Speaking Well Matters!

A key part of all Pastors’ work and even for most business and nonprofit leaders is the need to communicate well. There are so many reasons why we have to get this right. For Pastors, you might have heard the old adage – “As the weekend goes, so goes the church.” There’s truth in that. There is way more to a church than the Sunday experience, but that hour plus does set the tone for everything else. Our speaking (in the church, nonprofit or business world) will either motivate, or cause staff and clients to disengage. In the church context, the effectiveness of our speaking takes on eternal consequences. It will help folks listen to the truth, take another step toward following Jesus, or convict someone of the need to make a change. Our speaking matters! So how can speak in the most effective way possible?

 

Speaking Well is Learned

I’ve used a teaching team for the last twelve years, and I believe that is the number one reason why my own teaching/preaching has improved significantly. I share the teaching and speaking opportunities with other men and women. The only way we grow our speaking ability is to speak! This same team also helps whoever is speaking to refine and make each message better. The speaker gets three specific times of feedback in preparation in the two weeks before presenting. We also do an evaluation after the message is given. I’m a much better speaker because of the feedback the team gives me. It is absolutely essential if you want to improve and grow your speaking ability.

To do this well, we’ve created a checklist of things the teacher and teaching team want to look for as we review and evaluate the written preparation and live presentations. These key things we’ve discovered are making a difference. We’ve been growing as a church over 8 percent the last three years. The most consistent feedback we get from folks who are new to our church is that they love the teaching and how moving, understandable and practical it is.

So, I’ve been researching, examining, experimenting and practicing these key things that make for an consistently effective message. Here’s the results of twelve years of work we’ve done with our teaching team. They will help you to say it well, whatever your “it” is!

 

What we Look for in Every Message

  • Is there a strong opening?
  • Is there a strong ending? Is there an emotional connection?
  • Have we given a clear practical application? Is the audience compelled to take relevant action?
  • Have we helped people imagine a better future? Have we inspired them to action, change or growth? Will this message bring about transformation? Do they know the “Why?” of the challenge?
  • Are there good transitions from one idea or point to the next one?
  • Is there one clear main point or main idea? Can you put it in one sentence? What’s the main thing you have to get across?
  • Have we used one main scripture that is clearly explained and applied?
  • Are there sufficient stories and illustrations, including live and video stories of people?
  • Because less is more, what is good but not needed that can be taken out to focus on the main point better? Too much “good” gets in the way of what’s most important.

 

What We Look for in Most Messages

  • Is there or can there be an organizing metaphor – a theme or phrase the runs through the entire message?
  • How can we use appropriate props to enhance the message?
  • Have we shared the gospel or part of the gospel?

 

Delivery of the Message:

  • Did the listeners “feel” the passion, conviction, and boldness of the speaker? Was the pace, tempo and animation able to present the message with passion?
  • Did the teacher engage the listeners emotionally and personally?
  • Is the teacher well prepared in his/her own soul? Was the message well prepared? Was the teacher free and not tied to his/her notes?
  • Did the teacher use good humor? Was there some “fun” at appropriate times?
  • Did the teacher look into the camera sufficiently and address the audiences online and not just in the auditorium? (If applicable)

 

Do the hard work to say it well. What and how you say it matters!

Leading is Hard

Can I try to encourage you today? I’ve been a pastor for 41 years. Yea, I’m old! Or to spin it positively, I’ve got lots of experience! And what I know for sure, is that you and I as leaders always face challenges. Peter Drucker, the management guru, once said that being a pastor is one of the hardest jobs, period. He’s right. Leading a church has challenges at every proverbial corner. Leading a non-profit or business has many challenges as well. What has worked before doesn’t work today. Our culture is going through reconstruction. Life is becoming more complex! All people, including you and I, are broken in some way. Hurting people hurt people. Members or clients are never satisfied. If I go on any longer, I won’t have any hope of encouraging you!

