5 Qualities to Seek in the Heart of a Leader

As evidenced from the heart of Joseph

Closeup portrait smiling executive man, business person, worker listening to his heart with stethoscope isolated grey background. Preventive medicine, financial condition concept. Face expressions

In this post I’d love to consider the heart of a leader.

Someone asked me recently what I primarily look for in the hiring of a staff position. I said, without reservation, first and foremost, I look for the heart. I want a heart which honors Christ more than self, one which desires to grow and learn, and one which is willing to sacrifice personal privilege for benevolent purpose of others.

The heart of a leader is more important than any other characteristic.

Consider, for example, the life of a Bible character by the name of Joseph. Joseph’s story runs from Genesis 37-50. It’s an amazing story of God’s sovereignty and grace. Joseph is a standard bearer for character in the Old Testament. Some say he’s in many ways an Old Testament example of Christ – not sinless, as Christ was, but certainly a God-fearing man.

The part of Joseph’s story I want to point out has to do with what identified him with the heart of leader. I submit his heart is representative of the kind of heart all leaders should seek to have.

Here are 5 qualities to seek in the heart of a leader:

Imagination

Joseph was a dreamer. It caused him some problems, but he was able to see what others couldn’t see. He saw the big picture. Of course, this came from God, but I believe God has equipped all of us with the ability to dream. It may not be prophetic in nature, but we can seek and find the big picture if we are looking for it.

Integrity

When tempted by Potiphar’s wife and when an opportunity for revenge against his brothers presented itself, Joseph resisted temptation. The leader’s heart must continually seek what is right and good. People are watching and even the perception of evil can ruin a good leader. The heart of a leader must be above reproach.

Investment

Joseph helped the men in prison, he helped the Pharaoh and he even helped his brothers who had hurt him most. Joseph obviously believed the principle that helping others helps yourself. The heart of a leader must be willing to sacrifice his or her own agenda for the agenda of others.

Intentionality

Joseph was diligent during the famine, during the days of prison, even when he had the opportunity to get even with his brothers, but didn’t. Joseph was confident God had a plan for his life, so he refused to be distracted by things of lesser value.

Innovation

Joseph devised an ingenious plan to save the nations from desolation. Using godly wisdom, Joseph conserved the resources he had to accommodate the days of plenty and the days of few.

The hope of this post is you would reflect on your own leadership – consider your own heart as a leader.

What could you learn from the heart of Joseph?

Handle Little Things Before They Become Big Things

wet floor sign

Cheryl and I were in a grocery store out of town some time ago. We turned the corner from one aisle into a main aisle and instantly saw a gentleman slip and fall. He wasn’t injured – or at least he said he wasn’t – but it shook him up quite a bit before he scrambled to his feet. We then noticed he had slipped on something liquid on the floor. Someone standing around said the spill had been there a while. As I expected, within minutes every manager in the store, easily identified by their store shirts and badges, were on the scene – making sure the man was okay and the spill was throughly handled.

As I left the store, I saw managers roaming the store, picking up everything they could find on the floor. There was plenty to find. The store was dirty from what appeared to be a very busy day of shopping and trash was everywhere. I had noticed it as we walked around the store, but it was even more obvious now.

It was a good reminder of a leadership principle.

Good leaders take care of little things before they become big things.

I’m not suggesting a leader be a micro-manager. To the contrary – I’ve written plenty on this blog to indicate otherwise. I am suggesting the leader needs to always be observant of the things others can’t see or aren’t looking for, which can impact the success of the overall vision.

I started working in the grocery store when I was 12 years old. The store’s owner seemed to always know what was going on in the store, often pointing out things needing to be fine I or other employees hadn’t noticed and, in our opinion, didn’t matter. It was sometimes aggravating to this teenager, but years later, when I worked in retail management, reflecting back it began to make sense to me why  my boss had responded as he did. I began to copy his intentionality. I refused to do any paperwork on Saturdays, for example. The busiest shopping day was reserved solely for customers. I made sure I was roaming the store constantly, looking for anything which might be a problem or an opportunity. I was usually the first to recognize a customer looking for an open register or if the store’s temperature was too hot or too cold.

