The Transition of a Founder: Handing off the Reigns

Meeting handshake

Starbucks Howard Schultz had to return to the helm at Starbucks. Apparently, according to numerous reports, he tried to leave, but came back to attempt to reverse the suffering the company experienced. Dell’s Michael returned to help steer Dell back to health. Steve Jobs once returned to Apple. Other companies, who have founder with lesser known names, have seen their founding fathers return to the helm of leadership. Companies like Sun Microsystems, Novell, and Vonage saw founders return. They all returned to help the company succeed again. In some of these cases things were never the same after the return, but my point is they were forced to return to the companies they founded.

I have a theory.

Companies today will face this dilemma more than companies founded in years past.

Could it be that because companies today begin with such an imprint of their founder in their DNA that it is becoming more difficult to pass the reigns of the top spot to another person? Study Starbucks and you have to study Howard Schultz. (He even wrote a book about it.) Look at Dell computers and you see Michael Dell all over the company philosophy. Even today, as he is trying to rebrand the company that holds his name with a newer identity, his personality appears to drive the process. Companies today are very much an impression of their founders. Google’s corporate “fun” environment apparently IS Larry Page. Every time I’ve heard Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, interviewed he describes the social network with a passion that only a founder could exhibit.

Companies are launching into their niche faster than ever before. The information age and technology allows for growth at a pace unknown in previous generations. Much of that growth is a direct reflection on the personality and passions of the founder who is seen in the public as the chief representative of the company. Social media fuels that even faster. I’m not sure building around a personality has been the case as extreme as it seems to be today.

As I view this phenomenon within corporate America, I can’t help but wonder if there are implications for churches as well.

Doesn’t Northpoint have the personality of Andy Stanley? Lifepoint certainly embodies the imprint of Craig Groeschel.

What will happen when these leaders attempt to retire? The answer to that question remains to be seen. I have no doubt these two mentioned are thinking about those issues, but are their lesser known counterparts? We certainly are planting lots of churches. And, that’s a good thing.

But, certainly also, we are planting many churches today that share their DNA with the founding pastor. The world of social media elevates the role of the founder in churches too. People follow leaders…personalities. We can agree Jesus is to be that personality…it is Him we are to follow…but even still, society tends to look for individual leadership to follow these days. Hopefully, those churches are preparing to be churches that will last for years to come.

This thought process encourages a few things churches (and organizations) may want to consider in their beginning years:

  • We must be thinking transition of the founder from the founding.
  • We must be careful not to elevate people or personalities over a vision.
  • Whenever possible, we may want to consider easing a leader out gradually, rather than allowing a fast exit of the founder.
  • We must make sure our visions are easily transferable, if we want the church (or organization) to exist long-term.

As with most posts, I don’t have all the answers. I’m, hopefully, just triggering thoughts.

What are yours?

The little tree that could…

tree

I saw this little tree while I was running in our local arboretum this fall.

It made me stop and take a picture. It also made me think.

You may not be able to tell from the picture, but this tree is not very big. Not a whole lot taller than me.

It reminded me of the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

And, some other principles about little things.

This little tree, one of the smallest in the park, is doing its part, in a marvelous way.

Displaying God’s glory through the amazing colors of fall.

In fact, this was one of the prettiest trees I saw all season.

It made me look. It made me stop. It prompted this post.

And, I was reminded.

Sometimes it is the smallest that brings the greatest impact.

When God chooses, He can use the smallest, or seemingly insignificant, to bring Him the greatest glory.

Because, ultimately, there are no minor players in God’s economy. He works all things for good.

Don’t overlook the small things in life today.

The small gesture. The one kind word. The small start. The beginning stages. The often overlooked. The gentle whisper.

The small things may actually be the big things.

Do not despise these small beginnings” (Zechariah 4:10)

10 Things I’m Learning in Ministry and Life

wisdom road sign arrow

Some are new…some are reminders I’m seeing lived out…

The most mature is often not the one with the most knowledge of Scripture but the one who has learned to most live like Christ.

