Great Leaders around the World: Lessons from Sierra Leone

On my many mission experiences in Brazil, often the drug lords were the ones who gave us access into the slums in which we ministered. We were invited to do medical clinics, construction projects, and evangelism. Even though they almost never allowed visitors, since we could have reported their activities to police or warring gangs, they saw value in us helping their people.  We even saw many of the drug lords come to a saving knowledge of salvation.  In spite of the violent nature of this world, I always saw the actions on behalf of the drug lords as “good leadership”, because they were willing to jeopardize their own leadership, for the good of the people they were leading.

We saw that same type leadership in West Africa. Village chiefs, mostly belonging to religions very opposed to Christianity, allowed us to come into the village and spend time with their people. As a result, we saw many life changes occur.

If leadership is about influence, which I believe it is, then I recognize both these examples as good leadership, and it’s leadership many American leaders could learn from as well. The village and slum leaders were leading smart by allowing us to invest in their people, even when it didn’t directly benefit them personally, and may have even jeopardized them in some ways.  In the end, we helped them have happier people to lead. Happier people makes happier communities. Happier communities make a leader’s leadership even more successful…and ultimately…even more secure in their leadership position.

The principle of leadership is simple: Whatever is good for the people one leads is good for the leader. If the organization offers people in it a better life, the quality of the organization improves with more loyal people and a better leader…sometimes even if only in the perception of the people. Great leaders recognize that raising the level of satisfaction among followers helps the organization and the leader.

Have you seen this principle at work in your organization?

Pray and Work: Encouragement During Difficult Days of Ministry

I was encouraged recently reading the story of Jehu in 2 Kings 9. Jehu was anointed king over Israel. At first glance, that sounds like a glamorous position, but when we read the entire story we find that before Jehu could rule his kingdom, he had to first battle to do so. (I think King David had a similar difficult experience prior to becoming king.)

I shared in an earlier post about Nehemiah. In Nehemiah 4:9 we read that while Nehemiah prayed asking God to protect the work he was doing, he also did what he knew to do….he posted guards to keep watch over their work.

Those two passages, and others throughout the Bible of men and women who responded to God’s call, remind me that God’s will for my life isn’t simply to wait for Him to deliver me. Often God’s will includes hard days of waiting for His plan to be revealed. The fact that ministry is difficult at times, doesn’t imply that I am not in the center of God’s will for my life. The opposite may be truer.

You may have been anointed for the job you’ve been given, but we should never assume that because God asked us to do the task that completing it will be easy. Part of our calling is often to find the faith to keep moving forward, even when the obstacles seem insurmountable.

If you are in the midst of difficult days in your ministry, keep your eyes on the task…work and pray…and wait for the God who began a good work in you to complete it.

For a similar encouragement read THIS POST.

Have you been tempted to give up lately? Leave me a comment so others can pray for you.

What’s Your Continual Prayer

This woman told our team that she prayed 40 years for a church to come to Compound Village where she lives in Sierra Leone. Africa for Jesus recently opened Believers Church and it is the first ever Christian Church in a village with over 3,000 people. I was amazed by her faith and consistent prayer.

For what or whom have you been continually praying?

Be a “Can Do It” Person!

Don’t be a “can’t do it” person…Be a “can do it” person…

Some people are just naturally wired to kill other people’s dreams. Others live in a world of caution and fear, never wanting to take a risk…always opting for the safest side of the street. Sometimes that’s not in an attempt to be negative, but just the way a person is wired…

I realize there is a place for the questioner…There are people inclined to find holes in an idea in an attempt to strengthen it (I use this tactic sometimes to challenge deeper, more critical thinking about an issue.)

I am not advocating running blindly…I’m not impressed when someone comes to me with an idea with no intent to research, collaborate with the team, set goals and objectives, or develop a plan to accomplish the idea…

I like common sense….


I also know that life is full of risks….

I realize that in order to achieve anything of significance some chance for failure must be on the table…

Personally, I am far more motivated when I hear “You can do it” or “Give it a try” than “We’ve never done that before” or “I don’t know if that will work”.

