I can

Let go – Never give responsibility without authority. Check back with those you have delegated to, but don’t micro-manage their efforts.

I encourage you to repeat the process often. It will make you a better leader, your team a better team and your organization a better organization.

How are you at delegating? What do you need to delegate today?

My Strengths Finder, Strength # 1

The next five afternoons I will share each of my five strengths as indicated through the StrengthsFinder indicator.  Of the 34 themes, these are my “top five”.  Hopefully this will give insight into who I am, how I am wired, and why I lead and blog the way I do.    I am simply sharing the feedback results the indicator gave to me after I took the assessment, but after the paragraph describing the strength I will offer some commentary on the weakness of this strength.


Relator describes your attitude toward your relationships. In simple terms, the Relator theme pulls you toward people you already know. You do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people—in fact, you may have other themes that cause you to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends—but you do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends. You are comfortable with intimacy. Once the initial connection has been made, you deliberately encourage a deepening of the relationship. You want to understand their feelings, their goals, their fears, and their dreams; and you want them to understand yours. You know that this kind of closeness implies a certain amount of risk—you might be taken advantage of—but you are willing to accept that risk. For you a relationship has value only if it is genuine. And the only way to know that is to entrust yourself to the other person. The more you share with each other, the more you risk together. The more you risk together, the more each of you proves your caring is genuine. These are your steps toward real friendship, and you take them willingly.

The negative of this strength is that it often keeps me from meeting new people quickly. I tend to have a few close relationships, and many surface friends, but I tend to be labeled as “hard to get to know”.  I certainly do not mean to come across that way, but it is the negative side of this strength.

3 Part Strategy For Spiritual Growth

theGbwDiscipleship is the process of becoming more like Jesus Christ. It is the goal of every believer and producing disciples is the command Jesus gave the church. It is also the vision of Grace Community Church.

Sometimes knowing the next step to take is the hardest. At Grace we have tried to simplify the process for you. We have three-part strategy designed to encourage spiritual growth and maturity.

Gather – The goal is to become a regular attendee of the weekly Sunday gathering. It is difficult to take greater steps until a person begins a committed attendance pattern. In addition to providing a worship experience and teaching opportunity, the gathering is designed to be encouraging, engaging, and to produce interest in pursuing the next steps.

Commit – Entering the commit stage of the strategy means a person takes a next step of joining a community group and commits to weekly Bible study and fellowship with other people on the same journey of discovering more about God and faith. Individuals of all levels of spiritual maturity are welcome into group life, but it is essential if a person wants to continue to grow in their understanding and beliefs. Additionally, because of the emphasis placed on community through groups, people who attend Grace will miss out on giving and receiving ministry opportunity if they are not a part of a group.

Serve – The final stage of the strategy, and perhaps the most important, is when a person moves from soaking in grace and truth and begins to invest love into other people. This can be through volunteering at Grace or in the community, but there is something life changing about giving to others that helps a person to mature spiritually.

Ultimately the goal of the believer should be to become a disciple, a follower of Christ. When one truly sets his or her focus on being like Christ he or she will become a “self-feeder” and seek after the deeper truths of the faith, more intimacy with Christ, greater fellowship with other believers and a more intense love for others. This really occurs when a person’s heart’s desire is to follow Christ completely and that is when the best spiritual growth can occur.  We believe following this strategy of Gather/Commit/Serve is the best we can offer to help a person become a disciple.

What next step do you need to take?

The Negative Side of My Command Strength

I am becoming a student of Strengths Finder.  This personality reviewer gives a person insight into his or her “signature themes” of strengths or behaviors that help drive a person.  Over the next few days I will share my individual themes in an afternoon post.  Hopefully this will give insight into some of what makes me the way I am and even a clue as to why I may blog about what I blog about.

Before I start to share, however, I need to share that I am also learning there are weaknesses that accompany each of the strengths. For example, one of my strengths is Command.  You will read more about it soon, but basically it is a strength, which leads me to take charge.  I want progress and I am wired to push for it if no one else does.  At times this can cause problems for those around me.

Take for example, if I get to a four-way stop the same time as another car.  If the other car hesitates even for a second I am gone.  It is not that I mind waiting for the other car or that I mind the other car waiting for me, but I just don’t want the other car waiting for me as I wait for the other car as the other car waits for me…  In other words, I want forward progress!  Let’s go!  Sometimes this trait causes Cheryl to think I am impatient or unkind if she is in the seat next to me.

When I am part of an organization that “strength” shows up as well.  If those around me are not leading, get out of the way and I will. I am perfectly fine if another person wants to lead, in fact I strongly encourage people to do something, take a risk, dream a dream, plan big.  I will even be okay if your way is different from mine (at times), but my main concern is that the ball is rolling in some direction.

Unfortunately, this trait can at times be overwhelming, annoying, and even seem uncaring.  I am realizing that more each day.  My thought process now is to figure out how to allow this strength to work for the good of the organization and not allow it to disrupt team spirit, harmony, or morale.  I am trying to take COMMAND of my strengths!

Let’s go!

I Hate Job Titles

I am not a big fan of job titles.  We have had some staff additions and changes in the last couple of months and one of the most frequent questions has been “What’s their new title?”  Frankly I do not care!  I am fine with people picking their own title and would rather spend my time concentrating on the work we need to get done.

I suppose my dislike of titles has to do with one of my philosophies of work.  I think when an organization has a vision, operates as a team, and strategically sets out to accomplish it, that everyone’s job on the team is to see that the vision is accomplished, regardless of a person’s title.

Titles to me are too specific. They seem to indicate a defined area of focus.  I realize some people need that for clarity and I understand the need for specialization around an area of work or skill sets, but I prefer a job description to a title.  I like for a person to understand the goals and objectives for the position, and even more than that, the overall vision of the organization and for them to realize how they are a key part of the organization’s success. That is hard to capture in a specific job title.  Job titles tend to lead to the phrase and thought, “That’s not my job.”

I realize job titles are cultural, so we will keep using them, but I do not have to like something just because everyone else is doing it.  I almost wish we could start calling everyone “Team Player” and if they need a big title to feel good or to dress up a business card, maybe we could title them “Director of What’s Required”.

Do you like job titles?  Does your title truly capture the entire role you play in your organization?