Fifteen Tips For Successful Leadership


Do you ever wonder if you are totally ready and equipped to lead?  Especially if you are new to a daunting leadership responsibility, you may have doubts about your calling and ability.

Here are some excellent thoughts by Faith Whatley to calm your nerves and provide God-confidence for you.


“Fifteen tips for successful leadership”

The following is a guest post by Faith Whatley. Faith serves on our team in the Church Resources Division at LifeWay and is the director of adult ministry. She is an incredible leader and it is an honor to serve churches alongside her. While some of her articles on our leadership channel are directed to women leaders, God has given her insights that I believe apply to all leaders. Faith and her husband, Jimmy, have two grown children, an amazing daughter-in-law, and live in Nashville, Tenn.

 “Leader” is not a title or description I would have ever given myself. In fact, there are a lot of other words I would have used: mentor, hard worker, producer, and relator. I didn’t think I was leading; I was just moving the team and work forward without realizing it. It’s just how I’m wired. I look at what needs to be done and I just do it.

Then the day came when several people in my life began to say, “Faith, you’re a strong leader” or “Faith, I love watching you lead.” It would always surprise me to hear the word leader associated with my name. I’d think: Do you mean me?

In my late 30s, God opened doors that I will never forget. I was put in positions of leadership not only at work but also at my church. God began to use people around me to shape me into the leader I am today. He put me in positions of leading many people with different skills. I had great leaders who taught me so much about integrity, leadership, attitude, and boundaries. I also had bad leaders who showed me first-hand what you should never do if you want people to follow you.

Many times I’ve wondered: Why me? Why was I chosen to lead others? Maybe you’ve experienced some of the same thoughts from time to time. Always remember the Lord will equip you. He rarely calls those who are equipped.

So … what do you do if God calls you to lead?

1.  Pray.

2.  Study God’s Word — continually.

3.  Be a good follower of a strong leader you trust.

4.  Find a wise mentor.

5.  Lean in to all situations, especially the hard ones.

6.  Never overreact. Stay calm in all situations.

7.  Lead with humility and integrity.

8.  Don’t be afraid to give your point of view.

9.  Don’t be afraid to be the strongest person in the room.

10.  Love the people who follow you and make sure they know it.

11.  Learn from those you lead.

12.  Ask for regular feedback regarding your leadership style.

13.  When you have to make a quick decision, make the decision and stick with it.

14.  Work hard and don’t ask anyone to do anything you wouldn’t do.

15.  Remember: If your team wins, the team gets the credit. If your team fails, you take the blame.




What I have learned, and am learning, from my experience at Mars Hill Church

I spent eight years as a pastor at Mars Hill church, both in Seattle and here in Orange County CA where my wife, Susan, and I now live. There were some good-to-great things that happened and some sad/bad things that happened during those eight years. I have reflected a great deal about my years on staff since leaving a little over a year ago. I want to share four lessons I’ve learned (and continue to learn) and am applying to my current leadership responsibilities and opportunities.

These observations are mine, and mine alone. Some who are still at Mars Hill, and some who have left, may not agree with some of my conclusions. These observations  form an acrostic for ACTS.

One more thing before I jump into the ACTS. The observations and lessons learned came mostly from my experience at Mars Hill; but as I read about what’s going on in Christian leadership as well as what I’m learning in my coaching high- level leaders at other churches, I’ve come to understand that my experiences at Mars Hill are not unique.

What I saw first-hand while on staff at Mars Hill is happening in other churches and Christian ministries around the country/world. I deeply regret that I didn’t speak up more often sooner than I did.


There were numerous situations and instances where top leaders had almost no accountability in their lives and ministries.  They had it on paper, but not in practice. The tough questions were not asked. There wasn’t a willingness to defer to others on staff who had experience and wisdom. A certain degree of pride and arrogance set in and ruled a lot of the time. There wasn’t openness to being genuinely accountable to others for attitudes and behaviors that were sinful and harmful.


