Greatness? Born with it or develop it?

Most of us know about best selling author Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great.” I think it is biblical and admirable to aspire to be a great leader--not just an average or good leader. 

It seems to me that there are two questions here.

1.  What does a great leader look like?  What are the characteristics/attributes of great Christian leaders? What attitudes, beliefs and behaviors do great leaders have?

2.  How does one become a great leader?

First we must define a great leader and, second, we must discover how to become a great leader.

I know this is short and over-simplified, but greatness, it seems to me, has to be defined by:

  • Getting things done (results)
  • Getting along (relationships)

A great leader knows how to move the ball down the field and accomplish God-pleasing goals for the kingdom of God. The leader does this as he/she shepherds, leads and encourages those who are helping to reach those God-pleasing goals.

As usual, it is not either/or, but both/and. It is achieving goals that honor the Lord and help the organization achieve it’s purpose and vision and, at the same time, it’s maintaining a healthy organizational culture by taking care of the people on the way to those goals.

So here is the big question I would like to spend the rest of this post exploring: 

Are some leaders born with greatness genes--a certain set of gifts that set them apart, or is being a great leader something that can be learned?

For starters, I think there is a big difference between talent(s) and skill(s). Talent(s) does not translate into greatness in leadership unless it is developed into skill(s) which entails hard work, dedication, focus, determination and endless deliberate practice.

Tim Tebow said, “Hard work will always beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

The person with few talents coupled with hard work will have a better chance at leadership greatness than very talented leaders who depend too much on these talents and are not willing to work hard. I further believe that God honors hard work and a dedicated effort that pleases Him, which can more than make up for a lack of natural talent or gifts.

There are many talented leaders who accomplish little of eternal and lasting value due to pride and an over reliance on their gifting, coupled with the neglect of both hard work and working hard in the relationship arena.

So, those of us (myself very much included) who feel we are not super-gifted or super-talented can have a legitimate shot at leadership greatness. You are born with certain talents but not with greatness. Greatness is not determined by other’s evaluation of you, but by what God thinks about your leadership.

Being a great leader, as you are led by Him, empowered by Him and honoring Him, is something all leaders can pursue. So, go for it!  Be the best you can be with what God has invested in you and be great for the Lord and for His kingdom.




Four characteristics of an untrustworthy team member!

Trust is the glue that holds a team together. The absence of trust, according to Patrick Lencioni, is the first step toward having a dysfunctional team. Here are four indicators you have an untrustworthy team member.

Originally posted by Eric Geiger

Bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).

An untrustworthy team member can spoil and corrupt the collective character of a team. One team member can adversely impact the whole, can adversely impact the culture of the team you lead.

Here are four indicators of an untrustworthy team member:

1.  Negative about everyone else

If the person talks negatively about everyone else, the person is speaking negatively of you too. And you are not the only one who knows this. In time, the entire team is hampered from open and honest discussions because trust is systematically destroyed.

2.  Always makes excuses

Continually making excuses is not merely a competence problem; it is a character flaw. Someone who continually shifts blame, who never owns a problem, and who never accepts accountability is not a person who can be trusted with responsibility.

3.  Never content

While we all have seasons of unrest and wrestling, the team member who is always asking for more, always hinting about leaving, always sending signals that he/she is not happy is simultaneously hurting the morale of the team. The Scripture reminds us “godliness with contentment is great gain.” Continual discontentment is a clear sign of an unhealthy character.

4.  Self-consumed

The person who views decisions through the lens of “How does this impact me?” cannot be trusted to make wise decisions that are for the good of the whole. When personal agendas trump the mission, the impact of the team is greatly diminished.

Leaders, of course, set the pace for their teams. So a leader who is negative, making excuses, discontent, and self-consumed will foster a culture where those traits are prominent. Before we look at those around us, we should look in the mirror and ask the Lord to search our hearts to reveal any offensive pattern in them.



Does your passion have a slow lead?

Through the years, thoughtful students have studied the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from many and varied points of view. He is teacher, healer, evangelist, prophet, discipler to name just a few of His perceived roles. He spent days in some places and moved on rather quickly from other places, leaving needs unmet and questions unanswered.

He seemed to know when to stay and when to leave. He had an internal blueprint, a road map that seemed to guide Him where He went, how long He stayed, what He did, and with whom He spent His time.

