Archive for the ‘leadership’ Category

The CALL to Leadership (Learn Continuously)

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

There is one more characteristic of leadership that I want to discuss in this series, Learn Continuously. Leaders are learners. When you stop learning you should stop leading because you are no longer equipped to lead.

There are two aspects of learning that are vital to leadership. The first is personal effort. Bill Hybels the great leader that launched Willow Creek church and continues to invest in leaders around the world through the Willow Creek Association often says, “Leaders are readers.” He encourages leaders to have a book with them at all times and continuously invest in themselves by reading. When leaders stop learning they stop being effective in their leadership. They get bound to the way things used to be. They start implementing new ideas with old systems that were effective then but are irrelevant now. As a leader you need to develop a learning plan. To get you started here are a couple of books that I recommend. Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels. Visioneering by Andy Stanley. The Leadership Pipeline by Ram Charan.

The second place leaders need to focus on learning from is their team. If you’re the only one with good ideas on your team you either need a new team or need to get over yourself. The leader should never be the person with the all of the best ideas. The leader should be the person with the vision for where the team is going and skill to guide the team to get there. The strategy should come from the best ideas from the team. The best way to develop your strategy is to cast the vision to your team then ask them how to get there. This will do several things. (1) It will help your team feel a sense of ownership for the vision. (2) It will force your team to stretch intellectually. (3) It will help you see who the leaders are in whom you need to invest. (4) It will help you learn to be a better leader.

This is your CALL to leadership, Care Relentlessly, Act Graciously, Lead Courageously, and Learn Continuously.

What other characteristics to you find essential to effective leadership?

The CALL to Leadership (Lead Courageously)

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

The CALL to leadership includes the call to Lead Courageously. Leadership can be a lonely experience. As leaders we it’s almost as if we live in a fishbowl. Everyone is waiting to see if we’re going to swim or start floating belly-up. It’s tempting to stop leading courageously and start placating the people around us.

I recently met with a team from a church that experienced the negative aspects of a leader that failed to lead courageously. He got to the point that he was afraid of losing people. Therefore, he worked hard to placate the people and keep them comfortable. It got so bad that when someone complained about an aspect of the church constitution the pastor would delete the problem area. Ultimately, the failure to lead courageously led to an ugly church split and a church without a viable constitution or a pastor.

Remember, “God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7 NET)

When have you seen someone fail to lead courageously? What was the result?

The Call to Leadership (Act Graciously)

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I don’t usually like to speak in absolutes, but I feel safe in saying that absolutely no one likes an arrogant jerk. Yet, I find that many leaders appear to be just that, arrogant jerks. That is because they violate the second aspect of the CALL to leadership, Act Graciously. Instead, they Are Arrogant.

Several years ago I was part of a team that ran a major function for an inspection exercise in the Air Force. Our team rocked! I can say that without feeling arrogant because the inspectors told us our team was the best seen that year. There were a lot of people incredibly excited about the job the team had done. Except for the team. The individual in charge took credit for the entire effort and never acknowledged the work the team put in. Our morale went from an all-time high to an all-time low. So did our respect for the leader. He failed to Act Graciously. He failed as a leader.

I often hear people describe leaders as “the man” or “the woman”. Leaders are not “the man” or “the woman”. By definition a leader requires a team to implement the mission. If you are “the man” or “the woman” and don’t require a team to accomplish the mission you’re not a leader. You’re a very talented individual but if you’re doing it alone you’re not leading you’re just doing.

If you are leading you must Act Graciously or you will no longer be leading but merely doing. I once heard a leader say to his team, “As the leader, everything this team does right I get 50% of the credit. Everything this team does wrong I get 100% of the blame.” He knew how to Act Graciously.

What ways have you seen leaders Act Graciously?

The CALL to Leadership (Care Relentlessly)

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

I recently heard about a communications company, Cbeyond, that lays out their character statement on their website. It is the acronym CALL; Care Relentlessly, Act Graciously, Lead Courageously, and Learn Continuously. Those same characteristics should be applied to all leaders. In particular they should apply to leaders that are also followers of Christ. Over the next several weeks we’ll talk about each of those characteristics in turn.