If your tendency is to naturally be a skeptic or if you find yourself normally on the negative side of an issue, try taking the positive approach for a change…You may just discover you like it!

Are you more likely to be a naysayer or an encourager of risk?

Book of Leadership Interviews: 10 Questions at a Time

I have personally enjoyed the leadership interview series I have done over the last six months. I am slowing down that series, but I want to recap them for you here in case you missed any of them. Combined, these posts could almost be a leadership book. The wisdom in these interviews, from these great leaders, are like gold when read together. See for yourself!

Here are the 10 question interview posts I did in the order they appeared on my blog. You can click on the name to read their interview.

Ben ArmentStory Conference
Pete WilsonCross Point Church
Tim StevensGranger Church
Jarrett Stevens Soul City Church
Wayne ElseySoles4Souls
Carlos WhitakerWorship Leader
Mac LakeThe Launch Network
Geoff Surratt Seacoast Church
Jenni CatronCross Point Church
Scott HodgeOrchard Church
Dave FergusonCommunity Christian Church
Ben StroupGeneris Group
Jon AcuffStuff Christians Like
Kent ShafferChurch Relevance
Cheryl SmithConsultant
Steve KeatingLeadToday
Chris Walker
Susan Bordewyk
Eldon Kelley
James Castellano
Patricia Zell
Dave Baldwin
Lantz Howard
Chad Rowland Grace Community Church
Bob FrylingInterVarsity Press
Gerry TrueOak Hills Church
Richard Westley
John Maxwell
Michael HyattThomas Nelson Publishers
Charles StoneGinger Creek Community Church
Brad LomenickCatalyst

I may throw in some good interviews occasionally, but this will be the end of this series as a regular Tuesday feature.

Did you learn from any of these? Is there someone else I should consider interviewing?

10 Things I’m Learning from my Time in Sierra Leone

In case you missed my earlier posts, I’m in Sierra Leone for a couple weeks. I will share more later, but wanted to give a quick update. We are here to teach and train pastors for Africa for Jesus and it has been an incredible experience so far.

Here are 10 things I’ve observed/learned the first few days here:

1. I take for granted warm shower and air conditioning

2. The African people love to worship…and they know how. When they pray, God’s Spirit is present.

3. Grilled goat meat is not bad.

4. Women (and a few men) who can balance enormous weight on their heads and walk miles…amaze me!

5. African people have huge hearts.

6. Temperature is relative. In the upper 80’s here some have on coats and jackets…while I sweated.

7. The hearts and desires of people don’t change much because of cultural differences.

8. The power of Christ to change a life is not limited by demographics or geography.

9. Children are precious at showing unconditional love. I understand more why Jesus encouraged the children to come to Him.

10. People are even more loving when they are shown love.

Can you identify with any of these from your observations of life?

10 Questions with Leader Brad Lomenick – Catalyst

Brad Lomenick
leads the Catalyst Leader team that is helping to shape the leadership culture in many churches today.  Before leading the charge on Catalyst, he helped lead a cool magazine called Life@Work and did consulting with lots of companies. Brad’s position with Catalyst gives him access to some great leaders.  I thought it would be interesting to hear from his perspective on leadership.  You can follow Brad on Twitter HERE.

Here are 10 questions with Brad Lomenick:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally?  If not, what did you want to do?

No, not necessarily. I really thought while I was in middle school and high school, and early in college- I would be in politics. Or that I would be a coach and school administrator, like my dad. Once I got to college I realized I really liked business, and leadership, and enjoyed connecting people together.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

After college, I worked as a wrangler and ranch Foreman at a guest ranch in Colorado- Lost Valley Ranch. Amazing place. Riding horses and hanging out with guests most of the day. We had 150 horses and 200 head of cattle, and the ranch was an hour from the closest town, so I really had to become an “expert” in horses, ranching, veterinary work, cattle, and the entire world of running a ranch. That experience really refined my work ethic, my focus on building authentic relationships, and the understanding of living out the Gospel by serving others until they ask “why.” We loved building bridges with our guests, and making them into “family” instead of just being a guest.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