He had an ability to know when to say "yes" or "no" to a perceived need (Mark 1:35-39; Luke 5:15-16). He knew when it was time for rest and time for work. He accomplished more in 3½ years than many do in a lifetime. He never seemed to be in a hurry or "be driven onto a reef of frustration by other people's demands" (quote from “Tyranny of the Urgent, Charles E. Hummel.)

He was well-balanced, well-paced and well-prepared as each new day dawned. We can learn much as we observe what Jesus does and doesn't do.

In her excellent and provocative book, Jesus Christ CEO, Laurie Beth Jones makes the following observation about the varied-but-focused ministry of Jesus.

"Jesus had tremendous energy, and He knew how to direct it. He was so clear about His mission that He avoided many real and potential energy leaks."

Everything I have read and studied about leaders leads me to believe that they are very careful about these "energy leaks." It is easy to spend time, but the wise invest time for maximum impact. The area where we can win it or lose it is how we spend time with people. Those we decide to invest in can either be passion builders or passion stealers.

A leader is a person who is always on the lookout for other potential leaders to discover, develop and deploy. But if we are not careful, all our energy can leak out, stranding us on a sandbar of mediocrity and ineffectiveness. 

Allow me to take a stab at defining certain kinds of people and how they can further our vision and passion or stop it dead in its tracks. I am thankful for the writings of Gordon McDonald upon which some of these thoughts are based. 

1. People Who Fuel Our Passion:

These are our mentors, our models--people we can spend time with or those whose writing, thinking and speaking expands and deepens our passion and purpose in life. Someone has observed that what we are tomorrow will be a result of the people we meet and the books we read today. I believe that with all my heart.

2. People Who Catch Our Passion:

These are the teachable, the moldable--the people who are hungry for God, hungry to make their lives count. They want to grow, to learn, to see God at work in their lives. They will take what we give and pass it along to others, multiplying our investment many times over.

3. People Who Enjoy Our Passion:

Most people we probably know fall into this category. On the one hand they don't take a great deal, but then neither do they add a great deal. It would be easy to spend lots of time with these "nice people." They are fun and easy to be with.

4. People Who Drain Our Passion:

This is where the major energy leaks can occur. These are the needy people. The people that struggle. The people who demand hours and hours of our energy but often don’t seem to profit from it. Yet, they keep returning with the same problems and want more of us. They often are the squeaky wheels that get most of the oil of our passion.

As a leader, I want to make sure that I am spending most of my time with those in categories one and two and to be careful and prayerful about allowing too much time with those in three and four. With His help, I want to be pro-active, not re-active. Those in three and four can and, more than likely will, take most of my time if I am not careful. 

The nice people are easy and enjoyable to be with and the draining people are so needy that it is easy to allow the lion's share of my time to go to them. This is not to say that "nice and needy" people are not important or should not be loved. However, as Oswald Chambers so insightfully says, "The need is not the call.

To prevent "energy leaks," I need to determine the good things I am not going to do. It is an issue of the strategy of investment, not the value of people.

As leaders, we will want to be keenly aware of the fact that our energy is finite and can be depleted. We must guard that spiritual energy (passion) and prayerfully dispense it and not portion it out to first come, first served. 

Gordon McDonald confessed that at one point in his ministry he was spending most, if not all, of his time with the "nice and needy" people and had little time left over for those that fuel and catch his passion. He thought he was where he was most needed but realized it was an "error of great magnitude."

A prayer of mine for years has been based on Jeremiah 42:3, "Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do."

+ As a leader, is your passion growing and being strategically invested or have you developed some "slow leaks?"


Some traits that will wreck your ability to lead

The last thing you want to do is wreck your ability to lead and to lead well so that people want to follow your leadership. From Ron Edmondson here are eight dangerous leadership traits that can wreck you ability to lead.

Originally posted by Ron Edmondson

8 Dangerous Leadership Traits – These Will Wreck Your Ability to Lead

There are no perfect leaders — except for Jesus.

For the rest of us, we each have room for improvement. Most of us live with flaws in our leadership and the more we mature the more aware we become of them. Good leaders learn to surround themselves with people who can supplement their weaknesses.

There are, however, some leadership traits, which a leader can never delegate away. If the leader can’t work through them, in my opinion, their leadership will be crippled. With these traits, the best the leader has to offer will never fully materialize.

These leadership traits will eventually wreck a leader’s success.

