I was in a meeting recently and someone defined a leader as one who provides answers and direction to a team.
I understood their concept. I disagreed with the application.
In fact, I have a different theory.
Good leaders sometimes allow a little chaos and confusion to prevail…
It can be best for everyone.
It often provides the best discoveries.
It promotes buy in.
It fuels creativity.
It fosters teamwork.
As the team wrestles together for answers great discoveries are made — about the team and the individuals on the team.
If the leader always has everything clearly defined — is always ready with an answer — then why does he or she need a team?
It’s the biggest stumbling block to sustaining growth.
In my opinion.
It often happens during times of success.
You can have all the right systems, momentum and motivation — won’t matter.
You can have the best vision — still can happen.
You can surround yourself with the greatest team — just as likely to occur.
I’ve seen it far too many times.
The biggest stumbling block in sustaining growth…
Is foolish pride.
I once had a prominent pastor tell me he had survived every power struggle in the church. He looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve faced my biggest opponents. There is not one person in this church who can oppose me now.”
A few years later he was voted out of the church.
When a leader starts to think…
I’ve got this.
Look what I’ve achieved.
I’m in control.
Look at me.
Nothing can stop me now.
The day of destruction is drawing near. It’s just a matter of time.
Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord. (Obadiah 1:4 ESV)
Guard your heart leaders. Guard your heart.
There was a saying when I was growing up an older generation used often — I don’t hear it as much anymore.
“Don’t forget where you came from.”
And, if you were one of my relatives — talking to me — you might have said it with emphasis.
“Don’t forget where you came from — boy!”
I think there’s a good leadership principle there too.
“Don’t forget where you came from.”
An organization will have different leaders. Different styles. Different approaches.
But, it should never forget where it came from.
The church where I pastor has a 105 years of history. Most of those were before me. (103 of those years.)
We’ve seen tremendous changes and tremendous growth in the two years I’ve been here. I’m honored. Pumped. Encouraged.
I’m convinced, however, that one of the reasons we’ve grown is that we’ve tried not to forget this principle.
We have held numerous celebrations of the past. We hung banners in our halls celebrating the decades long gone. We invited past leaders back to celebrate milestones with us. I consistently remind people this didn’t start with me.
If you are attempting to grow in an established environment and culture, you need to celebrate from where you came.
Celebrate the past.
Celebrate the past leadership.
Celebrate the triumphs.
Celebrate the pain.
Okay, maybe celebrate is a tough word for the painful times, but certainly remember what the church was able to overcome.
I watch too many leaders who think they can turn change on a dime ignoring all that happened in the past. That’s especially true if the most previous leader left in more difficult times. It’s sometimes easier to create new energy if you can ignore the past. I’m not convinced, however, that it’s the healthiest or best way.
Leadership may be able to move that quickly, but people usually can’t. They need closure. They need time. They need to remember — and for their leaders to remember — from where they came. Those times were important monuments in their life.
Not only has living this principle worked well for my leadership, I’m personally convicted it’s the right thing to do.
Remember where you came from — boy. (Or girl)
There is a fourth “C” to finding good team members.
I have discovered it the hard way.
You’ve possibly heard of the 3 C’s of finding the best team members. I think Bill Hybels is often credited with them. I agree with all three.
Bill Hybels is a genius leader. I agree with all of them.
But, I believe there is a fourth “C”.
It may be semantics. Some may say it’s covered in chemistry. But, I think it’s unique.
The fourth “C for me is Culture.”
I’ve hired people I like personally — we had good chemistry — they were even friends — but we found out we didn’t belong on the same team. We see things differently. Our culture preference is different.
One of my close pastor friends leads so much differently than I lead. He’s a good leader. He leads a healthy church, but his style is different. It creates a different culture.
I hope he would say the same for me. I strive to be a good leader. I attempt to lead a healthy church. But, I’m different. It creates a different culture.
Some people will fit better under the culture my friend’s leadership creates. Some people will fit better under the culture my leadership creates.
That’s not even to mention the cultural individuality of the churches we both lead that have existed long before either of us became pastors. Or the unique settings and community of the churches.
And, so what’s the purpose of this post?
Hopefully the application of this speaks for itself, but just to be clear.
When you hire — consider character, competence and chemistry.
But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?
When you consider where to work — consider character, competence and chemistry.
But also consider culture. Is it a good fit?
In a future post, I’ll try to consider some ways to discern the culture and help others do the same.
There are four seasons of leadership. Misunderstanding this can lead to frustration.
Some plant – Some leaders sow seeds. They are used to start something new. As a church planter of two churches, we planted a lot of seeds. I love knowing those churches are still thriving, Kingdom-building churches. God allowed me to be there in the beginning, but others are leading them now.
Some water – Some leaders are used to create systems that allow progress to continue. They build healthy teams. They create good structure. They help things grow.
