In 2001 Jim Collins came out with his landmark book – Good to Great. In 2005 he came out with a follow up for churches and nonprofits called Good to Great and the Social Sector. There’s so many great applications from these two books. We’ve used many of the concepts in our church over the years. The one that has actually stood out the most to me was Collins’s view of the five levels of leadership. Here’s a summary of the five levels. As you read these, consider where you actually live today and where you want to be in the future. Try to be honest with yourself.

Level 1: The Highly Capable Individual
This is the kind of person who has a lot to offer. They make a contribution because they have knowledge, talent, and skills needed to do a really good job.

Level 2: The Contributing Team Member
This person not only has skills and knowledge, but is a good team member who works well with others to help the team to be effective, productive, and successful.

Level 3: The Competent Manager
This person is able to organize a group of people to execute specific projects, programs, and goals.

Level 4:  Effective Leader
This person leads a department or organization to accomplish a vision by executing key goals. There are lots of top leaders who are able to do this.

Level 5: The Great Leader
This kind of leader can take a good church or organization and make it a great one. This leader has all the knowledge, capabilities and skills of the other four levels but they have one more key asset. They have the unique blend of HUMILITY and WILL that is essential for the greatness of the organization.

Humility and will! This is ingenious. I’ve observed a special and critical connection between these two traits in leadership. I’ve written often about the importance of humility. My third blog was about humility and I called it “The Greatest Trait.” It is the first and most important of my Seven Non-negotiable Traits of a Leader (you can access the videos here – register to get a login permission). Most leaders primarily rely on a strong persona and a strong will to be a great leader. They can view this as being large and in charge. I often remind leaders that they can’t be very successful without humility. A strong will gets things done for sure. No leader will be great without humility.

Humility and a strong will seem to be contradictory at first, but together, they make for a great leader. They are the core of what it means to care for people and get things done. Both are essential for greatness in a church, non-profit, business or any organization.

Think about the greatest leader ever – Jesus. What humility! The very fact that he left the privilege of heaven and came to earth was an act of humility. His willingness to sacrifice his life for those he created was an act of humility (see Philippians 2:6-8). He used all his resources, knowledge, character, his very life, for our benefit.

What strong will, too. Jesus was no wimp. He knew his purpose and didn’t let friend or foe distract him from his mission. In three years he got out his message and trained eleven guys who started a movement that changed the world. Against overwhelming odds, he endured more than any of us will ever experience and overcame every obstacle and challenge to offer humanity a living hope.

What does a level 5 leader really look like and do? How do we lead like Jesus? It takes intentional effort to become a person of strong will and an observable humility. Here are some specific descriptions, attitudes, actions and skills that help us develop and grow our humility and will. What specific things might you add?

Traits of Humility

  • Genuine – you are authentic. There’s no pretense. You are the same person when standing in front of your staff or congregation as you are when you are standing beside an entry level worker.
  • Servant attitude – your focus is not to make yourself successful but to help everyone else be successful. You’re willing to make the costly investments in others to help them grow and develop. You consistently are thinking about others and putting them first. You are about setting up others up for success.
  • Team player – you value and practice collaboration. You know that the best comes from a team with all their unique perspectives and gifts. You work to create not just unity in your team, but you go the extra mile to make sure each team member is appropriately challenged and supported. You model and help each team member be a contributor and to support the contributions of each other. A humble leader channels their ambition into the team rather than himself or herself. Humble leaders hire great people, often who are better than they are, and empower them to lead well.
  • Celebrity adverse – you don’t talk about yourself. You’re not seeking to be the celebrity or be in the spotlight. In fact, you are intentional to put the spotlight on others. Rather than looking for praise, appreciation and affirmation, you work hard to give those same things to others. You look for literally every opportunity to recognize great character, a job well done, an insightful contribution or whatever in others. You look for ways to express and show appreciation. This kind of leader is compelling, but modest. They are never boastful. By the way, in Collin’s research, he found that many of the best leaders never wrote a book.
  • Looking out the window – I love this picture Jim Collins gives. He says as a humble leader you look out the window to others, rather than in the mirror to yourself. You give credit to others when things go well and take the blame when things go wrong.
  • Common words used to describe a humble leader: quiet, modest, reserved, gracious, calm, mild-mannered, self-effacing, and understated.