Resilient

So how do we respond to the challenge of pastoring and leading? If you’re reading this, you are likely not ready to throw up your hands…yet! I think the Bible has a clear answer. The answer shows up in a slew of words, but my summary word for all of them is resilience.

Before I define or describe resilience, let’s look at all the Bible synonyms or parallels for resilience:

  • Persevere
  • Endure
  • Patient
  • Long-suffering
  • Steadfast
  • Bear with, Forebear
  • Be strong
  • Don’t grow weary or lose heart

Now, let’s be honest. If we were to try to come up with a list of the 5 character qualities that make for a great pastor or leader, it is unlikely that many of these words would make the list. We’d rather prefer to say a great pastor or leader is competent, skilled, bold, courageous, confident, creative, or trustworthy.  Or we might choose words like integrity, humility, empowering, or great communicator. All these are great attributes. But it would be rare for the word resilient or any of its synonyms to show up on the list. But may I suggest, that the most effective leaders, in the long run, are resilient leaders.

Hebrews 12:1-3

I get that idea from an amazing passage found in Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV). I’m going to quote it here and underline those key resilient words: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

The passage starts by reminding us that there is a cloud of witnesses watching us. Who are these people? They were listed and described in the previous chapter, Hebrews chapter 11. This chapter is sometimes called the Hall of Faith chapter. If you read chapter 11 carefully you’ll notice these famous men and women of faith who did amazing things didn’t get to see the full promises that God offered them while they were alive. But even though they didn’t see all the results they wanted, they stayed faithful. Maybe that’s you. Maybe you won’t get to see all the results of your hard work and sacrifice. But if you’ll remain faithful and resilient, God will use you to make a real difference, often in ways we can’t see.

The passage challenges us to run our race with perseverance. That means we just keep running and finish the race. It is NOT about being first, but finishing. It’s great to be first when every condition is perfect and we are in top shape. But that is not always going to be the case. Finishing is about faithfulness. We are called to be faithful and let God work through our faithfulness.

How do we keep running and finish well? We fix our eyes on Jesus. We don’t fixate on what good or success has happened. We don’t focus on the failures either. We don’t get caught up in what’s happening in our culture. We don’t compare ourselves to other pastors or leaders or churches or businesses. We don’t even look too long at ourselves. We focus on Jesus! He’s the model in every aspect of life. He’s the one we want to be like. We finish the race following him across the finish line.

And how did Jesus live? He lived with the joy set before him. Here’s what’s surprising: The joy that Jesus experienced happened as he endured the cross. How could enduring a horrible painful execution bring joy? Because Jesus knew that was his purpose. He knew that was what God wanted of him. His obedience unto death was his great joy because of what his sacrifice accomplished. His joy was in his faithfulness!

So the point of those three verses? Do not grow weary or lose heart. What is needed in our difficult job of pastoring and leading? To be strong or to be resilient?

Strong, Impressive or Resilient?

Let me finish with an illustration I read in a book produced by the Barna organization called The State of Pastors. The book makes a case for how important the quality of resilience is for pastors. The book reminds us that the Pyramids at Giza are as strong as we can imagine. They have survived for some 4000 years. They are big, robust, immovable, and basically unchangeable. But if a MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) was dropped on them (may it not be so), the bomb could easily destroy them today. You see, it is strong and impressive, but not really resilient!

Now let’s consider a forest. The west has experienced years of drought and forests are susceptible to fire. If a wildfire burns a forest, it looks devastated at first. But if you go back in a decade or two, you see how resilient the forest is. It starts to grow back. And, as it grows back, it actually becomes a better and healthier forest! That’s resilience.

You and I are not called to be strong or impressive, but resilient. So let me leave you with one more scripture that is one of my favorites. May it encourage you… Galatians 6:9, 10 (NIV) – Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

One of the absolutely vital components of a healthy church, business or organization is focus. Back in 2001, Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, shares how focus is a secret to a great company in an idea called “The Hedgehog.” Here’s what Collins says about this idea:

Are you a hedgehog or a fox? In his famous essay “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes, based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

A Hedgehog Concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. The distinction is absolutely crucial.