As a pastor, I had an intern who shadowed me for the summer. His initial observation was I paid attention to details. I remember explaining to him part of my job was to look for things others didn’t see. I can’t catch everything, but as the leader I certainly need to be looking for anything which could make or break a successful day in the experience of a visitor. This could be the spill on the floor, a long line at children’s check-in, the missing volunteer or the visitor who looks like they are struggling to find their way in our building.

A couple years ago my younger son was preaching for me one Sunday. We arrived at the church and I instantly spotted a trash can overflowing with garbage. I quickly began to address the issue. My son said, “Dad, I thought you weren’t a detail person. How did you notice the trash can was full?”

I assured him I am not a detail person – unless the detail has an impact on the people who may walk on our campus each Sunday. That is a detail which matters. I want to take care of little things before they become big things.

I have learned it well. It could be with spills on the floor – or with people on the team. Big things often start small – so pay attention to the little things which matter. 

One way I do this is to simply ask myself a question, such as: If this continues – and gets bigger – how much of a problem is it going to be? Things are almost always easier to deal with when they are smaller than when we let them become “big things”. 

By the way, this principle applies in other areas of your life also – such as in your marriage – your parenting – or your personal disciplines. 

Leader, what seemingly little things do you need to address before they become the big things?

4 Reasons People You Lead May Not Want to Learn or Grow

And, 5 Suggestions to Motivate Them

school bus

I’ve learned in leadership – you can’t teach someone who doesn’t want to learn or grow personally.

Perhaps you’ve tried. I have. I see one of my jobs as a leader to help people grow – learn new ways to do things better, more efficiently, to improve as individuals – and ultimately, as a team. I’ve at times been worn out, however, trying to help some people develop. At times, it seems they want to keep doing things the same way – sometimes even keep making the same mistakes. They never seem to seek out – certainly not embrace – new or better principles to their life. 

This is not only in leadership. It’s true with all of life. There are seasons we aren’t very teachable.

I’ve discovered the reasons someone isn’t willing to develop individually may not always be the same. In fact, there may be several reasons.

Here are 4 reasons people you are trying to lead may not want to learn or grow:

They don’t think they need to learn anything.

This is the one which frustrates us the most, and it’s the one we accuse people of the most. It’s true, arrogance is common in leadership, but also among those who need to be led. Many leaders feel they are in a position because they are the only ones who could do the job. Everyone around them may know it’s not true, but they can’t see it. They don’t care to learn from others, because they aren’t willing to admit or see they have anything to learn. Sometimes those who still have much to learn are too proud to admit it.

They don’t know they need to learn anything.

It may sound similar, but this is a different reason. It isn’t arrogance which causes this one, but rather ignorance. We’ve all been there at times. Many times I’ve assumed I had the answers already. It wasn’t I wasn’t interested in learning more – I just didn’t know there was more to learn. I’ve said before, the older I get the more I realize I don’t know yet. Some of this comes with maturity and age. Some of it comes with experience. But, many times we don’t think we need to know anything new, because we don’t see enough missing holes in what we already know.

They don’t want to learn from you.

This is a hard one for leaders to accept, but it’s actually quite common. It could be a relational issue or a positional issue – it might simply be a personality clash, but for whatever reason, it keeps them from desiring to learn from you. I have especially seen this one when the leader was once a peer to a person they are now trying to lead. 

As a parent, there were seasons when my boys learned more from others than they did from me. I welcomed it and was appreciative of those who spoke into their life. This has been true also when someone was supposed to be leading me, but I knew more about a subject. It takes a very humble person to learn from those you’re supposed to be leading. I’ve had times when someone on my team hears the same thing at a conference I’d been saying for months. It sticks coming from someone new. Don’t be offended if they aren’t always listening to you, but make sure they are listening to someone.

They want to learn on their own

There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as they remain teachable. In fact, it should be encouraged at times. Some of the best lessons in life come from trying something and succeeding or failing. If they aren’t being arrogant, give them the freedom to explore independent of you. It will help you, them and the organization.

But, regardless of the reason – you can’t teach someone who doesn’t want to be developed.

This is why the best leaders I know – the best teachers – maybe even the best parents – spend as much time motivating the learner as they do teaching them.

In the book “Switch”, authors Dan and Chip Heath call it “motivating the elephant”. Your job as a leader, if you desire people to want to learn from you, or even from others, is to motivate them to want to learn.