Here’s the bottom line question of being humble. Do you lead to make others and the organization successful or do you lead others to make you successful?

Traits of a Strong Will

  • Intense resolve and resilience – you will do whatever needs to be done to make the organization great. No challenge, hindrance or obstacle will dissuade you. While modest and humble, a level 5 leader is anything but weak. They experience fear, but act for the good of others in spite of the fear (hence they are seen as fearless). They are so sold out to their cause that they will endure the lows and hard times.
  • Clear catalyst in achieving results – you are fanatically driven with an incurable need to produce sustainable results. You excel in great ideas and vision, but what makes you great is your ability to consistently execute those ideas.
  • Dedication to the organization – you will do anything that’s legal, moral and God honoring to make your organization great. You are devoted to your work while maintaining your own balance, equilibrium, health and important relationships.
  • Strong work ethic – you model self-sacrifice and others see that you are more “workhorse” than “show horse.” Key to this quality is that you are self-motivated. You set your own goals and standards and do your best to live by them. You have a passion that shapes how invested you are in your team and the organization. Finally, you live by a “whatever it takes” attitude.

So great leaders, or level 5 leaders, have this unusual combination of a very strong will and a humble character. This allows them to aim not for their success, but for the success of the organization, however that success is defined.

If you got this far in reading, let me tell you that this will be my final blog until early July. I take the month of June off as my annual “sabbath.” I use this month to unplug from work and the daily stress of the continual production cycles. I’ve found it is an essential part in keeping me healthy by providing rest and renewal. So, I’ll be back in July!

We just hosted our tenth Global Leadership Summit at our church (my fourteenth attending). It was outstanding again. We spent a couple years developing what we call Next Level Leadership – a leadership development system to help leaders grow to the next level. I am constantly reading and looking for what’s new out there in our culture, business, technology and the church world. Why? Great leaders must be lifelong learners.

Here’s why. Everything changes. And everything is changing faster than ever. The maps we used in the past to navigate have changed. The tools (it is called technology) we use change faster than ever. Any leader who gets stuck in the past will hurt his or her organization. And what breaks my heart is that there are so many unhealthy and dying churches and businesses because leadership refuses to learn or try new ways. The message of the Bible never changes. But our methods of sharing that message must change.

Leaders lead by setting the example. Leaders must create a culture of learning and change. Will you allow your team, ministry or church be open to appropriate change or will you be stuck and find it difficult to reach lost people or the “new” client in our changing culture? We must be lifelong learners. We don’t throw out our knowledge and experience of the past, but we hold it lightly knowing that in fact there may be better ways that we have not yet learned or tried.  

I’m not an alarmist, but the alternative to being a fanatical learner-leader is a slow march to irrelevance. If you are not actively learning, then you are stuck and will move toward decline both for you personally and for the group you lead. You have moved from being a pioneer (an idea the Bible uses) to being a settler. You have a fixed mindset when a flexible one is needed. Your focus is on maintaining comfort, ease and safety. You resist change and keep things heading toward a slow but steady death – including your own. You are or will become protective, defensive, reactive and backward looking. Leadership must be forward looking. That’s what leaders do. And to be forward looking we have to assume we don’t have the future all figured out. We look forward to see the future. As Craig Groeschel said at the 2018 Global Leadership Summit – “Change or die!”

A learning leader in humility wants to be a leader that gets better and better. What does a learner look like? Here are some of the things that help me continue to grow as a lifelong learner:

  • Keep your curiosity and the joy of discovery alive. Keep asking good questions.
  • Stay humble and even admit to what you don’t know.
  • Keep pushing yourself in areas of discomfort. Take risks. It is in the unknown that we learn the best and it forces us to learn.
  • Read and listen lots! Listen to podcasts and read books that you know you won’t fully agree with and challenge your thinking. Commit to attending the Global Leadership Summit in August 8-9, 2019.
  • Hang around with people of different backgrounds who think, act and believe differently.
  • Ask for feedback on how you can do better or become better.
  • Get a mentor. Go to counseling. Join an online mentoring group. Take an annual or regular retreat to reflect, think and explore new ideas and practices.

My personal commitment is to keep learning and growing right up until I quit breathing. And in case you didn’t realize it, if you are an authentic disciple of Jesus, then you are a lifelong student and learner – that’s what “disciple” means. We are not done until we live 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.