Foxes try to be clever and know and try lots of ways to catch a hedgehog. But the hedgehog has one and only one defense that works every time. It rolls itself up in a ball with its quills outward and its soft inner body protected when danger comes.

Too many churches and organizations try to know and do too many things. The question for you as you lead is simple. What is and what can your group be the best at? What must you be the best at? These are questions of focus. You see, there is no church or group that can be “all things to all people” (Those are Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and they have a very different context and purpose).

Some of the best and most effective churches and organizations focus on a few things. Life.Church is an example of focus. They focus on excellent worship, kids and youth, and small groups. That means they say “no” to things others want them to do like concerts or men’s or women’s ministry. Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix has always had a targeted focus or “customer.” They seek to reach unchurched men. If they can win the man, they believe they’ll reach the whole family. Continuing to use the church as an example, your focus might be discipleship, teaching, spiritual formation, targeting a specific type of group, a specific type of community transformation or recovery ministry.

Back about 10 years ago I decided our church needed to offer a traditional style worship service with hymns, piano, choir, etc. It’s a valid style of worship and I was sure there were people who liked this style. Other churches do “traditional” very well. But we were pretty bad at it. And it took tons of works, time, volunteers, and resources away from what we do really well. I made the decision after a year to stop that service. Some people left disappointed and unhappy. But that decision helped us to focus on what God has called us to focus on.

One of my favorite quotes says; “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!” Jesus knew his main thing. His focus dominated what he did and how he lived his life. Jesus actually told us his main thing; For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lostLuke 19:10. That’s the one thing that really matters to Jesus – reaching lost people. That’s where he spent a significant amount of his time. It was lost people he sought out and hung out with. He had a reputation of focusing on the people the religious folks said were lost. That’s why he told three specific parables about the lost in Luke 15. Jesus was focused.

As leader you need to figure out, with other key leaders in prayerful connection with God, what your “hedgehog” is. You need to figure out what you are best at and what is most important for you to focus on. As I lead our church, I know the things that are non-negotiable to accomplish our vision and mission. Focusing on too many things will sabotage excellence and dilute effectiveness.

And yes, a clear focus has both ups and downs. A clear focus will mean some folks and clients will decide they want something different and go elsewhere. That’s okay. But a clear focus will also attract quality leaders and allow you to leverage your people, finances and other resources to make a clear difference. When you are focused you know exactly who you are trying to reach as new clients or who you want to serve. You learn to say no to the good things that in fact are the enemy of what’s best.

Great leaders have a focus and are tenacious in keeping the main thing the main thing. The attacks on focus will never end. You’ll be tempted over and over to weaken your grip on your hedgehog concept. Resist! You can’t and don’t want to be the answer to every problem in your sphere of influence. Figure out the problem that God is calling you to address and stick to it with all you have.

Don’t End in a Dark Cloud

This has been another bad season for church leaders. Some 300 priests in Pennsylvania were identified as having sexually abused over a 1000 children. Do an internet search for Bill Hybels or Willow Creek Church and you’ll read about the allegations of sexual misconduct and sin tied to the abuse of power and more. It is a very sad story of how a man who did so much for the church and the kingdom over the years, ended his ministry in a dark cloud. When the first news of the allegations appeared, Hybels denied them and only admitted to misjudgment. Frankly, when I first heard what he did, I called it “stupid”. From his own admission and from the allegations, he apparently invited women alone into his hotel rooms; had dinners one on one with women; traveled with women without their husbands; and more. Of course more is alleged to have happened that goes beyond just stupidity to outright sin, but just what he admitted to was more than dumb.