Sin was committed over a number of years (in clear violation of I Timothy 3, Titus 1 and I Peter 5), but that sin was not adequately owned and confessed.  There was a good amount of excuse-making and casting blame. We didn’t have a confessional culture where the leaders who were confronted accepted responsibility for their sin.


Top-level leaders were not open to receiving honest inquiries from other pastors on staff. Decisions were not discussed but rather announced with very little dialogue or input. There was defensiveness when an idea or direction was questioned or challenged.  Asking good questions, listening well and being on the hunt for new and better ideas and ways of doing things were not a part of the culture.


The pace of ministry and functioning in crises mode a good deal of the time, due to hurried and last minute decisions without time to think through and adequately process things, resulted in a lot of exhaustion and an unhealthy work-life balance. The speed at which things happened and the lack of time to make better decisions was, and is, an unsustainable model. The principle of Sabbath was very much absent with people working insane hours at an unsustainable pace. There were many on staff who experienced, or were on the verge of, burnout a lot of the time. We survived on the adrenalin rush, which hurt and harmed people. The pace and the work environment is, and was, unsustainable, unhealthy and unwise.

As l live my own life as a leader and as I coach other leaders, I am much more aware of doing what I can to make sure there is:

1.  Good and genuine accountability, coupled with vulnerability and transparency.

2.  A clear value in keeping short accounts, with sin being quickly confessed and owned.

3.  An attitude of being teachable and open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

4.  A culture of pacing that is realistic and sustainable, resulting in good morale and joy.

As always your feedback is welcome!



How Dictators Operate

A number of years ago I read a book by Hans Finzel about mistakes leaders make.  Recently author and speaker Matt Perman lifted some short but provocative ideas from Hans’ book about the difference between leadership dictators and leadership facilitators.

Here are those points from Matt Perman

How Dictators Operate

From Hans Finzel, in his excellent book The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make.

How dictators operate:

  1. They hoard decisions.
  2. They view truth and wisdom as primarily their domain.
  3. They restrict decisions to an elite group.
  4. They surprise their workers with edicts from above.

How facilitators lead:

  1. They delegate decisions.
  2. They involve others as much as possible.
  3. They view truth and wisdom as being distributed throughout the organization.
  4. They are developers.
  5. They see people as their greatest resources for ideas that will bring success.
  6. They give their people space to make decisions.
  7. They let those who are responsible decide how jobs will be done.



Observations About Church Planting & Church Planters

I am becoming increasingly convinced that the planting of new churches is one of the best ways to spread the gospel and make disciples.

As most of you know, I spend a good chunk of my time coaching pastors and leaders.  At the moment, I have 38 coaching clients, of whom 14 are lead pastors. Of the 14 lead pastors I coach, four are in the early stages of planting a church from scratch.

Additionally, I know and pray for another seven who are in the process of planting churches. For the last five, six years, I have coached (and continue to coach) church planters who are part of the Acts 29 network.

 Suffice it to say, I’m prayerfully and emotionally invested in church planting. One young man I coach is responsible for church planting in his organization and is strategically initiating a church planting movement in twelve countries.

One cannot but note that many church plants and planters (sadly) don’t make it beyond the first year or two, while others are very successful in seeing many people come to a personal knowledge of Jesus and become multiplying disciples resulting in their church plants growing both quantitatively and qualitatively. Church planting is not for every aspiring pastor. It takes a very different kind of person than your average pastor to start a church from scratch.

What makes the difference though? Why do some church plants succeed whereas others fail and go out of business?

One church planter I’m praying for and following with a great deal of interest has 40-50 in his core group after just a few weeks.  It takes some others a few years to get to 40-50, if ever.  And no, this planter is not in the southern part of the United States (the Bible belt) but in another country that is not well known for lots of church attenders. I’m giving you the number of 40-50 not to discourage or shame other planters who are struggling mightily, but to raise the question as to why some make it and some don’t? What I’m about to share is not a result of any survey or scientific study, but based on my own observations.

When it comes to church planting and church planters, I believe that the Christian church is looking for better methods while God is looking for better men. We tend to focus on what the church planter does and try to emulate and reproduce that, when we should be focusing on who the church planter is which enables him to be fruitful to the glory of God.