The longer we sit in the same chair the more ownership we take in it and the less likely we are to want to move from it.

If we want people to grow we have to encourage people to change. Stability isn’t growing. It’s often the level field on the way to a period of decline.

Success in ministry is not always translated into success as a follower of Christ.

Just because they know it doesn’t mean they know how to live it. Or that they live it.

Without a sense of desperation, many people will resist any change you propose.

Pastors are human.

My attitude at the beginning of a day often determines my progress and attitude at the end of the day.

A similar perspective that changes frowns into smiles often changes worry into a prayer…fear into faith…bad days into good.

More talk the talk than walk the walk. And it’s easier. And I’m guilty too at times.

What are you learning these days?

7 Unique Abilities of Good Leaders

man looking

Leadership is never easy. To lead well requires unique abilities.

Here are 7:

Ability to stand alone – You don’t have to always stand alone as a leader. In fact, that should never be the goal, but there will be times it takes others time to catch the vision you are certain you have been called to lead. There will be days when everyone appears a critic. You’ll still have to lead. That’s why not everyone is willing to lead.

Ability to see what others can’t see – Leaders are taking people into the unknown. They see beyond the clutter of today into a bigger picture; a brighter reality. Many times they can view the end goal…as blurry as it may be…before others can. That’s why people need a leader.

Ability to think beyond today – Leadership is different from managing. It’s not about maintaining systems. It’s about what’s next. What’s ahead. What’s yet to be realized. That requires a more heads up rather than heads down approach. Not everyone has that ability.

Ability to cast a vision – People need to know the why behind the what. They need something to inspire them for the difficult days ahead. Good leaders can communicate effectively, share passion and motivate others to endure and succeed.

Ability to include people in the process – Leaders have a unique understanding that they can’t complete the task without the assistance of others. Genuine leaders share credit and acknowledge the contributions of those they lead. There is little room for selfishness or dictatorial control in good leadership.

Ability to make the first move – Leaders aren’t intimidated by fear or the unknown. They aren’t emotionless, but they know the journey to victory begins with the first step…and they will lead others in taking that step. This ability alone eliminates many from the field of leadership.

Ability to stay when others are leaving – There will be times of chaos when everything seems to be falling apart. The leader holds the banner of stability, pointing people back to the vision, reminding them of the rewards for staying the course.

Certainly there are others and I welcome you to share them. I’m also certain there have been great leaders who don’t have all seven of these, but good leadership will requires each of these at some point. And, great leaders, in my opinion, display each one often or when required.

What unique abilities would you add for good leadership?

Leader, do some soul-searching. Upon which of these do you need to improve?

3 Ways to Develop as a Leader…Without a Budget

power meeting from above

I was meeting with a young pastor recently who wants to grow as a leader. He lives in small town. He is young, but his staff is even younger. There are not a lot of seasoned leaders in his church…or at least not that he has discovered. (I usually think there are leaders who simply haven’t been tapped, but I understood his dilemma.) The church looks to him to lead.

His question. Who invests in him? He recognizes the need to grow as a leader, but he’s not sure where to find it. His church can’t afford (or doesn’t think it can) to send him to conferences or hire a coach.

What should he do?

Here were 3 suggestions I gave him:

Form a peer leadership group – There are people in the community who own small businesses. They meet a payroll. They have guided an organization to success. Even in the smallest communities, someone owns (or manages) the local grocery store or serves as the bank brach manager. For a group like this, I like to keep it relatively small, no more than 12, and 4-6 6 might be a better number. I would share stories, talk about experiences, and learn from each other. It will be mutual beneficial. I have such a group currently…and have had many times before. These groups are usually comprised of believers, but not professional ministers. I’m trying to learn leadership and management practices…not theology…in these groups.