First, and I think most important of all of these characteristics is Care Relentlessly. As leaders, we must care about the people we are leading. Otherwise, we’re not leading we’re manipulating. I’ve been in many conversations regarding the characteristics of leadership in which we’ve tried to define leadership. In those conversations we often stumbled over the difference between strong leadership and manipulation. This, I think, is the difference. If you’re just using people to accomplish a vision (no matter how noble) and you don’t care about them as individuals, you’re not a leader. You’re a manipulator. And to be honest, I’ve been there more often than I care to admit. I’ve found myself manipulating rather than leading because I didn’t care about the people following me I just cared about the mission, the vision.

Yet, this does not reflect God at all. Every action of God recorded in Scripture is grounded in some way in his care for us. He loves us so much that He sent Jesus to dies for us. Because He cares for us He providentially holds all things together. If we are going to be godly leaders and not worldly manipulators we must Care Relentlessly.

What do you think? Do leaders need to Care Relentlessly to truly lead or am I hopelessly naïve?

Superbowl Leadership

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

This Sunday we will see Jim Caldwell lead the Indianapolis Colts in the Superbowl as a rookie coach.  This season he had the best start of any rookie quarterback in the NFL.  His 14-2 season also tied his predecessor Tony Dungy for the best season record held by an African-American coach.  Jim Caldwell has proven himself to be a strong leader.

It’s his predecessor, however, that I want to talk about today.  As I was listening to the commentators during the AFC championship game against the Jets it was Tony Dungy’s not Jim Caldwell’s leadership that stood out to me.  One of the reasons Jim Caldwell is such a great coach is because Tony Dungy prepared him for it.  Tony Dungy knew that a good leader prepares the leaders that will follow him.  During his tenure as the head coach for the Indianapolis Colts he was preparing Jim Caldwell to take over.  In the summer Dungy had Caldwell lead OTAs to prepare him for the time that he would be leading practice as the head coach.

The best leaders lead leaders.  They find leaders in whom they can invest themselves.  They train leaders who will ultimately replace them as they move on to new vistas of leadership.

Who are you training to replace you as a leader?

To Hire or Not To Hire (Part 3)

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

In this series we’ve been discussing when to hire and when to use volunteers to fulfill roles in the church.  I’ve argued the decision should be strategic not pragmatic.  I’ve proposed that the guiding principle should be that staff positions equip the church for the ministry and the church does the ministry.  All roles should, therefore, default to volunteers rather than staff.   Then I said there are two exceptions to this.  In my last post I said that volunteers should not be expected to fulfill role that require an unreasonable amount on training or experience.

The second question that needs to be asked when making these decisions is, “Are the expectations of this position unreasonable to expect from a volunteer?”  Does this role require the individual to do things or spend time that would be unreasonable for a volunteer?  My best example of this is a role I filled when I helped launch a satellite campus for NorthRidge Church in MI.  One of the tasks was loading a trailer at the original campus on Friday afternoons and driving it to the satellite location Sunday mornings before the rest of the ministry teams arrived.  This required about an hour of work on Friday afternoons hitching and loading the trailer.  Sunday mornings I had to arrive at the original campus at 5a and drive the trailer to the satellite location and have it in place by 5:30a and drive the trailer back to the original campus Sunday afternoons.  There were two reasons that I felt this should be a staff responsibility.  (1) It was really early in the morning.  (2) The vision of the satellite was to create opportunities in that community for people to serve.  The volunteers that were a part of that ministry all lived in that community.  For a volunteer to pick the trailer up they would have had to drive 20 – 30 minutes from their house to pick up the trailer and then drive it to the satellite location which was actually closer to their home.  I believe those expectations were unreasonable to expect from a volunteer.

What do you think?  What tasks are unreasonable to expect a volunteer to do?

To Hire or Not To Hire (Part 2)

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

In the previous post we talked about the questions churches should ask when deciding whether a position should be paid staff or volunteer. The overarching principle I proposed is that the staff should be responsible for equipping the church for ministry. If we follow that perspective then our default decision should be to allow volunteers to serve in every position.