As I look closely at the planter with the core group of 40-50 after just a few weeks, and think of others I know who seem to be doing well, here are four attributes that most of them seem to have in common. There are certainly other contributing factors, but let me start with these.

They possess:

  1. A contagious passion for what they are doing, born out of a deep sense of calling;
  2. A genuine love for people and above-average people skills;
  3. A heart-felt burden for lost people who don’t yet know Jesus;
  4. A strong vision that is catalytic.

Their vision (born out of a profound sense of calling) gives birth to their love for people in general and for lost people in particular. I believe all four are critical for a church plant and its planter to be fruitful and God honoring.

It seems to me (and I’m willing to be wrong here) that some pastors and planters want to succeed for their own egos and personal glory and don’t really have a God-given vision and passion that generates a genuine agape love for people.  I believe that passion is not a personality thing, but a God-thing! God can birth passion and calling in all different personality types..

For some planters it’s just a job (and an exciting one at that) but still a job in order to make a living and be successful at starting something from scratch; perhaps to prove something to God, themselves, or someone else.

Some of these planters love theology and love to preach, but there is no compelling vision or deep and genuine burden for people. It can all be pretty academic (especially if they’ve been to Bible school or seminary).  They can have a proclivity toward loving studying and preaching more than loving the people for whom they are studying and teaching.

Some of these planters are looking for sure-fire methods, so they read a lot of books and attend a lot of conferences to get the latest great ideas, when they ought to be spending an equal amount of time on their knees before their sovereign Lord pleading for the souls of men and women and asking the Lord of the harvest to light their hearts and souls on fire.

I don’t want to come across harsh or critical (but maybe I am anyway) but want to honestly share what I have observed, and have been thinking for quite a while. I expect, desire and welcome some feedback on this—agreement or disagreement!

Can we get a debate going, stir up a hornet’s nest, rock the boat a bit on this one.  I’d like to hear from many of you on this issue as to what makes a good church planter, and what may cause some church plants to fail.


Ten Ways To Become A Leader others Value


When you boil it all down, leadership is essentially and primarily about relationships. At a certain point in your leadership journey, your leadership skills will become more important than your competency skills. You will always need to get things done, but as an effective leader it will increasingly become getting things done though others whom you trust, encourage and empower. Here are some awesome thoughts from Dan Rockwell on the role of relationships in leadership.


Originally posted by Dan Rockwell on June 1, 2014

It’s not “just” business.

The greatest “ship” in leadership is relationship.

The priority of relationship came home to me in a follow-up call with Bob Buford. Bob was mentored by Peter Drucker. Their mentoring relationship turned into a life-long friendship that he writes about in, Drucker & Me.

Bob explains nine things Peter did for me. But, when I asked which of the nine were most valuable, he paused and said, “None of them.”

The most important thing was having a relationship with Peter.

Bob valued the relationship, first.

Job one:

Leaders either drive results through power and authority or relationship. Both have their place.

Nothing is more important than building relationships – that drive results – with current and future leaders.

Every aspect of leadership is made better in the presence of strong connection.

10 ways to become the leader others value:

  1. Move to connect. If you want people to connect with you, connect them. Begin by showing interest in their interests.
  2. Be really great at something. Weakness invites sympathy. Skill invites respect.
  3. Move first, when it comes to seeking the highest good of others.
  4. Give more than you take. Don’t be needy or greedy. Practice generosity.
  5. Be big; live wide. Pour energy into solving important issues. Make the world better.
  6. Be honest with compassion. Avoid defensiveness.
  7. Connect with those who desire connection. Don’t waste time forcing connections that aren’t mutual.
  8. Identify common goals and shared values. Shared values give connections value. Common goals establish common connection.
  9. Find mutual admiration. One-way relationships, may be necessary, but aren’t fulfilling, over time.
  10. Complain less. Press for progress, even if it’s small.

Bonus: Help people get where they want to go.

Relationships enrich, expand, and extend every aspect of leadership.

What qualities in you, draw others to you?