The World HAS Changed

We live in a #MeToo world. I’m actually grateful for this movement. For too long, too many men (including priests and pastors) have used and abused women and children. The core message of #MeToo is that we need to insure honor, respect and protection for all. The heart of #MeToo is that all people, especially women and children, must be listened to when they are violated or feel that they have been. But honor, respect and protection must have policies and processes that create a culture and systems that actually makes those values real and lived out. The failure at the Willow Creek Church was that the leaders at every level didn’t listen to and truly investigate the allegations.

Don’t Be Stupid

So I titled this blog – Don’t Be Stupid. I’m not just being blunt, that idea comes from Ecclesiastes 10:1-3 (NIV). It says:

As dead flies give perfume a bad smell,

   so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

The heart of the wise inclines to the right,

   but the heart of the fool to the left.

Even as fools walk along the road,

   they lack sense

   and show everyone how stupid they are.

It only takes a “little folly” to ruin years of ministry and service, and damage our organizations. When we lack wisdom and common sense, we’ll only show others how “stupid” we are. Don’t be stupid! What does that mean? We’ve created policies and procedures at Pantano Christian Church to protect both ourselves and others. We keep reviewing them to make sure they protect all parties. Let me just introduce you to what we do and why.

Protect Yourself!

First, as a leader (in church or in the business or the non-profit world), you must protect yourself. There are two levels to this. The most basic level is to protect yourself from sexual temptation. This requires more in depth attention, so I’ll address this in another blog. Then, you have to protect yourself from unnecessary allegations. You can’t stop anyone from making an allegation at any time for any reason. But there are some things you can do to limit the reasons for someone to assume the worst and if an allegation is made, to protect yourself.

Here’s what I (we) do. I will not meet (meals, meetings, counseling) with or travel with a person of the opposite sex alone. I will meet with a woman as long as other people are present or I’ll meet in a setting where I can have a private conversation, but only in my office or space where there are open windows and other people in the immediate office area. I won’t allow myself to be in church bathroom if it is only me and another boy. If I find myself in that situation, I walk out. In counseling with the opposite sex I won’t share any of my own experiences or past struggles with sexual matters. I’m a hugger, but I’m very careful in how I hug a woman and only in a public place. I won’t put myself in a situation where someone can make an allegation and I (or the church) have no way to defend myself. That’s the world we live in! Don’t be stupid and protect yourself!

Yes, some of these “rules” make travel, meetings and greetings more difficult. I’ve even been criticized for following these principles. But these policies allow for me and others to have private conversations with the opposite sex – just not in a compromising context. And should an allegation come, I’ve at least attempted to protect myself. Too few churches, organizations and businesses have these policies. You can see our policies in the Resource section of the Leading Edge website.

Protect Your Staff and Volunteers

Second, you have to create an environment that protects your staff from any form of abuse or harassment. Abuse or harassment of any kind will not be tolerated at our church. It must be a safe place for all. We will do all we can not allow physical, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse to exist and persist.

We have a clear policy on this. We have every staff member read and sign that they have read and agree to the policy. Every year in an all staff meeting I review this policy and remind everyone that we find any kind of abuse or harassment unacceptable. Further, I tell the staff that if they ever experience this they must first confront the person doing the harassment or abuse unless they truly fear physical harm. They have the right to express that they are uncomfortable in any situation. If the employee feels they have not been heard or the issue isn’t responded to well enough, or there is retaliation, they have the right to go to the next level of leadership all the way to the church board if needed. In fact, I beg them to take it to the appropriate next level. I want my staff to be responsive. Finally, we are just beginning to set up a group who will be able to receive and process any allegation against a staff person or key volunteer leader.

I shared these ideas and more at a lunch during the last Global Leadership Summit that we hosted at Pantano in August. You can watch the video here. Don’t be stupid! Protect yourself, your staff and your volunteer leaders as well as your whole congregation.

 

You’ve heard it said: “We are better together.” Do you buy that? Leadership is about helping others to excel in accomplishing what is needed for a larger cause. Therefore, leadership requires that we connect well with others. Too many leaders do not connect with people, they just direct people. Too many leaders have never learned good connecting or people skills.