How do you do that?

Here are 5 suggestions f you want people to listen to you:

Value the person.

No one follows someone willingly who they don’t believe cares for them. Zig Ziglar’s famous line “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” is true. Don’t expect people to want to learn from you until they know you have their best interest at stake and that you care for them personally – not simply what they can do for you or the organization.

Paint a great vision.

You have to give people something worth following. It needs to stretch them, while still being attainable by risk, faith and hard work. When they know there’s a glimmer of hope to the finish line, they’ll be more willing to learn what it takes to attain it.

Communicate it frequently.

Even the best vision fades over time. People get bored. Andy Stanley uses the phrase “vision leaks”. If you want to maintain your audience of followers, you have to keep reminding them why you are doing what you are doing.

Tell compelling stories.

People are motivated by example. They want to know that what they are doing makes a difference. People will be more likely to seek your input if they know you are leading them to something of value and importance.

Share in the reward.

People only feel valued when they get to celebrate the victory. If all the recognition goes to the leader, the follower feels taken advantage of to some degree. If you want people to keep listening – listen to them – share the credit. Celebrate often.

12 Leadership Principles of Jesus

These Inspire Me

Jesus hand

There are many leaders I admire who have influenced my own leadership. I admire the teachings on leadership by guys like John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, and Patrick Lencioni. There are leaders from my personal life such as a former pastor, a former boss, a high school principal and leaders in my own community who have influenced me as I have watched their leadership. I also love to learn from a great athletic coach. I have been known to choose the teams I support by the coach that leads them. I love leadership. It is so needed these days – especially in our churches.

The principles, however, which I admire most are found in the leadership style of Jesus. Jesus’ leadership is still impacting culture today.

Here are 12 leadership principles of Jesus that inspire me:

Jesus was willing to invest in people others would have dismissed.

Consider the disciples. They were not the “religious” elite, yet Jesus used them to start His church.

Jesus released responsibility and ownership in a ministry.

Consider how Jesus sent the disciples out on their own. No micro-management it appears.

Jesus had a leadership succession plan. 

Jesus consistently reminded the disciples He wouldn’t always be with them. Of course, He was still the “leader”, but He left others to take the ministry forward.

Jesus practiced servant leadership better than anyone.

The King of kings was willing to wash the feet of His followers.

Jesus was laser focused on His vision.

Regardless of the persecutions or distractions, Jesus kept on the mission God had called Him to complete.

Jesus handled distractions with grace.

When the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years touched His garment, Jesus stopped to heal her, even though headed to a definite purpose.

Jesus was into self-development.

Jesus constantly slipped away to spend time with God.

Jesus was into leadership development and replacement.

He very purposefully prepared the disciples to take over the ministry. He pushed people beyond what they felt they were capable of doing.

Jesus held followers to high expectations.

Jesus was not afraid to make huge requests of people. “Follow Me” meant the disciples had to drop their agenda to do so. He told the disciples they must be willing to lose everything to follow Him.

Jesus cared more about people than about rules and regulations.

He was willing to jeopardize Himself personally by breaking the “rules” to help someone in need.

Jesus celebrated success in ministry.

He rewarded people generously who were faithful to Him and His cause.

Jesus finished well.

Any questions whether His ministry was effective? Still working today.

Any other reasons you admire the leadership of Jesus?

3 Tips from Jesus Recruiting Methods

Handshake - extraversio

In John Chapter One, I see three methods Jesus used in recruitment. I think these may be helpful to those of us trying to recruit more volunteers – especially those of us who are leading teams during a transition or start-up phase.

Recruiting the right people is paramount to the success of any organization and Jesus obviously was the best.

Here are 3 tips of a Jesus recruitment methods:

Recruit, experienced transitional people.

Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist and then of Jesus (John 1:35, 40).

It’s common for a leader – especially a new leader – to want their “own” team. It makes sense to surround yourself with some people you know are loyal to you and you can train with your way of doing things. 

When developing a team or starting a new team, however, it’s also good to have someone who may have even more experience than you in what you are doing. You need individuals who know how to do what needs to be done, can be influencers to the rest of the team, and who have proven their loyalty on other teams. These people are valuable assets to any team.

