Lesson 3 : Ten observations on contemporary leadership
Series: Developing a leadership culture
As you will notice my first shift has gone home, the second shift is here but I’m still having to work. They are taking turns, I should be able to take turns too. Let’s talk about the ten observations on contemporary leadership:
1. A leader is someone who has followers.
There are a lot of people who go around saying I’m a leader, but if you have no followers you’re not a leader. Dr John Maxwell said it this way: he says, if you’re out there walking around and you look behind you and no one is following you, you’re just taking a walk. But leaders look behind them and they have people behind them because some of the people who are in leadership are not necessarily people with positions and titles. Some of the most influential people in your ministries don’t have any titles, don’t have any positions and yet they have a big influence in the life of the ministry.
2. Leadership begins with self leadership
We concentrate on ourselves. If I had a helium balloon with gas in my hands and I let it go, where is it going to stop? It’s going to stop at the ceiling. Is that not true? Now, does the helium balloon have the capacity to go higher. The helium balloon can go higher so what’s holding it down? It is the ceiling. So for the helium balloon to go higher I need to raise the ceiling. My brother, my sister, as leaders you and I are the ceiling.
We spend so much time talking about the helium balloons, we talk about the helium balloons, we try to encourage the helium balloon and all that is great and wonderful but the best way to increase your capacity, is to raise your ceiling. And as you raise your ceiling those balloons that are your followers they can go higher. That’s what the beauty of today is all about.
Before the break I said I came to push your horizons but now I’m saying to you I’m here to raise your ceiling, because if I can raise your ceiling then those who have been following you, who have been close to the ceiling they can go higher themselves. But how do we raise our ceiling? How do we do that? There are some things that you can do about it. The most important thing you can do is to ask yourself the simple question: where have I stopped growing? What area of my life do I need to lift up? And then to put a plan behind that to do that. You see, once you know where you’re going you can plan accordingly.
Yesterday afternoon we left for Boston but before we got to Boston, I had several steps I had to go through, I rose up early in the morning, because I knew that I wouldn’t be there for my wedding anniversary tomorrow, I went to the florist, got a dozen roses, put some cards together and I had it in the room even before she got up, then I packed my suitcase, I looked at the weather in Boston, in Boston you never know, it can get cold all of a sudden, so I packed my clothes, made sure I had all my notes, then I went my car, I drove to the airport, I parked my car, I met Eric at the airport, we went to the ticket counter, we got our seats, we went through security, went to the gate, got on the plane. Do you get the picture? For me to get to Boston, there were some steps I had to take.
You will never to your leadership capacity by been just casual about it. You’ve got to be intentional about it. And anything you get intentional about you spend money on it. Relax, I’m not going to sell you anything. Maybe next we’ll bring some tapes and books but this time we didn’t bring anything. Wonder what it would be like if you said to yourself from here on every month I will spend 20 dollars on me? I’m going to buy some books, some tapes, subscribe to some journal, go to some conferences, because you see, unless you are committed to raising your ceiling, one of two things are going to happen, or 3 things are going to happen.
- If that helium balloon if its up there too long it’s going to get smaller and smaller and pretty soon it’ll come down
- That helium balloon will get tired of being up there and keep pushing up against the ceiling and the ceiling will keep pushing it back and there’s going to be conflict.
- The helium balloon is going to find a window in the ceiling and go somewhere else with the ceiling is higher.
But none of those things have to happen. If you commit yourself to raising your ceiling and think as I improve myself everybody around me improves. If I’m a better husband my wife’s life improves, if I’m a better father family life improves, if I’m better president of a college the whole college improves. It all has to do with me as a ceiling. Because I’m the speaker today I become the ceiling on this event today.
To stay fresh I read every day, I read at least one book every week, I read magazines, I subscribe to journals, I subscribe to three email leadership letters every Monday. I literally spend hundreds of dollars to keep increasing my level. If you’re a Sunday school teacher, ask yourself this simple question: what do you need to do to increase your ceiling? If you’re in the worship and music department, what do you need to do to increase your ceiling? If you’re a preacher, tomorrow you’ll be preaching the word but we all know that all of us can improve, so what am I going to do to improve my ceiling? Because everybody can improve and that means that I have to be committed to self leadership.