That’s a tough one. Probably my dad, in terms of what it meant to work hard and be excellent at what you do. And Bob Foster, the founder of Lost Valley Ranch, also had a huge impact on me in my mid 20’s- more in spiritual development, a strong passion for the Bible and scriptural engagement, and for building into others and refining my style of leadership.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

Another tough one. If I have to choose one book, it would probably be Good to Great by Jim Collins.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Collaborator, Focus, Achiever, Excellence

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Ability to create partnerships, and involve lots of leaders in the process. Plus being willing to stay focused on execution and moving the ball across the finish line.

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

I am a strong ENTJ on the Myers Briggs. Which has it’s goods and bads. My high achiever/focus can sometimes come across as overwhelming and brash. I have to make sure I connect with my team personally, and they know that intensity is part of who I am.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

Trying to balance a work hard and play hard culture, the ability to stay focused as a team, and maintaining a standard of excellence, and continually improving.

What is one misconception about your position you think people may have?

I would probably say the greatest misconception is that because Catalyst is big, and we put on large events, people sense we “know it all” and have a huge team that pulls off the events we do. But our team is small, and we are hard workers, but we know that we don’t know it all. We embrace the truth that Gods does extraordinary things through ordinary people. And our team is just a bunch of ordinary, young, passionate followers of Christ who are willing to be part of something extraordinary that God is doing through Catalyst.

If you could give one piece of advise to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Learn from everyone- whether someone who is 61 or 21, a CEO or just entering the workforce, it doesn’t matter. We can learn from all the folks around us. And especially be willing to learn, and LISTEN, to those you might disagree with.

Great interview Brad!  Thanks for leading a great team that helps so many leaders.

Have you been to Catalyst?  Are you going this year? I will be blogging from Atlanta this year and I would love to see you there.

An Interview about My Leadership Style

A young man who attends our church is seeking a leadership degree. Recently he interviewed me for a paper he was required to write. I ask his permission and decided to share my answers here.

What type of leadership do you mostly exhibit?

The leader should paint the vision, hire the right people, and then release them to do their job.  I try to get out of the way of people who are doing good work.

How do the traits that you have differ from those that “follow” you?

Two ways:

1.  I am a very big picture guy.  I hate micro-management and I hate details.  I try to compliment my skills partly with people who can balance my big picture, strategic thinking with detail implementation skills.

2.  I’m 46 years old.  I realize the best new ideas for the future will likely come from the next generation.  (ie. Facebook, Google, Twitter).  I try to surround myself with younger people.  I also like people who will continue to challenge me.

How do you use power and influence? If at all?

I try not to use power.   If I’m using it, it’s usually not a pretty day in the office.   I try to use my influence to help people make wise decisions in their areas, balancing risk-taking, with practicality, affordability, and reason.

How is innovation applied to your leadership style?

You should read my category on innovation on my blog, but basically I love change and new ideas, so I’m consistently looking for ways to stir things up around me.  I also like continual improvement and critical thinking, so I’m always thinking, “How could this be made/done better?”

Do you employ strategic leadership? How?

I hope so. That’s one of my strengths according to StrengthsFinders.  My desire is to think how each decision will impact other people and the organization as a whole. I consider myself extremely purposeful, and I try to practice purposeful leadership, mostly because as I look at the life of Jesus, I see Him continually seeming to be strategic in how He led the disciples and continues to lead people today.

I thought these were great questions.  Now, here are three questions for you:

  1. Could you work for a guy like me?
  2. What would drive you crazy about my style?
  3. How would you answer these questions?

10 Questions with Leader Charles Stone (And a book giveaway)

Charles Stone is an author and pastor. He serves as the senior pastor of Ginger Creek Community Church in the Chicago suburbs. Charles is full of wisdom and loves investing in other pastors. You can follow him on Twitter HERE.