There are two situations in which paid staff should be put in place rather than volunteers. The first is in positions that require special skills or education that are unreasonable to expect from a volunteer. The primary example of this would be the primary pastor of the church. Whether you call that individual the Senior Pastor, Lead Pastor, Teaching Pastor, or other name the role is the same. The person filling that role needs to have both the theological training and leadership training necessary to lead the church. (Yes, I know there are biblical reasons for having a paid Pastor but that’s for a different post.) Another example would be someone overseeing the technical arts in a church with a high production level. Not everyone serving in the technical arts should be paid staff, but someone needs the skill to train and oversee this area of ministry that requires a very specific skill set. In a church with a large auditorium or sanctuary that has a high production level the leader of this ministry should be paid staff with the requisite education and experience.

There are other positions in the church that should be paid staff as well but remember this should be the exception rather than the rule. What other positions can you think of that require paid staff because of the lever of education and experience necessary to fulfill the role?

To Hire or not To Hire

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

In the past 13 years, I’ve had the privilege of serving in both volunteer and staff leadership positions in churches and parachurch organizations. It’s interesting to me how haphazard many churches are with regards to identifying which jobs are volunteer positions and which jobs are staff positions.

The problem seems to be that the decisions are driven by pragmatism rather than vision. Pragmatism works well for short-term decisions. The decision to fill a position with staff or volunteers is a strategic decision that has far reaching consequences. Leadership teams, therefore, need to have a firm vision of the difference between staff roles and volunteer roles in the structure of the church.
It is important to remember that it is not the staff’s responsibility to do the ministry of the church. It is the whole church’s responsibility to do the ministry of the church. The staff is responsible to equip the church for ministry.

When making staffing decisions the questions that are often asked are:
(1) Can we afford to hire this position? (Do we have the money?)
(2) Can we afford no to hire this position? (Do we trust a volunteer to do it?)

These are pragmatic questions. They do not focus on vision. Better questions to ask are:
(1) Does this position require special skills that it is unreasonable to expect a volunteer to have?
(2) Are the expectations of this position unreasonable to expect from a volunteer?

I’ll unpack these questions in future posts and explain why I think they fit the vision/strategy category rather than being merely pragmatic. I’d love to hear from you though. What questions do you think should be asked in determining whether a position is a staff or volunteer position?

Letting Go is Hard to Do Part 4

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

In this last post in the series I want to talk about the importance of moving in a direction. For me, the thing that keeps me from acting is I’m afraid of the result. I don’t want to move in a direction that may not take me to the right destination. I don’t want to take even a small step.

Yet, when it comes to following God, I’m finding that movement is important. God is interested more in the process than in the product. Think about it. He doesn’t need us to accomplish anything. He can do that all on his own. He’s looking to build a relationship with us. That takes time and commitment. He’s looking for us to commit ourselves to him. That means going in the direction he points without too much concern at the result.

God wants you to get in the game. He’s already got plenty of breathing seat warmers, look in any church. Don’t wait until you know the play perfectly. It’s OK to make mistakes. But, get out there and do something. I find when I am consistent in prayer and consistently read the Bible God gives me enough information to take the next step. But, if I don’t take the next step I’m not letting God be in charge and he won’t tell me the second or third step until I prove to him that I’m willing to take the first. Even if I don’t know where it leads.

What’s the next step that God’s leading you to take?

Letting Go Is Hard to Do Part 3

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

It is impossible to let someone else be in control if we’re not listening to what they say. It is impossible to let God be in control if you’re not listening to what he says. If you’re not reading Scripture you’re not letting God be in control. You’re merely saying that you are.

Now, you’re probably thinking. Doesn’t God speak to us in other ways such as through prayer, circumstances, and other people?

Yes, he does. But that is not his primary mode of communication. Since Moses, God has chosen the written word as his primary vehicle of communicating with his people. Read through Scripture if you don’t believe me. When God chose to speak directly to or through people, that was something different from the norm. That was something unexpected. God’s primary vehicle for communicating to us is through Scripture. If you want to give control over to God, you need to consistently read the Bible.

For me, I find morning is the best time, either before everyone else gets up of after everyone else has left the house. I need time alone with God. I need all distractions away from me.

I’ve also found that You Version is a great tool for this time. I open my computer and log on to You Version. It opens the Bible to the last passage I read in the last translation I had open. You Version also has a journal application in the program that allows me to journal online and take my journal wherever I have wifi access.

That’s what works for me. I don’t know what works for you but whatever it is; it won’t work if you’re not reading His Word. You need to be in Scripture if you want to give control over to God.