In my current role, the associate pastor offered me his resignation before I arrived. He had been at the church 15 years or so and had weathered good times and bad in the church. I refused to accept it. Instead, I encouraged him to move into a larger office – next to mine – gave him greater decision-making authority, and worked to earn his trust. He has been invaluable in my success at the church. I’m confident I have a loyal friend for life.

Allow the team to help recruit the team.

Andrew found Simon — Philip found Nathanael. (John 1:41, 45) Apparently, Jesus allowed some of the disciples to help recruit other disciples. The team helped add to the team.

This is a great reminder when you are building a team, adding other team members, or replacing a team member. Get your team involved in recruiting. Their support will increase for the new recruits – and, by spreading the search process – you’ll have an increased chance of finding better people.

When I arrived in this current position, I made sure I had hiring authority. I think it’s critical for a leader’s success. I would have been foolish, however, not to include others in the selection process, so I had several people interview and meet with the new staff members prior to them joining our team. My wife was one of those who assisted me. They helped me by lending credibility to the new staff and making sure I was being wise in the decisions we made.

Recruit people who are ready for a challenge.

Some of the disciples Jesus recruited were apparently already looking for the Messiah. (John 1:38, 41, 45) They were ready for Him when He came, because they were already seeking something. Jesus recruited with big asks – basically, “Drop everything else and follow me!” I’d say this is a big ask.

Obviously, I’m not Jesus, but I believe it is important when looking for new people on a team to find people who will buy into your vision as a leader, who will remain loyal over time and who are ready for a challenge. If you have to talk them into something, or gain their initial trust after the hire, you’ll waste valuable time before they completely commit. (This doesn’t mean there aren’t deeper levels of trust to be gained over time, but initially they should be convinced this is where God wants them to be.)

One practice I have continually used in recruiting new team members is to talk them out of taking the position – after I’m sure they want the job and I want them to take it. I want to help them test their hearts. I want them to know the unique challenges ahead (as far as I know them at the time). I don’t hide anything – even the less than glamorous parts. We have hired several staff members on faith the first year. The budget did not support them, but we believed God would provide. He did. This was almost always the case when I was in a church plant. If they are still interested after they know all the down sides of the position then I know we will make a great team.

Perhaps some of the recruiting methods of Jesus can help you in your recruitment.

Silence Can Be Deadly!

Especially when people are involved.

Mouth covered with tape

You’ve heard silence is golden – and it’s true. One of my favorite verses is Ecclesiastes 5:2. “God is in heaven and you are on earth. Let your words be few.”. James tells us to guard the tongue. I often get in less trouble when I talk less.

And, maybe this is exactly the encouragement you need from this post. Quit talking long enough to think before you speak – or before you post on Facebook! 

But, silence can also be deadly.

Especially in a team environment, in an organizational structure, or in a relational setting – anywhere people are closely involved with other people – silence can be a curse. When working on a project, implementing change, planning for the future – silence can kill you!

The point of this post is simply to remind you – people only know what they know. They often won’t know what they need to know unless you tell them.

In the process of leading people, keep people updated with what you know. Even if you don’t have all the answers, let them have the answers you do have.

When people don’t have information, they tend to invent their own scenarios.

Silence fuels rumors. They make up stories. They stretch and fabricate what the little they do know. Fear, tension, and frustrations rise. Even those who were once fully invested often become discouraged. Morale is injured and enthusiasm wanes.

And, all of these mostly emotionally-driven reactions are fueled by the unknown – by silence.

In my experience, people will be more patient if they receive adequate communication while they wait for the final details. Of course, the main thing people need to know is the why behind what you are doing – and you must keep reminding the – but they also want details of progress along the way. If you want to keep progress moving forward – break the silence and share information. Keep people informed. Communicate!

Have you experienced the pain of silence in a team, organizational, or relationship setting?

I Am a Pastor – And, I May Be Suffering From Burnout

What Now?

Desperate man holding his face in hands appears in a miserable state of unhappiness.

Pastor burnout is a common problem in the church today. I hear from pastors on a regular basis facing the stress of ministry. 

Here’s a common scenario, which can cause burnout to happen. These may be some of the more common ones I hear. Perhaps this is your story.