In addition to the interview today, I’m giving away three (3) copies of his newest book, 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them. This book focuses on how to overcome pastoral burnout, frustration, and depression to be able to fully serve Christ, their families and, their churches. Pastor Charles Stone uses his thirty years in the ministry to identify five potent killers in pastors’ lives and shows how to defeat them to regain the hope and enthusiasm they once had for ministry.

If you want to win this book:

1. Comment on this post with your name and/or Twitter name.
2. RT this post

I will choose three random winners tonight after 9 PM, CST.

Here are 10 questions with leader Charles Stone:

When you were growing up, is this what you thought you would be doing vocationally? If not, what did you want to do?

I was going to be a marine biologist, until I realized at the time that there were only four jobs in that field each year.

What’s the most different job you’ve had from what you are doing now and how did that job help you with what you are doing now?

During college I worked for a civil engineering company. We’d pop manhole covers to check sewerage. I climbed into many manholes to measure the sewerage dept with a wooden ruler. If we were in a neighborhood and I heard a ‘flush’ sound come through the holes above me that led to houses, I’ve have to scramble out…our else. This experience helped me learn when it was time to quit getting dumped on and walk away.

Who is one person, besides Christ, who most helped to shape your leadership and how did they help you?

Probably Carl Marshall who pastored the church I attended when I felt God’s call to ministry. Before I went to seminary he gave me the best advice I ever got. “Find a church where you feel comfortable and just volunteer to serve anywhere they need you.” I did that and ended up being hired as the part-time singles minister at a large church with several hundred singles. I came to seminary with no experience, yet the church saw my willingness to serve and they hired me over several other ‘experienced’ seminarians who wanted a job, but didn’t want to serve first.

Besides the Bible, what is one book that has most helped to shape your thought process in life and ministry?

Probably Philip Yancey’s two books, Disappointment with God and Where is God When it Hurts. These two books helped me develop a healthy theology of managing disappointment in ministry. I was so successful with a church plant in
Atlanta several years ago that attendance the first day of 51 grew to 17 in six months. That was tough on my ego. On top of that, in the first year our one year old faced brain surgery. Yancey’s insight into disappointment has served my wife and I well.

What are three words other people would use to describe your work style/ethic?

Focused, Fun, Productive

What is your greatest strength in leadership?

Seeing the big-picture connections, how things fit together (my undergrad degree is systems engineering).

What is your greatest weakness in leadership?

Sometimes I struggle that I’m not making the impact I wanted/thought I’d make.

What is the hardest thing you have to do in leadership?

I’ve had to fire a few people. I hate it, but sometimes it’s necessary.

What is one misconception about your position you think people in your church may have?

That pastors are immune to feeling disappointed, hurt, and discouraged.

If you could give one piece of advise to young leaders from what you’ve learned by experience, what would it be?

Find a safe person to whom you will give access to your inner world. Let them in. Let them lovingly make you aware of your blind spots. Do it early in ministry and be teachable and you will save yourself a lot of grief.

Are you facing burnout? Please read this book.

Monday’s Preparation Brings Friday’s Success

I was helping someone think strategically recently. We were looking at this person’s ministry, trying to design a system, which would allow for continual growth and improvement. The ministry has grown rapidly and the leader barely feels she can keep up with the current demands. She recognizes the need to delegate, grow new leaders, and spread out responsibility and ownership, but she can’t seem to get past the current demands of details to develop a plan to do so.

Have you ever been there?

While attempting to create a system with her, I think we may have gotten to the root of her problem (and one I’ve had many times personally). She looked at me with complete sincerity and said, “I just don’t have time to prepare…”

Have you ever thought that?

Do you see the problem with that statement? It’s a common misperception of all parts of life. We don’t feel we have time to do the required preparation to do the job right, so we continue in the mediocre success, while drowning in details. The reality, however, is that preparation time is often the most important part of the work. An inch of preparation is worth a mile of success.

It’s Monday. Take a few minutes to prepare. It will make the rest of the week much easier and more effective. (I hope even the most literal thinkers can realize this isn’t just a Monday morning principle….)

Have you learned the value of preparation? Share your methods of preparation to encourage others.

Read more about the value of preparation HERE and HERE and HERE.