Developing Your Personal Leadership Style

I write a lot about leadership principles.  The bookshelves are full of leadership books.  There are wonderful principles about leadership that can help a person be a better leader.  I would encourage every leader or aspiring leader to continually learn from great leaders and attempt to develop and grow their leadership skills.

One principle of leadership that must be understood, however, is that every leader must develop his or her individual leadership style.  All leaders need to have a style that is unique to them.

Leaders should not use individuality as an excuse for inadequacy and excellence should be a standard for all leaders. There are key leadership principles, especially Biblical principles that no leader can ignore, but the goal should never be to carbon copy another person’s leadership style.  Just as every individual is unique in his or her personality, every leader will have uniqueness in his or her leadership style.  Great leaders figure out the style that works best for them to produce the greatest results.

Have you been trying to be someone else with your leadership style?

Communicating the Personal Vision Within My Head

One of the greatest challenges I feel the pressure of regularly is putting the big picture vision I own in my head into an easy to understand, explainable format for people who do not live the vision of our church 24 hours a day and 7 days a week as I do.  This is what God has called me to do, but others have their own calling and responsibilities in life.

It is hard for those we lead to get inside our head, but if we want to earn and keep trust and credibility in our leadership, then we must learn to share broad visions in terms, which can easily be understood.

I realize that is precisely the idea behind vision and mission statements, but even those are broad statements.  There are plenty of resources for communicating the overall organization’s vision.  I am referring to the dreams I am currently dreaming and the specific goals and objectives that we want to attempt as an organization.   In order to share my heart for the more detailed levels of our ministry requires more diligence in communicating on my part. Many leaders assume others are following, but later realize their followers never fully understood the personal vision of the leader.

This is a work in progress for me, but here are my current thoughts of what I must do to continually communicate my personal vision for the church:

  • Communicate regularly
  • Use different communication techniques and mediums for different listening types
  • Use language, which is understandable to the audience
  • Do not assume others know what I am talking about…they may not
  • Speak openly and transparently

Does anyone else understand this challenge?  Do you struggle with this too?

What other suggestions do you have for me in sharing my heart with those around me?

Leadership Requires Guts

The call to leadership often requires making difficult decisions no one else is willing to make. Over the years I have observed people who call themselves leaders, but they easily give up when difficult times come to the organization. Leaders should strive to structure the organization to weather storms, but in any organization there will be times when hard decisions have to be made and a leader must be willing to make them for the good of the organization. This does not negate the need for servant leadership, but it is a reminder that leading often requires making decisions no one else is willing to make:

Times such as:

  • When an employee is no longer a good fit…
  • When difficult changes need implementing…
  • When no one seems to agree with your decisions…
  • When you have to say no more than you get to say yes…
  • When a current system is broke…
  • When finances are strained…
  • When a new opportunity or direction presents itself…

A person that seeks to be a leader should look deep in his or her gut before they accept the position of leadership and consider if he or she has the ability to make the tough calls. As momma used to say, “If you can’t stand the heat…get out of the kitchen.”

Do you have the guts to be a leader?

What is the most difficult decision you have had to make as a leader?

When An Organization or Business Can Be Inflexible

The vision or end goal or an organization or business should be consistent, but the way the vision is reached should mostly be flexible. As demands of consumers or clients change, as the economy changes, or if improvements need to be made to the existing methods of reaching the defined vision, an organization or business needs to remain flexible to tweaking the way it attempts to reach its set goals.

3347763849_3c7d5ed428There are times, however, when an organization or business can be totally inflexible.  Take my favorite Philadelphia breakfast dive, Little Pete’s Diner.  Little Pete has been doing the same thing, in the same building, with no remodeling and no major changes to their huge menu for years.   They are cash only, 2 people minimum per booth (NO EXCEPTIONS), they are not keen on substitutions (trust me), you get 2 minutes to decide on your order, and they turn tables quickly.  It’s a typical no nonsense diner that has won countless “Best Of” awards, but they are the way they are and they aren’t changing anytime soon.  Why? They offer the best breakfast in central city Philly and have good, cheap food 24 hours a day and people often wait to get a seat. Bottom line: they don’t have to, that’s why.