  • The church gets to a certain level.
  • Things start to slow down.
  • The church stops growing.
  • Maybe even slides backwards for a while.
  • Money becomes tighter.
  • People are complaining more.
  • Everyone is asking the pastor “What’s next?” “What do we do now?”
  • You’ve done everything you know how to do.
  • You feel stuck – trapped – afraid – paralyzed – confused – overwhelmed.

And, this is just one scenario. There are so many others. It could be the church is still growing – even rapidly, but the pastor is doing more now than previously. There never seems to be an end to the growth. People are demanding more and more from the pastor – there’s pressure to continue the increases – but, it feels like life is always going to be running out of control.

Pick your own scenario, but I know this – if not careful, the stress will quickly cause the pastor to:

  • Become more sensitive to criticism and stress.
  • Stop reading and learning techniques and strategies.
  • Quit taking risks – for fear of messing something up.
  • Become protective – maybe even isolated from others.
  • Develop excuses for every challenge.
  • Respond defensively to every challenge.
  • Begin to question your abilities.
  • Work harder, but not smarter.

No doubt, even if only a few of these are true, these are impacting every area of your life – including your family. 

If this is your story, I have a few words of encouragement:

  • Get help now. It might be professional help or not, but ask for help today!  You wouldn’t encourage the people you lead to do life alone – so why is it a good idea for you?
  • Surround yourself with people. Not the opposite, which can be a usual response to times like this – especially it seems by pastors.  Find people who love you – they are there if you look.
  • Find your center of gravity again. (Most likely this is Christ, right?)
  • Get back to the truth you already know.  You may start by reading 1 Kings 19 for another time one of God’s servants fell on difficult times. Read the Psalms. 
  • Renew the passion for your vision. God called you to something. He never said it would be easy. God-given dreams rarely are. Let whatever fuels you most fuel you again. This may mean you have to stop doing a lot of other things – even things people expect you to do – so you can better concentrate on what God called you to do. And, I assure you it wasn’t to please everyone. Plus, some of the stuff you are doing someone else probably needs to be – it’s could even be what God has gifted them to uniquely do. 
  • Start doing something towards a goal.  Inactivity never solved anything. you may need to rest – I’ll cover that too, but you may need to see progress towards something new to refuel your tank. Again, this doesn’t mean doing more. It means doing something better with your time – and trusting others with some of the things you’ve been doing. It means getting better as a leader – a Jethro counseled Moses type of leader. An Acts 6 type of leader. 
  • Look for some small wins.  It will help rebuild your confidence.
  • Stay faithful in the small things. Those disciplines you once had – such as reading your Bible everyday – but, you may have gotten distracted from them – they are even more important now. 
  • Discipline your Sabbath. This is huge! God didn’t give this command for seasons when everything was “caught up” and there were no more immediate demands. Those days never come! God knew what He was doing when He commanded a regular Sabbath – and, when He demonstrated it for us in His Creation. So, certainly a day a week, but if you need more it would be better to quit for a quarter than be out for the rest of the game.

Thanks for serving – even when the serving gets difficult. I am praying for you.

(You can make this post better if you share resources you know of to support pastors who may be facing burnout.)

 

Sometimes, as a leader, I need a reminder

You may also

running alone

I am a runner. When my knees are good I have been known to run as many as 6 days a week. When I run I am serious about it. I watch the time. I pace myself. I measure my distance. I check my calories burned. I do it for exercise. I run for personal well-being. I run because I love to run.

Running isn’t always easy. Sometimes I spend time thinking about the sports drink waiting for me when I get home. I think about how much my legs hurt. Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about whether my knees will allow me to continue running. On longer runs I’m almost always thinking towards the end about how ready I am to be home.

Then all of a sudden – when I’m about to be disappointed I’m still running – sometimes I will stop and think.

I chose this!

No one forced me to run. I chose this as my form of exercise. I could be in the gym – bored to death on the treadmill. I could be on the couch – bored to death with the monotony of television. I could be in a crowded meeting full of dozens of extroverts.

Running is my time. Running is what I choose to do for me.

It’s actually supposed to be fun!

It’s this way in leadership too at times.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the stress of leadership we forget – I chose to be a leader.

I wasn’t forced into this position. Sure, God “called” me into ministry. And, it is a job, which pays our bills – thank you Jesus! But I said “Yes, Lord”. I surrendered willingly.