A New Command
Let’s start with Jesus. Jesus said he was giving us a new commandment in John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” The context of this statement is vital. He just announced he would be leaving. He had been preparing his disciples to lead after he departs. They would face persecution as they launched the kingdom of God revolution. They would need each other. They needed to love each other well. While the commandment wasn’t totally new (see Leviticus 19:18), it came with a new standard – they were to love each other “as I have loved you.” If they would love each other as Jesus had loved them, they would have a super strong connection to lead well!

Connection
Leaders must excel in joining with people where love and belonging are experienced. I call this connection. Leading isn’t just about tasks, projects, results and programs. It isn’t just about setting vision and executing new ideas. It must include all of these. Real leadership is about connecting at the human level and leading from that place. Leadership requires a close proximity to those we lead. Jesus again is the supreme example. He didn’t claim Lordship from a distant heaven. He came and lived among us. He loved in a personal incarnational way. He mentored or discipled a group of leaders who changed the world. They loved him and died for him because he first loved them. Jesus connected!

Real leadership might at times have some “command and control” aspects to it, especially in a fire, firefight or crisis. But real leadership, effective leadership, is connected leadership. It is doing Jesus’ new commandment – loving others as Jesus loves us.

What is Connectivity?
Connectivity is a relational place where trust and respect allow two or more people to have an authentic, imperfect, relationship. Vulnerability creates the connection. Trust and respect keeps the connection going. Connectivity requires communication where each person is given grace rather than judgement, trust rather than suspicion. Each person is valued and thus they are heard, even if there are disagreements. In the end, people are built up, nurtured and encouraged by the connection.

How do we Connect?
Let me share the one skill that is critical for connection – listening that leads to empathy. Let me be blunt. There are very few leaders who really listen. It is tempting for leaders to think they have the answers because they are the experienced leader. But there will never be true connection apart from active listening. Just listening is making a connection.

Listening allows a leader to have empathy. In empathy, you feel with someone. You seek to understand what they are feeling and connect to them in that feeling in the present. Empathy is pictured in Stephen Covey’s principle: “Understand before being understood.” It is expressed in the idiom – “Don’t judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes.”

I could add a few more to our list of connectivity behaviors and attitudes such as how to encourage, handling differences, offering grace rather judgement, vulnerability and more. But if you want to lead well and lead your church or organization to a better place, then you have to connect with people. Leadership is about leading people, not leading ministries, groups, projects, events, programs or tasks. Leading requires healthy connectivity within good boundaries. We are better together so connect with others and lead like Jesus!

In observing really good leaders, one of the traits that is almost always present is great self-awareness. Here’s why self-awareness is important in leadership: We need to continually become aware of ourselves so that what we don’t know doesn’t hurt others and damage our ability to lead well. The fact is we all have blind spots and a blind spot can damage our influence and hurt those we are trying to lead.

Years ago my mentor told me he was going to go to counseling. I asked him what problem or challenge he was facing. He said he didn’t know. I was confused and kept pressing him what the “issue” was. He said he didn’t know of anything that was wrong. But it was what he didn’t know that he was concerned about. He went to counseling to discover his blind spots.

Good self-awareness allows us to have an accurate view of ourselves. Why is this important and valuable in leadership? As leaders we have influence in the lives of people – that’s what leadership is. Who we are affects how we lead. And all leaders are sinners. All leaders are flawed. All leaders are broken in some way. All leaders have strengths which should be maximized and weaknesses, that if unchecked, can trip them up and hurt those he or she is leading. Self-awareness is essential if we are going to be able to understand ourselves, which affects how well we interact and serve those we are leading. Leaders who are poor at self-awareness hurt people and don’t even know it. Without good self-awareness, we won’t be able to grow and lead better.

Here’s where we start: You have to want to be more self-aware. It doesn’t just happen. I want to be the best leader I can. I don’t want to hurt the people I lead. We have to really look for clues from others that might be telling us there is something not quite right. You have to choose to develop a self-awareness antenna. Frankly, few leaders get past this point. They don’t want to know their flaws, weaknesses, blind spots or the things hiding in the shadows.