3. Leaders ask what needs to be done and how can I make a difference.
What needs to be done and how can I make a difference? That simply means this: that no job is too small for you. If you’re walking past the bathroom in the church and the toilet is overflowing, go in there. Don’t look for a deacon over toilets, just go and do it. If you’re walking pass the Sunday school class and the chairs in there are out of line, go in the room, straighten it up and then don’t come out of the room telling everybody how you did it.
Leaders find the need and meet it. Whatever you’ve got to do, you do it. You may not have the title of an usher but there are too many people in the church get up and help people move. If you’re a member of a church and there’s not enough seats in the church for visitors, get up and give them your seat. But in church many don’t want to do that. Whatever you’ve got to do you just do it. If you’re walking out of the church and somebody left a candy wrapper on the floor, bend over and pick it up. Whatever you have to do, just do it. What we usually do is we’ve got to find fault with how come it was not done. Anybody can criticize, anybody can hold you down but it needs some people to lift you up. Watch me. If I’m holding you down, where am I going? I’m going down. But if I’m lifting you up, where am I going? I’m going higher. Lift others, lift others, lift others. Whatever you have to do, you have to do that.
4. Leaders are not afraid of having strong associates.
I can always tell the caliber of a leader by the kind of people that are surrounding them. If I see a leader and everyone around them is under them, that tells me that leader is not very secure. But if I see a leader who’s got leaders that are stronger than him or her around them, that’s a good leader. A good leader has people better than him surrounding him. So when you’re looking for somebody don’t try to look for people under you, always look for people who are better than you, because when they go up, you go up.
I’m a president of a college, but I have no idea about academic counseling, I don’t know how curriculum works, I no anything about financial aid, I don’t know and I don’t want to know, that’s why I hire deans and financial aid counselors, they’re better than me, they can do it better than me and because they do it better than me I’m free to what I need to do. But if I start to do everybody else’s job…
Think for a moment, think about computers. We offer online courses from our college, if you want to find out more you can go to www.beulah.org. I don’t know anything about computers, I can barely do email, I don’t know all that stuff. But if I was the kind of leader who said: you know, we want to do computers, but I am the leader and I have to know everything, I have to be better than everybody, and everybody else has to be down you, we would never do anything. But because I know I am ignorant and I want to stay ignorant, I hire people who are better than me. Never be afraid to have people better than you around you. Because eagles fly with eagles and turkeys go with turkeys.
5. Leader understands that the leader is at the bottom of the organization not at the top.
When you walked into this room, this is a beautiful room, this is a nice auditorium, when I walked in here I said: this is nice, but I never said: this must have a beautiful foundation. But this building is only as strong as the foundation under it. You have seen beautiful trees, large trees, big trees, but that’s not what holds the tree in place. What’s holds the tree in place is stuff you never see, you look at the tree and say: look at that beautiful tree! But you never look at the tree and say: oh! What a wonderful root system! No, no, no the root system is in the dirt, we walk on the root system, it is under us.
But when storms come, when the winds are blowing, when all of things are turning loose, when there’s trouble in your organization, when Satan is attacking your ministry and your church, it’s not what you see that keeps it up there, it’s the leader’s roots that are down there, it’s the leaders that… down there. So when I understand that as a leader I may never be seen, people will not say how beautiful but the strength of the organization, the strength of this church, the strength of the community is depending on me being the leader in the dirt. The deeper I go the higher they can go. The deeper I go, the higher they can go. Doesn’t matter what Satan brings our way because our root system is in the Lord, because we are planted in the ground. Hell will not be able to prevail against us, because we are the bottom of the organization not at the top, and that is known servant leadership.
That means I’m not anyone’s boss, I’m everyone’s servant. Jesus Christ says this to us, he said “I came to be a servant.” At the last supper we see him serving, he’s always serving, he’s still serving today. He’s our best example of a leader and He said “if you want to be the best and the highest among them all, be a servant of them all”. But don’t look for titles, don’t look for positions, don’t say how high I need to go, don’t look for your name on the letter, just be the root that goes down. To God be the glory, to God be the glory, to God be the glory, to God be the glory. I’m simply a servant serving him.
