Many people who read my blog are leaders in either church, community, or business. There are so many different styles and philosophies when it comes to leadership, with countless books, seminars, and self-help videos on the subject. Just typing in “leadership” on YouTube yields over 4.2 million results.
As a pastor for nearly 50 years, I have witnessed stunning changes in leadership demands.
In the first two churches I pastored, I was the ONLY paid staff member. The fact is, we did everything through the use of volunteers. As pastor, I had to look at my congregation, identify those with leadership skills, and train them how to serve in a church/ministry capacity. When I graduated from seminary, I became pastor of a church in a rural area that was rapidly becoming suburban, with a lot of growth potential. There, I had two part-time secretaries and one part-time custodian. My staff was all volunteers… Richard Wilson, a court reporter, led our choir and music. A young businessman by the name of Jim McGriff led our student ministry and student choir. An architect was our education director. Our church grew to over 500 in attendance with no paid staff.
Today, I lead a church with over 100 paid staff members, yet the leadership principles we operate by are the same for both paid staff and volunteers. Moreover, these principles and the truths contained therein are not confined to the church-house. They also apply to the business world and, for that matter, any endeavor in life that involves people.
So how can a leader truly succeed?
- There must be a clearly defined vision. The Bible says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (Proverbs 29:18). No one wants to follow a guide who doesn’t know where they are going. If there is no definable end-result for your organization (church), your vision (or lack thereof) has doomed it from the start.
- There must be defined goals. No runner is going to simply wake up one day and run a marathon. It takes months of preparation with goals along the way. If you are driving from Atlanta, GA to Chattanooga, TN up I-75, when you get to Dalton, GA, you know you are only about 25-30 minutes away from your destination. Leading your organization is no different. You must have, not just the end in sight, but landmarks and achievable goals along the way. It helps to eliminate the frustration of following blindly on the part of those you are leading, as well as your leadership team having to endure the constant cries of, “Are we there yet?!?!?!?”
- There must be measurable accountability. “Just because I said so,” may be reason enough for a three-year-old to clean their room, but generally does not suffice when it comes to running an organization and motivating adults. There must be a clear chain of accountability for actions and decisions, and that accountability has to be modeled from the top down. Remember the old saying… Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
- There must be a culture of mutual honor, respect, and teamwork. You cannot be an effective leader from a high and lofty tower. Former President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” A businessman in my church once told me that “I don’t ask anyone to do something I either haven’t done, or wouldn’t do myself. The people who work for me will do anything for me for one simple reason — because they know I will do anything for them.” Treating people with respect, honoring their time by being prompt and on-time, being forthright and honest, approaching each task with a well-thought-out plan, being conservative with criticism and liberal with praise, letting each individual know how important they are to the organization — all of these things help to build an atmosphere that goes beyond teamwork… it creates the atmosphere of family.
- There must be a focus on goals, and the steps to achieve them. While looking at the “big picture” can give you a sense of importance and meaning, most people work best with goals that are progressive, logical, and attainable. Make the goals clear for your team. Clearly explain the steps it takes to achieve each goal. Give them the tools they need to be successful for each step in the process. Encourage them to focus on the goal immediately in front of them, and not fixate on the enormity of the “big picture.”
- There must be disciplined financial principles that include healthy revenue streams, careful spending, and total accountability. Most organizations crumble because of financial woes. Bad financial planning (insufficient funding), mismanagement, and dishonesty are just a few ways financial problems can doom an organization. Being disciplined with how you spend, how you manage growth, and how you invest your resources will go a long way toward giving you a healthy bottom-line. Being realistic about projections, operating within a well-defined budget, and being an “open book” when it comes to accountability will not only give you a reputation for integrity, but can also provide others with confidence in investing in or donating to your organization.
- There must be flexibility and a willingness to change. Change is inevitable. Change is unrelenting. Change is coming, whether we like it or not. George Bernard Shaw once said, “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” If you want to progress with your organization, being flexible to the changing winds of public needs, technology, and the direction of your industry are essential. Keeping an open mind about new innovations and ideas is the only way to survive having your methods bent to the breaking point. Being forward-thinking to the future needs of your market, and being able to adapt quickly can mean the difference between extinction, survival, and success. C.S. Lewis made this observation…
It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.
- There must be a strong prayer ministry and a sense of God’s leadership. My thought process for this point comes from my years in the pastorate and ministry. As a believer in Christ, our life in Him should permeate all we are and do. There should always be an attitude of prayer, as well as a desire for God’s direction when it comes to the life and direction of your organization (church). True Christianity is not just a religion or thought process — it is an all-encompassing immersion into the life and death of Christ, and surrender to the control of the Holy Spirit. There should never be a time when we operate separate from that reality. There should never be a decision made that is not bathed in prayer, with our spiritual ears open to hearing from Heaven for wisdom and guidance. The realization that all we are and have is God’s should motivate, inspire, and guide us in every facet of business, ministry, and life.
I hope that embracing these steps will give you the courage to change, the desire for more for you and your organization, and the tools to encourage those in your circle of influence to live life ready to succeed.