We almost never become more aware on our own. We need others to give us feedback. But it isn’t enough to ask for feedback. We actually have to create a culture or an environment where others know we welcome feedback. Folks need to know we really do want to know ourselves better and that we will act on the feedback given to us. So when we ask for feedback, we can’t become defensive or in any way punish the person giving us feedback. Want to become aware of your blind spots or weaknesses? Ask! Others will see things long before you will. Over the years I’ve learned that I can even learn things in poorly delivered feedback. Even “bad” feedback likely has a kernel of truth in it.

Most of our blind spots are connected to our past. We bury stuff. We cover over the pain. We are good at the denial project. There is stuff that lurks in the shadow that we are not fully aware of. The “shadow” is most dangerous to our personhood and leadership. The past and things that are in the shadow has a way of living in the present, especially without good self-awareness. Past events and our conclusions about those past events become triggers in our present and we as well as those we lead are surprised by what shows up or erupts. We almost always need help, often professional help, to discover and unpack the stuff in the shadows.

There’s a another aspect to self-awareness. We all sin and there are things we are more likely to be tempted by. No one is exempt from powerful temptations. Good self-awareness notices when the conditions in or around us are forming where we might be more vulnerable to temptation. Things like tiredness, certain toxic personalities, or various kinds of stressors might make us more likely to give into temptation and sin. Self-awareness learns to recognize the danger zones so we can make more positive choices.

How do you start? Spend some honest time with God asking him to prepare your heart to be open to feedback. Then ask some trusted friends, other than your spouse, to give you feedback. Pick a specific area or let it be general. Start on surface level or go deeper. This is invaluable to living well and leading well. The more self-aware we become, the more God can shape and mold us to be more like Jesus and lead like Jesus.

Personal worth in many ways has become a worn out idea that mainly ends up being a part of middle school or high school conversations. And we seldom connect personal worth to effective leadership. But I’ve seen it over and over. I’ve heard the painfully true horror stories of leaders who frustrate almost everyone around them. Maybe you work for or have on your team someone who doesn’t perform well or surprises you with behaviors that just are not appropriate. Dig deep enough and I’ll bet you you’ve hit the issue of personal worth. Leaders with lots of charisma, knowledge, skill and experience can lead poorly and even hurt people and the organization if they don’t have a strong sense of personal worth.

Leaders who lack a healthy personal worth not only do bad things, they also diminish others, don’t listen, react in anger, or refuse to take responsibility for failures while being quick to take the credit for successes. Fact is, effective leaders must have a healthy personal worth.

All our lives we try to develop and even create our own personal worth. We do it by trial and error. We end up with a list of “rules” that fall into two categories. Larry Crabb (Effective Biblical Counseling –1977) rightfully observed that all worth is based on two main sets of things we believe about: what makes us secure and what makes us significant. I’m secure when…fill in the blank. I’m significant when…fill in the blank. Personal worth, or being “okay”, happens when we are both secure and significant. I strongly encourage you to take some time to reflect and honestly write out your list of each. I think you’ll be surprised at how long your list is. I was!

The problem is that most of our “rules” for security and significance are often attacked and easily violated, and seldom hold up over the long run. If I’m secure when people like me, well, you know where that is going. If I’m significant when people tell me of my accomplishments, I’ll always be waiting for the encouragement that may never come.

Let me cut to the point. No circumstance or person can provide me or you with consistent, guaranteed significance and security, hence personal worth (that was a huge statement to reflect on!). Only God can. Only God can give you personal worth. Only God can provide you with true security and true significance.

Look at Jesus. In Matthew 3:17 after he was baptized God said to Jesus – “You are loved. You are good.” (my paraphrase). The NIV says: “This is my Son, who I love; with him I am well pleased.” Did you notice that God gave Jesus the basis of his personal worth – he is loved (secure) and God is pleased with him (significance). It is God who gives us significance, security, and thus worth.