And once we understand that we are simply servants serving Him, then it does not matter what people say, it does not matter what people do, it doesn’t matter what they gossip about us, it doesn’t matter if they tell lies about us, because once we realize that we are servants and that He is the boss, oh! I’m free then. I can serve Him then. The leader is at the bottom of the organization and not at the top.
6. Leaders create more leaders.
They bring out the best in them that follow him. The state of Georgia is known as the peach state. We grow a lot of peaches. The fruit of peach tree is not a peach, the fruit of a peach tree is another peach tree. You and I have to ask ourselves a simple question: who is a leader today because of me? Listen to me carefully. You don’t have to have a platform like I have today to do leadership development. Some of the best leadership development that happen in my life does not happen in a setting like this. It happens when I’m reading a book, it happens when I’m listening to a tape, it happens when I’m watching a video, it happens when I’m with somebody who is mentoring me.
You know you never get to a place in your life when you do not need mentors, in my life I have 11 mentors. If you want to come to my office, on my credentials behind my desk there’s a typed up list, it’ll show you that I have two types of mentors, all of them are Christians, but I have ministry leaders and business leaders. I found 11 people that I talk to face to face, I ask them to meet with me twice a year, usually for breakfast or lunch and I sit down with them, I’ve my list of questions and I ask them questions. They eat, I take notes. They talk, I take notes because I know this about myself, that I need people who are going to make me a stronger leader.
I met with my friend Don Chapman this last week for breakfast, Don Chapman is a businessman. When you go to the airport and you see these tractors that push the airplane back, that is his company known S & S Tug Co., and I remember sitting down with him this last Tuesday morning at breakfast and asking him a whole list of questions. I’m saying to you that leadership development happens one on one. So who is a leader here today because of you? And if you go through your mind and you can’t think of any one person, I’ve got good news for you. The good news is you can change that. The good news is that you can take these notes and show somebody. The good news is you can invite 4 people to your house and say: I went to a leadership conference and I learnt two or three good things and I want to show you what I learnt.
And that is how leadership takes place. You develop other leaders around you because you remember our definition of a leader: somebody who can see it, somebody who can pursuit and then finally it’s somebody who can show others. You know, you grow and you show. You are only a leader if you develop other leaders around you.
7. Leaders must also be followers.
Leaders exercise followship by asking questions, instead of giving answers, providing opportunities to others to lead them, doing real work in support of others, becoming match makers instead of central switches and seeking common understanding instead of consensus.
A little while ago pastor Miranda said: “now when the ushers tell you to do something, listen to them”. That’s difficult for leaders to do. Leading leaders is like herding cats. They never fall in line. They will always break the line. They’re always thinking: “I can do this different”. That’s what leaders do, but for you to be a good leader I must first be a good follower. The Bible says this: “whatever a man sows that shall he also reap”. A lot of people think “I’m a leader now, you all follow me”, but every leader is also a follower.
In that paragraph in our notes there are two things I want to highlight: one of them says we need to be matchmakers not central switches, a central switch is something that everything goes through that; a matchmaker is someone who brings people together. So think of yourself as a leader, if you are a funnel and all kinds of activities are going on in you church, all kinds of things are happening in the organization and that’s the funnel. In fact that’s the top of the funnel but when it comes to you everything slows down.
If everything has to go through you, if you have to control everything, if you have to approve everything, if you have to know about everything, not much is going to get done. So you need to enlarge your funnel so more things can go through, and not everything just stops when it comes to the leader.
I travel a lot as you can tell by now, people often ask me so, how do you run a college? We’ve got students from 45 denominations, from 25 different countries, we’re the countries largest predominantly black colored, so they ask me, how do you do that? Very simple, I got myself larger like him, so that more stuff should go through. I give power away. I’ve got 4 vice presidents, like 4 assistant pastors, they run the whole place, I go to meetings, before the meeting somebody tells me what is going to happen in the meeting, I go into the meeting, I pretend I know everything, I run the meeting and I give it away and say: Ok, take care of it now till the next meeting. I’m saying if I had to know about everything, if I had to approve everything, if I had to control everything, then I don’t need those people.
