I make an effort to be a continual learner. I believe effective leaders must be constant learners to grow their own self-awareness, understand our changing culture and learn from the wisdom and mistakes of others. I continually read books and articles, listen to podcasts, attend conferences and ask questions whenever I’m meeting with other leaders to keep learning.
I was listening to a podcast by Donald Miller and Andy Stanley (Episodes #122 and #123) and as often happens, there was one conversation that as soon as I heard it I said in my head; “YES! That’s so true!” Sometimes others put into words what we instinctively know. And their conversation was about a critical part of great leadership that doesn’t get enough attention.
Here’s what Andy Stanley said that we need to be reminded of over and over. People follow clarity more than character. Now, he was quick to assure us that character matters. Further, Stanley noted that people will say that the character of a leader is the most important aspect in their decision to follow a leader. But in reality, people will follow the clear message, or clear vision of a leader, even if they have doubts about his or her character. Why? An effective vision, mission, and purpose are all tied to clarity and people need clarity, not ambiguity. There’s too much noise and too many distractions in our world and anything short of being crystal clear won’t be heard. More than ever, folks want and need the clarity of a compelling vision, mission and purpose. And great leaders provide that.
In the podcast, Miller and Stanley invited us to test the “theory” out. They asked the audience what the vision and slogan was of the last two presidential candidates who won. Almost everyone can remember the themes, slogans and chants of Barack Obama (Change and Yes We Can) and Donald Trump (Make America Great Again). No one remembers the themes, slogans or chants of those who lost. Often (not always) they did not present a clear vision. But this isn’t about politics, so please don’t go down that road. This is about clarity, regardless of whether you agree with a particular candidate or not. People respond to a clear message. By the way, if you want to have some fun with this, go to the list of presidential campaign slogans throughout American history and you can see not just who actually won, but the slogans that are winners and losers – go to Wikipedia Campaign Slogans.
Now to the one who really matters…Jesus. There was never a leader who was more clear than Jesus! The clarity of Jesus literally knocks you over, especially if you have any spiritual sensitivity. That is one of the two reasons why 49 years ago I decided to follow Jesus (the other was that after reading his teachings, I wanted to be like his teachings and like him). Listen to the clarity of Jesus as to why he came and his purpose in Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We remember the clarity of our main priority found in Matthew 22:37-40 – Love God. Love others. And he was so clear about our mission in Matthew 28:19-20 – Go everywhere and make disciples!
Do YOU have clarity in your vision? Do you really know where you are going? Are you crystal clear on where you are leading your church or organization? If I sit with you, can you in 3 minutes or less, give me a clear sense of where you are taking your organization? If I’m trying to get to know you and your organization, I don’t care about the hows (methods) and whats (programs or services). I want to know if you can tell me clearly where we are going and why I should be a part of it.
Is the mission clear? No military can ever succeed without a clear mission. A mission is what we are doing right now. It’s our job. What’s the mission you are inviting me into that will make a difference? Is there enough clarity that I actually, on my own or with others, engage and do the mission? Do you remind me about it over and over?
Is there clarity about your path and plan to make disciples? If I walk into your church, visit for a few weeks, will I have absolute clarity about my next step is to engage and grow in my faith? Are the steps toward becoming more like Jesus clear? Is there a roadmap that I can follow? It might literally be “step 1, step 2…” We use this process: Starting Point (that’s where you start if you are new or finally ready to start), Discover (to discover your next step), Launching Point (to help launch you into the community or service). It doesn’t matter what the language or program is, but that you have clarity and it is communicated consistently so it can’t me missed. Make it easy to engage!
I’ve talked about this in previous blogs, but our Sunday messages or sermons must be so clear that they are memorable, actionable and portable. I attended a church whose pastor is well known and respected for great Bible teaching. I went with good anticipation, listened carefully and took notes. After my wife and I left I was so disappointed. The teacher went through a chapter of the Bible with some interesting points. But I left without any clear action I could take and without any key point or organizing principle that I could share with others. It was great information, but it gave me no clear path for transformation or application. Is your message clear?
Patrick Lencioni wrote one of the top five books I recommend for Lead Pastors, Presidents, CEO’s or anyone in charge of their organization. His book, The Advantage – Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business has one main, clear point – clarity is what is core to organizational health. He has four disciplines that create clarity. It’s worth the read!
There is so much power in clarity to lead people to a better place. Have I been clear?…..
If you know someone who might be helped by the Leading Edge blog, invite them to subscribe here.