As a leader, it is essential that we develop our personal worth on the one source that is unshakeable. We WILL lead out of our personal worth, whether good or bad – guaranteed. If our personal worth is shaky, so will our reactions when it is hurt, damaged or diminished. But when our worth is based on God, we’ll not only weather the storms, but we’ll thrive as leaders.

I’ve prepared a 15 minute video on personal worth that is part of our Next Level leadership development training. Click here to watch if you’d like to go a bit deeper and feel free to share it.

One last thing. The Global Leadership Summit is coming August 9, 10. The cost is $109 through our partner 4Tucson. Click here for information. I’ve attended 13 years in a row and gained so much that has shaped my life and leadership. It’s the best leadership conference for the money!

 

What’s THE most important trait of a leader? Can we even find one key trait that all great leaders must possess? Here’s a common list that will show up in this discussion.

  • Courage and boldness!
  • The ability to motivate!
  • Empowering and developing other leaders!
  • Emotional intelligence or EQ (emotional quotient like empathy, self-awareness, transparency, self-control, connecting skills, etc.)!
  • Vision!
  • A great strategic mind!
  • The ability to communicate well!
  • Integrity!

All of these are essential qualities of a great leader. And we could add more like execution and collaboration. But I believe there is one trait that has greater influence in leadership than all others? I’ve been a student of leadership now for 40 years and I believe that humility is the one trait that is the most important of all.

This trait allows all the other important traits to exist, grow and flourish. It births essential traits like self-awareness, collaboration, vulnerability and transparency, servant leadership, the ability to be a continual learner, character integrity and so much more. All leaders have weaknesses and shortcomings. This trait allows leaders to admit they are not the perfect complete package. Humility allows leaders to surround themselves with people who can balance their deficiencies using their unique gifts and skills.

Leaders can be “successful” without humility. Leaders, in and out of pride, can grow a church or run a company that shows amazing results and can even gain the respect of others. But in the end, a lack of humility will keep them from a bigger potential that will never be realized. And worse, a lack of humility will keep a leader from giving away their very best, whatever that is, to build up others. Success wins the day. Humility leaves a legacy. Today comes and goes, but a legacy is what lasts.

What is humility? It is a choice! Humility is not natural, rather we choose to be humble. The core meaning in the word humility is to “lower oneself.” In humility, we lower ourselves for benefit of others. The decision to lower ourself is letting go and giving away what we possess to help and serve others. What might we have to give away? Power, influence, position, status, resources (time, money, knowledge, abilities), comfort, safety, recognition, or even our own advancement. Humility is lowering ourselves and letting go of what we have & possess for good of others.

This is so important that I’d like you to watch a 16 minute video I did on humility. It is part of our the Seven Non-Negotiable Traits of a Leader that is core to our Next Level Leadership development strategy at Pantano. The link is below and there is also a humility video guide on the Leading Edge website you can access before you watch. The guide has lots of practical ideas on how to grow your humility and a good list of books and resources to help you grow in this area.

HUMILITY

There are too few really humble leaders. Make yourself the best leader you can be. It starts and ends with humility. Humility is a choice. We can learn to be humble.

Here’s my first Leading Edge blog post! Thanks for subscribing! I thought I would start my blog with the 4 books I recommend to every church leader. We all learn to lead in different ways. Conferences are great. Mentoring is essential. Experience is invaluable. But reading is one of the key ways I learn and most leaders learn. I can’t encourage you enough to make the discipline of reading a priority.

The books I share below are books that I actually took our leadership team through and we used to develop our ministry. These books prompted hours of prayer and reflection on my part which led to leadership retreats, meetings, and eventually new ways of doing church. I especially recommend these books for anyone who has recently become a lead pastor or started a church or is ready to turn their church around. I believe these books, though some have a church focus, have many applications to non-profits and businesses as well.