Some pull weeds – Some leaders identify problems and provide solutions to address them. They make the hard changes. They restructure. They clear the path to progress.
Some harvest – Some leaders get to see the fruition of the harvest. There is a skill to capitalizing on the foundation of planning and working others have invested. They celebrate well.
Granted we plant within every season. We have to in order to ensure future growth, but we must, again, in my opinion, spend considerable and concentrated energies in the middle two seasons if we hope to sustain a healthy, long-term harvest.
(In my current role, in an established, older church, I’m finding myself watering and pulling weeds as some of my primary leadership season. It’s not that we aren’t seeing a harvest — we are seeing huge growth — but the real harvest is still months away, in my opinion.)
It’s great when you get to do all of these in one season of leadership, but my experience has been we only get to enjoy one — and at most a couple — at one time. Sometimes they run concurrently, back-to-back to each other, but it’s rare — and difficult — to lead all four at one time.
Don’t be afraid of your season. All our necessary.
What season are you currently in these days?
This is a Guest Post by Thom S. Rainer. Dr. Rainer is president of Lifeway Christian Resources. His blog is fast becoming a “go to” resource for church leaders. I respect him as a leader, pastor, father and fellow introverted friend.
Four Reasons the Great Commission Becomes the Great Omission in a Church
In my latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, I highlight several symptoms that can lead to the death of a church. These symptoms can become sicknesses themselves, sicknesses that lead to death. Some churches begin with a great heart and a great effort toward the Great Commission. But the methods used become the focus rather than the Great Commission itself. As a consequence, the Great Commission becomes the great omission.
There are a number of New Testament passages where Jesus sends out His followers. The text that is used most often to refer to the Great Commission is Matthew 28:19–20: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The imperative in those verses is “go.” But as we go, there are several sub-commands. We are to make disciples. We are to baptize. We are to teach.
Those are a lot of action words.
But the deceased church, somewhere in its history, forgot to act upon the Great Commission. So they stopped going. And making disciples. And baptizing them. And teaching them.
It stopped depending on Christ. Why? Here are four common reasons.
1. “Going” in Christ’s power requires effort. Certainly the results are dependent upon Him, but obedience is work. And obedience in His power means that we are praying to Jesus so we can reach others. That requires an “others” focus. That requires us to look beyond ourselves. That requires us to get uncomfortable. That requires us to go. The deceased churches simply gave up on going.
2. Obedience to the Great Commission faded. It usually faded gradually. It’s not like one day the church was sending out dozens of members in the community and it suddenly stopped. Instead the decline in the outward focus was gradual, almost imperceptibly gradual.
3. The church had “Great Commission amnesia.” That really may be too kind. Perhaps that description implies that the members were not at fault, that they no longer had the ability to recall or know what they were supposed to do. But they really knew better. They just used amnesia as an excuse.
4. Most of these dying churches had “Great Commission disobedience.” They chose not to remember what to do. They chose their own comfort over reaching others with the gospel. That is why the autopsy results concluded that the Great Commission became the great omission.
I am an obnoxious optimist about churches in America. I know many are struggling. Indeed, some are dying; about ten churches in the United States die every day. But I still remain an optimist because I see God’s work in so many congregations across our nation.
The essence of a “great omission” church is that the congregation has lost its passion to reach people. Typically, the efforts of those churches are pointed toward taking care of the members’ preferences. When the preferences of church members are greater than their passion for the gospel, the church is dying.
Churches can reverse the painful decline toward death. They can avoid becoming another casualty subject to an autopsy. Indeed, church members can decide to stop asking how the church can meet their own preferences, but ask how they might serve Jesus no matter what the cost.
Then the church is no longer a great omission church. She is then a Great Commission church.
About once a week I talk with a minister — usually a younger minister — who is miserable in their current context. It isn’t always because the workplace is miserable. Sometimes it’s a misfit for them personally. Sometimes it is an unhealthy culture or a controlling leader.
Many times, even if they’ve only been there a short time, they seem ready to quit. Most of us have been there at some point in our career.
There are many things I love about the youngest generation in the workplace. They are intent on making a difference. They are family-oriented. They want to do meaningful work. I love all that.
One difference, in my observation, is how they respond when they find themselves in one if these miserable situations. Many seem to check out too quickly. They are ready to quit — give up — even before something else comes along, as soon as they discover they are miserable.
I’m sure that is true of other generations, but there were generations who endured an entire career in less than ideal situations. They saw work as — well — work.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not advising that either. Why spend 40 years in a miserable environment? Life is too short. Work doesn’t have to be miserable. And, there are healthy places that understand and appreciate the change in workplace attitude, especially being introduced by younger generations. That’s a positive.
But, what should you do when you find yourself in a miserable situation? How should you respond? Rather than quit, what other options do you have?