The last thing on the paragraph says this to us: we’re looking for consensus not agreement. If you are looking for everybody to agree with you before you do anything not much is going to get done. I’m married so imagine my wife is sitting next to me in the car, I’ve got two daughters, Rachel is 21 and Debbie is 19, so we are going out to eat so I ask my wife: What do you feel like eating? She says to me: it doesn’t matter, just anything. So I say I feel like Chinese, and she says: Oh, no no, not Chinese! So what do you want to eat? Anything. And then my two daughters have their own, so I have settled that: whoever is driving the car has got full right to takes us wherever they want to go. See, if I had to wait for everybody to agree on something we would starve to death in the car.
And that is why as a leader you’ve got to be very peaceful about the fact that if your family can’t agree with you where to go out to eat, you can’t expect the whole church to agree with you on anything. So this is what we do: we start concentrating on the people that disagree with us, that’s not how you build an army. You build an army with those people who are for you, you pray for the others, you love the others, but they are not the ones who are going to support you in the ministry anyhow. You know I found this about church: people who give the least amount of money want to talk the most.
Dr E. V. Hill, in Los Angeles, has a lot of signs on this church and on the back of the church it says this: Where little is given, let little be said. People who give the most, they don’t have much to say. People who give the least, bla…..bla…. bla….. So don’t be looking for agreement, just look for common understanding. You will never get full agreement. Very rare you’re going to get 100% and even in that 100% three or five people are lying. They just don’t have the courage to say anything different.
8. Leaders must encourage experimentation and innovation
This means taking risks and making of mistakes which in turn can produce learning. The old pyramid of organization wanted no mistakes, therefore discouraged innovation and experimentation. Leadership is about taking risks. The most important risk you’re going to take is not taking one and many of you will not do what God has asked you to do because you’re looking for the safe thing to do. If there’s no risk involved in it and you’re looking for the safe thing, you’re never going to be able to do anything. Our lands have been discovered by explorers who were willing to set sail in an ocean that were no maps for, and they discovered new lands, they had to take the risk.
How many of you watch baseball? You can help me now. If I was a batter and I struck out two thirds of the times and connected only one third of the time. Out of three times, I struck out two times and connected once. What will be my batting average? 33.3. With a 33.3 batting average I will end up in the hall of fame for baseball, I missed two times, connected only one and I’ll be in the hall of fame. But when I get to the batter’s box I can’t ever hit a home run, if I’m ready to take a swing but unless I take a swing I could never hit a home run because those who hit the most home runs also strike of the most. You cannot be home run king and not be a strike out king.
What we want to do is to have a guarantee for what we are doing. Let me talk to you for a moment as a leader, God has given you some vision in your heart, He’s put a fire in your belly, He showing things that are scary to you and you’re in the batter’s box and the vision is coming your way, you can either choke up, not take a swing or you can say with God’s strength, with God’s help I’m going to take a swing because that’s the only way you can obey God with what you do.
You remember the time when Peter was in the boat, he looked at Jesus and said: Jesus is that you? He said: Yes, I am. He says …. so I can come to you. Peter got off the boat and started walking towards Jesus. Now, I know as preachers have talked real bad about Peter, about how he started drowning but he still did more than the 11 in the boat. And we think that he just took two, three steps and he started drowning, I would say he had to from at least from here to the back of the room because when he talked to Jesus he couldn’t fully recognize where he was and when Jesus rescues him he has his hand.
How do you think he got back to the boat? Do you think Jesus just dragged him through the water? Oh, no, no, Jesus and Peter hand in hand. If you want to walk on water He is standing over there, He’s saying “Come to me”, but you’ve got to take the risk, you’ve got to step out of the boat, do not worry about the 11 who are still there. I’m going to take a risk, I’m going to Jesus. Be willing to take a risk. Be willing to make mistakes. You can always correct your mistakes. But don’t live a life of regret that I wish I could have. You still have life ahead of you, you still have the opportunity ahead of you, God is still calling you, get out of the boat, get out of the boat and walk to where Jesus is showing. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia
9. Leaders opt for authority more than power.
10. Leaders pay attention to their own growth.