No one made me be a leader. I wanted the opportunity to make a difference. I had a dream. I had a God-given vision.

Sometimes I need to remind myself. Some days more than others.

I wanted this! And, I’m thankful for the opportunity.

Do you need reminding you chose to accept the position of leadership?

5 Ways to Increase Productivity

Hint: They involve you!

Coworkers discussing a file

I see part of my role as a senior leader as a developer of other leaders. In church terms, as much as I am called to make disciples, I am called to disciple disciple-makers.

I take this role seriously. I am consistently thinking how I can encourage people around me to be better at what they do. Several years ago, with another staff, someone who once worked with me mentioned my intentionality in developing leaders on his blog. (Read his post HERE.) Thanks, Adam – miss you, buddy!

Here’s my theory on the subject.

Many leaders limit their capacity as a leader, because they try to do too much on their own. Rather than develop people, they control people. Rather than growing the organization, they only grow their personal workload. In the end, under this type scenario, everyone loses. The leader burns out, potential leaders are never developed, and the organization fails to be all it could be.

If you want to increase productivity as a leader, you have to think bigger than what you can do. In fact, I would say, you have to change your title roles.

To increase productivity and get better as a leader:

Change from being a manager of people to being a leader of people.

Don’t just manage current systems. Lead people to greater realities than they can imagine today. Don’t rule by policies. Free people to explore, create, and imagine. (And, in turn perhaps even make a ton of mistakes.)

Change from being a doer of tasks to being an encourager of doers.

Make it your ambition to encourage people everyday. Be a people builder. I find my best energies are spent away from my desk and in the halls or other offices. When I invest in others everything grows around me.

Change from being a list keeper to being a chief supporter of list keepers.

I love lists! I live by them. But, you can’t be a great senior leader and only manage your own. This would be the easy way – but the least productive way. Instead, you should help people develop their own lists – their dreams – the things they want to accomplish. Encourage. Empower. Celebrate.

Change from completer of tasks to being an investor in people who complete tasks.

Again, my best time is away from my desk. Like anyone I can get very tied to my desk, my email, and my own tasks. I have learned I can spend a little more time investing in people and the results return exponentially.

Change from being an implementer to being an enabler for people to implement.

The less “hands on” I am the more our team seems to get done. When I try to help I often get in the way. This doesn’t mean I do nothing. I often take orders from people on our team as to what I should do. It does mean, though, I try very hard not to get in their way.

These are not a play on words. They are intended to be a change in perspective. And, again, please understand, these are also not an excuse to do nothing. The attempt is working smarter. It’s making an intentional decision to develop others.

It boils down to believing in the purpose and power of delegating, learning how to delegate properly, and actually letting go. For more on delegating, see HERE and the related posts.

If you are struggling to complete all required of you as a leader, in my experience, it will almost always have more to do with how well you do in this area of your leadership. And, for those who are wondering, this is regardless of whether your team is paid or volunteer.

The Unwritten Rules

The real rules...

Smart nerd teacher substitute lecturing class with text book in classroom space for print

The unwritten rules – are the real rules.

In an organization, what is passed down, maintained over the years, repeated the most – become a part of tradition. This is the way people do things – the way decisions are made – the way people respond to leadership and potential.

This is what is real.

This is the DNA of the organization.

People may not even realize they are what they are. They may have never been written down, voted on or “put in the minutes”, but they are assumed true by the majority of people.

They are considered law. These are the rules people will defend and protect the most. They’ll fight to keep them from being changed or bended.

If you are a new leader or a veteran, understanding this principle will increase your effectiveness.

When we entered an established church I realized quickly there were some things I didn’t need to attempt to change the first couple years – or if we did these unwritten rules would alter how we approached, introduced or implemented change. There were ingrained cultural understandings I needed to know. 

How do you know the unwritten rules? First, be aware they exist in every organization. Second, ask good questions of people who have been there longer than you. Third, you’ll discover them mostly as you approach any kind of change which goes against one of them – by experience. (Which is why you don’t build change in a vacuum. You collaborate with others.)  

Trust me in this. You may be a genuius with creating new and exciting ideas, but first you must understand this principle. Learn the unwritten rules first.