Start a book club – Recruit leaders in the community to read a leadership book together. These can be mid level managers or senior executives. The learning is from the book being studied and the reflection of the group based on personal experiences. In this type group, the size can be as any size between 2 and 25 people. The larger groups often provide the broader range of perspective. The only cost is the book. Everyone buys their own. You can assign one person each session to guide discussion on what they learned from the book and open for discussion. With a large enough book…people will discuss, and the learning experience is rich. For this group, you might use a Christian leadership book (such as a John Maxwell book), but I wouldn’t limit the group to believers only. It’s a great way to interact with the community in a non-threatening way, while gaining valuable leadership and management insights.

Ask a community leader to mentor – There is one leader in every community (usually multiple leaders) who is further along than you are in the process of leadership. There will always be one leader in the community from whom I can learn. Always. While some may disagree with me, this usually is a believer for me, but doesn’t have to be. I want them to be honest, moral and have a good reputation, but knowing in advance their specific walk with Christ is not a prerequisite for this type mentor. (I have multiples in my life, depending on the need.) Again, I’m seeking development in the areas of leadership and management. I have other spiritual mentors.

You don’t have to live in a large town or spend a lot of money to develop as a leader. You simply have to possess a desire to grow and be intentional.

What you’re looking for is people skills…how to handle conflict…how to delegate and how to motivate and cast a vision. You can learn those things from hearing other leaders’ experiences.

What suggestions do you have?

Growing Up Book, By Robby Gallaty

growing up

A pastor friend, Robby Gallaty, releases a new book this month on making disciples. I’m impressed with Robby’s story and want you to know about his work. Here’s a quick interview with Robby about Growing Up Book:

Robby, why you are so passionate about making disciples?

In 2002, I experienced a Paul-like conversion after surrendering my life to Christ. The Lord set me free from a three-year battle with drugs. For several months, I wandered aimlessly in my Christian life, uncertain of how to proceed. My upbringing did not promote Scripture reading, memorization, or unrehearsed prayer.

Then one day my life changed forever.

What was the turning point?

Two men took the time to invest in my life: David Platt—author of Radical and Follow Me, as well as the Foreword of my book—and Tim Lafleur. Since then, I have read nearly every book on discipleship, searching for answers to my questions. Although I have read a lot of great books that describe the philosophy and theory of making disciples, I have often been left wondering after reading, “Now what?”

After being discipled, I thought to myself, “If I had a manual for making disciples that was easy to understand and simple to implement, I would not have wandered for so long.” After a decade of research, I wrote Growing Up: How to Be A Disciple Who Makes Disciples as a way of sharing my findings. The information in the book has been tried and tested in a church setting. At Brainerd Baptist, the church I pastor, we have seen the amount of people involved in discipleship groups grow from a handful in 2008 to over 1,000 expected this January.

My book takes the guesswork out of growing closer to the Lord and equipping others to do the same.

Why is Growing Up different than other books on discipleship?

The book contains a step-by-step process for growing in your faith and leading others to do the same. Here are some of the topics covered in the book:

  • Three essential relationships every believer must be fostering;
  • How to begin, lead, and reproduce a D-Group (i.e., discipleship group);
  • Why a D-Group of 3-to-5 is more effective than an 1-on-1 relationship;
  • A proven method for HEARing from God;
  • One spiritual discipline that every disciple should be practicing;
  • The single, fastest way to end laziness in your discipleship group once and for all;
  • The difference between an addition and multiplication strategy, and how it applies to your context;
  • How to begin a simple discipleship ministry in your church without adding another program;
  • Answers to commonly asked questions about disciple-making.

I also have included eleven appendices outlining the entire discipleship process.

For anyone who orders the book before November 15th, I am giving away $250 of discipleship resources:

  • Digital copies of the manuscript in Kindle, iPad, and .pdf formats;
  • My new e-book: Subtle Threats that May Devastate your Discipleship Ministry and Three Immediate Solutions;
  • Three live online training sessions (one hour each). My Replicate Team will disciple you as you disciple your people;
  • Growing Up Almanac e-book, a leader’s guide that will outline the weekly meeting time;
  • 25% off the Discipleship University Course (Spring 2014);
  • All eleven printable appendices.

You can visit growingupbook.com for more information.

Thanks Robby, for challenging us to make disciples, and giving us great tools to do so!