#1 Church Unique – How Missional Leaders Cast Vision, Capture Culture, and Create Movement by Will Mancini. You can see by the title and subtitle how critical this book is. When I first became the Lead Pastor of Pantano I took my executive team through this book and we develop our “vision frame.” The vision frame is the clarity of your vision surrounded by a frame that covers your mission mandate, your values and motives, your key strategies and the mark or measurements of success. This has provided us a guide and blueprint for moving our church toward truly impacting our culture.

See the Church Unique Visual Summary pdf on the Leading Edge website under resources.

#2 The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. In 2012, God made it clear to me that the health of our staff and church was to be a priority. That same year The Advantage was published – thank God! Lencioni maintains that organizational health is dependent on a cohesive leadership team that has and communicates clarity. I took our executive team through the book and we developed our playbook from the 6 questions that create clarity.  

Click here and go to “Free Tools and Resources” for a summary of the principles or disciplines of The Advantage. See our Pantano Christian Church Playbook 2.0 pdf on the Leading Edge website under resources.

#3  Deep and Wide – Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend by Andy Stanley. This is a must read book if you want to reach unchurched people while serving those who already follow Jesus. This book provides inspiration as well as practical strategies to help people find God and a church community. I’ve had all my key leaders read and discuss this book!

#4 The 4 Disciplines of Execution – Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals by McChesney, Covey and Huling. Our entire leadership now focuses on one big WIG (Wildly Important Goal) at a given moment. That’s the first discipline. But big important goals don’t just happen. Execution is actually rare in most organizations. The other three disciplines help you execute: acting on lead measures, developing a scorecard and then creating accountability. We practice this for every WIG and the results have been stellar. See the overview video here, the content overview here and the summary of The Four Disciplines of Execution pdf on the Leading Edge website under resources.

I would read the books in the order I listed them. But make the commitment to actually do the work each requires. And honestly, it will take you a long time, likely years, to actually do what these books suggest. But the results are so worth it.

And please share with us some of your “must read” books and why they are a must read!

I want to invite you to subscribe to my new blog – Leading Edge. I’ve called it this because being a leader is in fact living on the edge! Everyday, as leaders, we face new and sometimes uncharted challenges. For leaders to be effective we must continually be learners and that’s the heart of what Leading Edge is all about. I’ve committed myself to being a lifelong leadership learner and I want to share with you some of what I’m  discovering and using.

My blogs will be a combination of offering best leadership practices, conversations on the character of a leader and lots of encouragement for leaders of churches, schools, non-profits, social agencies and businesses. I want to help you lead well and stay on the leading edge. I’ve found I have a gift for being able to sort through the massive amount of resources and ideas for leaders and I want to help direct you to the topics and tools that will be the most helpful and useful.

Why another blog? There’s one reason. I believe with all my heart that God wants to bring his influence into our world. That influence is what the Bible calls the Kingdom of God. Jesus asked us to pray: Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And healthy, effective, wise leaders of character are essential for creating organizations and platforms that help people bring God’s influence into our world. I believe, more than ever, our churches, non-profits and businesses need the best leaders possible to make a positive difference both now and for eternity.

With just over 40 years of leading in various venues and cultures, I want to encourage you and help you lead better. And I want to learn from you so I can continue to grow and lead better! I’m looking forward to your feedback.

Subscribe to the Blog

I’ll post my blogs every 2nd and 4th Monday. I’ll try to keep the blogs to about a page with an occasional one being a bit longer! Click here to subscribe!  And of course you are free to unsubscribe at any time. In fact if you don’t find the blog helpful, take a moment to let me know why; to help me figure out how to be more helpful to others. Either way, I won’t be offended! And please forward this to others and encourage them to subscribe too!

The Leading Edge Website

This website will supplement what I include in my blog. I’ll post additional or supportive content on the website that you can reference. The resources will include things like book links, podcasts, extra notes, charts, pictures or any resource that will help you lead better.

I look forward being on the leading edge with you,