Here are some reasons I can think of that an organization can be inflexible:

  • When it is the best at what it does and there is no close second.
  • When there is no competition.
  • When demand for the product or service far exceeds supply.

For the rest of us, we may need to consider remaining flexible in our methods if we want to continue to realize our goals.  (Just ask General Motors about this principle!)

Guest Post: Creating Systems For Worship Teams

2349_64241154877_678929877_2148714_488_nI decided my 18 year-old son’s latest post was important enough to steal it from him. I only wish I had written this first.  Great thoughts.  Nate has led in our student worship area for the last couple years and done an amazing job.  Our church is going to miss him this fall as he begins his college days at Moody Bible College in Chicago.  You can follow Nate’s thoughts at his blog Moons from Burma.

Here is Nate’s post on Creating Systems for Worship Teams:

For any organization to maximize its potential, GREAT systems have to be in place. You can have poor systems and still reach your potential, but your potential will just not be very potent.

One of the most important areas of church world is the worship team. If a church wants to maximize the potential of their worship environment, then it obviously makes sense that a GREAT system would have to be in place. The problem is this: the system builder types are typically not on the worship team. Usually the worship team consists of extremely abstract/creative people and people that simply want to help setup and tear down stuff. Both are vital to the team, but neither is especially gifted at building systems.

The temptation is to just let the worship environment take care of itself, because after all, creative ideas are probably flourishing already. However, creative ideas are not a system. If your goal is to maximize potential, you need a great system; which means you need a system builder. You need someone who can sit down and figure out how to get every part of the worship team on the same page; someone who can build a framework in which the creative ideas can be executed. Every second of the worship time needs to have been thought through with an ultimate purpose in mind.

The reality is that most worship leader positions are filled based on musicianship and vocal ability, not on LEADING ability. There are multiple types of leading that must be done in order to truly LEAD worship, and I would argue that the majority of it takes place behind the scenes on Monday and Tuesday, not on stage Sunday. So, if you are going to really take your church somewhere in terms of worship, you need a system in place. What that ultimately means is that you need a leader in your worship area… in addition to an artist.

Systems can be hard to build for a group of abstract/unstructured people, but ultimately there needs to be a great one to maximize your potential. You need structure to succeed, which also means you need a structured person on the team.

How does your church systematize its worship environment?

Congratulations Lithuania on 1,000 Years! (How to make a vision last!)

125px-Flag_of_Lithuania.svgJust a couple days after our own celebration of independence as a country, today I want to honor another country.

We had the opportunity our last night in Lithuania to attend an opening weekend of celebrations for Lithuania’s 1000th anniversary. Thousands of people crowded the streets of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, to hear presentations, sing songs of pride, watch period dances and have a good time. Lithuanians love to celebrate.

I cannot imagine history in terms of the thousands, but it is standard in this part of the world. One thing that spoke highly to me is the pride that was displayed in the people that night. For one thousand years the country has suffered periods of wars, domination and corruption, but one thousand years later they still have pride in their nation. I love the perseverance in that fact.

As someone who studies organizations and leadership I think there are lessons to be learned from us in this. For 1,000 year the Lithuanian people have:

  • Continued with a common vision of pride in country
  • Rallied together during stressful times to promote their continuance as a nation
  • Made the best of the situation when bad circumstances faced the country
  • Worked to consistently improve their circumstances
  • Celebrated the good times

Could your organization take lessons from the Lithuanian people?

Happy Anniversary Lithuania!

Video Messaging (Using Technology to Stay Connected)

My 18 year old son Nate is serving as an intern this Summer for Michael Bayne our family minister working primarily with middle and high school students.  Recently he took it upon himself and made this video announcement to send to the students.  It reminds me that the methods of communicating with our people are changing every day.  Are you staying current?  Does your church use Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and video messaging to stay current?

Maybe you need to take a lesson from the next generation of leaders too of how best to contact your people.

The Loneliness of Leadership

I was talking with a friend the other day that is having to make some difficult decisions for his organization that he knows are right and necessary, but he also knows they will be very unpopular and he will most likely lose friendships over the decisions he has to make.  I was able to remind him of something all leaders need to know.