Here are 8 dangerous leadership traits:

1.  Immoral character

If the leader’s character is flawed, the leadership will be flawed. A leader can never escape the quality of his or her heart.

2.  Assuming everyone’s support

Leaders seldom hear the complete story unless they pursue it. Environments have to be created that produce transparency and honesty. Even in the healthiest organizations there will always be things a leader doesn’t know.

3.  Assuming everyone understands

In my experience, most leaders think they are communicating effectively. What’s clear to them they assume is clear to others. It’s usually not as clear as the leader thinks. Good leaders ask lots of questions to identify the level of clarity.

4.  Continually avoiding conflict

Conflict never, ever, ever, goes away. Ever. Unresolved conflict damages the strength and integrity of organizational health. It may get ignored, overlooked, or stifled, but until conflict is dealt with it continues to stir strife in an organization.

5.  Pretending to have all the answers

The less a leader listens to others, the less willing others will desire to help the leader succeed. Arrogant leaders never attract the best from people. Great leaders invite input, knowing that with more people involved, decisions will be stronger and more buy-in will be achieved.

6.  Allowing friendship to derail progress

The best leaders I know value relationships and recognize friendships with others as an important part of their personal well-being. At the same time, some leaders fail to separate their friendships from their callings as leaders. They confuse loyalty as a friend from their responsibility as a leader. A leader cannot allow personal friendships to negatively alter the course to success.

7.  Refusing to let go of control

When the leader doesn’t delegate, he or she stifles the growth of the organization. Healthy delegation involves releasing authority over a project. If a leader continually maintains the right to control, the organization will be limited to his or her abilities, rather than the strength of the team.

8. Living in the past

Unless you’re a teacher of history, the leader’s primary focus needs to be on the future. Leadership is about moving things forward. That requires progressive thinking, welcoming change, and refusing to let past failures determine future success.

Be honest, of which of these are you most guilty? As difficult as it may be, until you push through them and improve in that area, you’ll never experience the leadership success you desire.

What examples would you add to my list of things you can change and things you can’t?





Four easy steps in becoming a controlling leader!

A controlling leader is one of the most destructive forms of leadership there is. It is a momentum and morale killer and leaves many “dead” bodies in its wake.


I have worked with more than my share of them. One thing I’ve discovered is that many of them don’t see it. It’s a blind spot for them.


They see themselves as: 

  • A leader who has high standards
  • A leader who wants things done in a certain way
  • A leader who wants nothing less than excellence in all endeavors and in every decision
  • A leader with no desire to see any failures (Failure disgusts God. He wants us to be successful)
  • A leader who is establishing good accountability

Followers in the organization (or on the leader’s core team) may see things quite differently. They may see this leader as:

  • Abusive
  • Demanding
  • Dictatorial
  • Mean-spirited
  • Unkind
  • Ungrateful
  • Unbiblical  
  • Ungodly

With a controlling leader at the helm, leadership development is an endangered species. Pride is rampant. Ideas are squashed. Momentum is curtailed. Creative people move on.

So how does a leader start out well and, over time, become a controlling leader--like King Saul in the Old Testament?

Here are 4 suggestions to hone your skills in being an excellent controlling leader:

1. Only Have Faith In Your Ideas And Proposals - 

Let’s face it…you are the smartest, most discerning and best idea person in the organization. No one can hold a candle to your genius. If your people come with better ideas—more effective ways of doing things--it will undermine your authority and credibility as the leader. Never hire anybody smarter or more gifted than you are and you’ll never have to worry about any competition for your job.

2. Establish A Zero-Based Tolerance Policy For Mistakes And Failures -

Not three strikes and you’re out…one strike and you’re out! People will be fearful of messing up; but that’s a good thing in helping you keep the bar set high. You’d rather have people fear you than like you.  Popularity is way overblown.

3. Make Everything About You - 

Make sure your name and picture is everywhere. Make sure that you always receive credit for every success--even if you didn’t actually do it.  Take credit when credit is due. Make sure that you maintain your grip on power, position and all decisions being made. Be upfront and on center stage as much as possible--at all meetings, on the website and in the media.

4. Ensure That People Stand In Awe And Fear Of You.

There’s a price to pay for crossing you, disagreeing with you, disrespecting you, or challenging you. Of course, you are only doing this to keep the standard high. We all understand that.

+ Have you ever worked with a controlling leader? Are you that controlling leader?

+ Anything you’d add to my list?