Here are 5 suggestions when a work environment is miserable:
Soak up all you can. You’re learning valuable lessons, even when you don’t enjoy the place where you’re working. I’m not sure you can see that at the time, but it’s true. It won’t be a wasted experience if you learn from it. Some if my best leadership skills came from watching leaders do leadership the wrong way. I once had a boss throw a huge sales book at my head because of disappointing numbers. I learned from that. Throwing things doesn’t work. (And, many other principles were learned from that leader.)
Dream your next big dream. Don’t quit dreaming. Invest your energies somewhere you enjoy outside of work. Create something inside or outside the place where you work that you can get excited about. Start your own ministry or company in a garage on your days off. Some of the best we know started that way. These extra energies will keep your heart filled, which is critical. (Above all else guard the heart. Proverbs 4:23)
Work to make life better. You may be the one positive voice that encourages others on your team. Chances are others are miserable too. Some people have better game faces. Even if that’s your only purpose in being there, that’s a worthy cause.
Strengthen your patience muscle. Sometimes the staying power takes more strength than leaving. It builds character. It builds tenacity. You may be the senior leader someday and find yourself miserable again. Leading at the top level brings that sometimes. The captain of a sinking ship isn’t supposed to jump ship. (We just have to watch recent news to know that.)
Pray and watch. Pray for discernment. For change. For delivery. For relief. For small moments of encouragement. And watch. For doors to open or things to change. God is doing something — working a plan — even when you can’t see His hand.
Are you miserable?
I’m not suggesting you stay forever. That doesn’t seem wise to me. I’m also not suggesting you quit — at least not immediately.
I am strongly suggesting you not waste the opportunities this time is presenting.
How do you respond when crisis comes to the team you lead?
I love the leadership displayed during a scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where George Bailey is about to leave for his honeymoon and panic struck the Building and Loan. As the president, he was forced to avert his plan, go back and save the company. He kept the Building and Loan open with a couple of dollars to spare. It was a tense moment. Everything they had worked for was at risk, but the crisis was solved — at least until the next crisis came.
That’s the kind of time I’m referring to as a leader.
How do you respond?
There have been several times where it appeared everything was a loss on the team I was leading. I’ve experienced it in planning a single project, as well as with the entire company felt in jeopardy when I was a small business owner.
At the outset of a crisis, how should the leader respond?
I must admit, I haven’t always handled these times as well as George Bailey, but experience has taught me a few things.
Here are 5 ways to respond at the outset of a crisis:
Slow down – The general tendency is to speed up, but “haste makes waste”. You need to move quickly, and sometimes you have to put out some initial flames, but as much as you can, slow down long enough to think before you react.
Don’t panic – You may indeed be in a panic on the inside, but your outer composure as a leader will set the thermostat of your team. The team’s emotions will almost always be an exaggerated version of the leader’s emotions. If you appear hopeless, the teams emotions will appear even more hopeless.
Get a plan – After you’ve addressed the most pressing needs — brought more of a sense of calm to the team — back away long enough to create a plan of recovery. It could be the best exit plan you can develop, but either way you need a plan. In crisis mode, this sometimes seems like a waste of time. The thought is that if the ship is sinking, you just need to bail water. In my experience, however, getting a plan in place makes the difference in the quality of your leadership through the crisis.
Navigate carefully – Once a plan is in place, you need to become an implementer of the plan. You’re the coach, cheerleader, captain of the ship at this point. You keep the team on task towards the end goal.
Help the team recover – After the dust settles from the crisis, the leader’s job isn’t complete until you help the team recover. That involves learning from what happened, making readjustments as needed, and helping the team begin again. In the best scenarios, this thought process begins to happen even during the crisis mode, giving the team some hope of better days to come.
We all hope to avoid those days of crisis on the team, but it helps to have a paradigm of how we should respond if or when they ever come.
Any thoughts you would add from your experience?
Leader, let me share one of the best things you can do to better empower your team.
And, in full disclosure, I’m the worst at this, but it’s something I’m striving to do better.
You want to fully empower your team?
Here’s what you do:
Release them from responsibility.
Whenever you can…
Often as leaders we handle a lot of information. Sometimes we do that with our team. Sometimes we dispense a lot of new ideas. If we are growing and learning personally, the team is often where we process our thoughts.
If it’s not their responsibility — let them know it’s not.
It sounds simple — but it’s huge.
You see, the team is always wondering.
What is the leader thinking here — as it relates to me?
What do you want me to do with that new idea?
How do you want me to help?
What’s my role going to be in this?
Are you going to hold me accountable for this?
Do you expect something from me here?
As leaders, we often process and present a lot of ideas, but sometimes we are just “thinking.” Sometimes we aren’t assigning anything — we are just exploring.
The more we can release the people trying to follow us the more they can focus on things for which they are being held accountable. And, the more willing they will be to process new ideas with us.
Just tell them what you expect — or don’t expect. Say the words, “You are not responsible for this.” “I don’t expect anything from you on this.” “This is just for information.” And, mean it.
Sounds simple. It’s huge.