There is sometimes loneliness in leadership that cannot be avoided.  Don’t offer to lead if you are not willing to sometimes stand-alone.

Even in the best team environment there will be times when the direction the organization needs to go involves making decisions, which adversely affect the rest of the team. Consider, for example, some of the hard decisions the United States auto industry is being forced to make to remain viable.  The companies that survive that crisis may be the ones who are willing to make the hardest choices.

There have been times when I have to have hard conversations, correct people who are wrong, force my views on others or follow through on the plan I think is best for the organization, even though it is unpopular, all because I happen to wear the leader hat.  That responsibility should never be abused as an excuse for dictatorship or poor leadership, but loneliness sometimes comes with the territory of being a leader.

Leading People To Make a Positive Impact

I have been writing this week about the need to plan as a church for the future.  I shared yesterday about three questions our staff worked through at a recent staff retreat to brainstorm.  You can read that post HERE.  Another exercise we went through was the 20-60-20 Principle. (Some will say this is 10-90-10)

This can be a controversial principle, because it appears at first glance that an organization is strategizing to leave a group of people out of the equation, but really this strategy helps the entire organization be more successful, eventually improving things for everyone involved in the organization, even those in the last 20%.  This principle assumes that in any organization:

20% of the people are on board with what the organization is doing and wants to see the organization reach its full potential.  These people understand and believe in the vision and are usually willing to contribute to its success.

60% of the people are just along for the ride and can be pulled in either direction towards a positive or negative view of the organization.  They can be new to the organization or they have never been challenged to get involved.

20% of the people tend to be negative, uninterested or just passing through.  They typically will resist any changes and do not contribute to the overall success of the organization.  They are complainers by nature in any environment in which they are a part.

The problem is that most organizations (especially churches) tend to cater to the last 20% in an attempt to make them happy or keep them quiet.  The challenge and goal for any organization should be to spend energy and attention developing the top 20% so they will pull the 60% in their direction.  With this approach the last 20%, those who are currently creating negative energy in the organization, will either join in the excitement or be forced to look for an organization they can fully support.  Unfortunately, some of these people will leave if they do not get their way and will most likely join the same negative 20 % in another organization.

Is your church or organization concentrating most of its energy on people who really are never going to support the success of the organization?

Results of Brainstorming At Our Staff Retreat

Yesterday I posted about the need for a church to plan for the future.  You can read that post HERE. In that post I shared three questions our staff worked through at our last extended staff retreat at Grace Community Church.

The questions were:

  1. Missing Holes
    What needs developing?
  2. Dying Momentum
    What needs tweaking or killing?
  3. Gaining Momentum
    What needs energy/additional resources right now?

Here are some bullet points these questions led us to think through.  While I realize you will not understand some of them, they will help to see the types of thoughts generated with this type of brainstorming.   (Thanks to Christy Crosby on our staff for these notes.)

Missing Holes


  • Recruiting Volunteers
  • Surveys
  • Networking
    • Mentoring


    • On Stage (in message, announcements, worship leaders, videos)
    • Bulletins
    • Grace Weekly
    • Website
    • Blogs, Facebook
    • Flyer/Handout


    • Overlapping
    • An update at the beginning of the week of what is coming, a briefing email?


    • Creating an atmosphere for people to fellowship on Sunday mornings
    • Are we friendly on the surface but hard to connect with
    • Ask Me? button

    Dying Energy

    • Dead Zone in the Hall, after service starts
    • Set up & Tear Down
    • Core Momentum
    • Dream session?

    Gaining Momentum

    • Gathering – excitement is back
    • Relevant Student Ministry– Camps, Remix
    • Cross Street Live-Promotion in Clarksville Family, Billboards
    • Evangelism/Baptism Effort – Re-enforcing it in EVERY area
    • Community Presence – Rivers and Spires, Operation Serve
    • Stickier – Not as big of a back door
    • Credibility – In community and in the church circles
    • Volunteers – Ready to invest in other volunteers, training
    • Community Groups – Learning from each other

    Of course, the key now will be actually implementing some of this, but that will need to be the subject of another post.