The five top things to look for in potential leaders. Not what you'd think!

Sometimes when we are looking for future leaders (and every true leaders is always on the hunt) we are looking for the wrong things, or not the most important things. So what should you be looking for? Dan Rockwell (Leadership Freak) share with us the top five things to look for in potential leaders. You may be surprised!

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell


Character and skill are essential for remarkable success, but not enough. Successful leaders develop others.

But who?

The top 5 things to look for in potential leaders:

#1. Stubbornness. Headstrong people may be hard to convince, but once you convince them, they’re stubborn in a good way.

  • Convince headstrong people that you’re helping them get where they want to go.
  • Gain the respect of stubborn people by standing up to them. Be respectful, but not a pushover.

#2. Ego. The desire for greatness is healthy when focused on service. The more you serve, the more you enhance your worth. Healthy ego wants to make a difference. Look for people who want to matter.

Aspiration is a comfortable word for ego.

How would they make the world better if given the opportunity?

#3. Frustration. The desire to change things often begins with frustration. Discontent expresses itself as aggravation. I’m not suggesting that you tolerate abuse.

Look for people with some heat in their hearts.

#4. Teachability.

Know-it-alls have nowhere to go.

How do they take correction?

  • What are they currently learning?
  • What are they reading?
  • Who have they learned from in the past?
  • How have they changed their thinking?
  • What sparks their curiosity?
  • How many questions do they ask?

#5. Busyness. If they aren’t busy now, you’ll end up pushing them later.

Why develop leaders:

Successful leaders understand the power of ‘with’. 

Self-development is the first development. But don’t shackle yourself by leading alone. Develop the people around you.

If you’re doing leadership alone, you aren’t doing it right.

What qualities do you want in potential leaders?

Which of the five qualities listed above seem most important? Why?




What does biblical contentment really mean and really look like?

There are four things I pray for myself most every day:

1.  Purity (both sexual purity and purity of motive)

2.  Humility

3.  Contentment

4.  Patience

I have met, and worked with, my share of frustrated, unhappy, angry, domineering leaders--but not a lot of contented leaders.

Some equate contentment with laziness, complacency and lack of ambition. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can be very content and very ambitious at the same time. Contentment has less to do with the amount of, or intensity, of the activity you are involved in and more to do with your mind-set. Who are you truly trusting to see things happen in your life, relationships, work and ministry--yourself or God?

Over the last several months the theme of contentment has been on my mind, in my prayers and in my planning more than usual.

In some extended time with the Lord a week or so ago, I read through the book of Philippians in the Phillips Translation. In chapter four, starting with verse 10, Paul deals with contentment.  These statements stood out to me: “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be.” And, “Yes, I am quite content.”    (Phillips)

I so want this for my own life and His ministry through me!                     

Here is what I am thinking about and praying about most days as it relates to contentment:

Who I am

This has to do with my identity in Christ.  Who he has made me to be: my gifts, my capacity, my personality, my upbringing, my education. I am a composite of all of these elements—and perhaps others as well. I don’t want to be somebody else, but just want to be me. I love Romans 12:6 in The Message, “Let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” My daughter Anna once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”  Gotta love it!

What I Am

Now, I want to make an important distinction between who I am and what I am. Who I am has to do with identity whereas what I am has to do with maturity. I don’t want to be content with what I am, but desire to grow--deal with sin in my life and confess and repent when the Holy Spirit calls me out on something. I don’t want to ever fall into the trap of making excuses by saying, “Well, that’s just the way I am.”

Where I am

Where I am has to do with sovereignty. I believe that God is sovereign and has allowed me to be where I am. It’s too easy to say I would be doing better, be more effective or fruitful if I were somebody else or someplace else.

Acts 17:26: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.” (ESV) Lorne Sanny, former president of The Navigators said, “Serve God where you are, because you can’t serve him where you aren’t.” Oh, to serve right here where I am and not be discontented or desire to be somewhere else.

What I’m doing

I want to be content with what he is providing me to do and the opportunities he is sending my way for influence for the gospel and the kingdom. I want to begin each day with thankfulness for what lies before me and not be unhealthily desirous for something else. I have heard many leaders say they are not happy where they are or doing what they’re doing, and are looking forward to something else, somewhere else. Now, obviously there may come a time when the sovereign Lord of your life will give you something else to do and somewhere else to do it; but, until that happens, be content in your current situation.

What He’s doing

I can’t make someone grow or cause someone to become a Christian. I can plant and  water but God makes it happen, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord has assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” ~ I Corinthians 3:5-7 (ESV).

I don’t want what someone else is experiencing. I don’t want what God is doing through and for someone else. By his grace, I want to be content with what he is doing right now, right here, in and through me…nothing more and nothing less. I don’t want envy or jealousy, flowing out of comparing, to be a slap in the face of the one who has called me and put me where I am.

After 48 years of vocational Christian ministry I am finally starting to get what true biblical contentment is all about. I hope it doesn’t take you that long.





The Reluctant Leader

There are a fair amount of leaders who are functioning in a leadership role without a clear call to leaderhsip and/or not possessing the gift of leadership.

On the other hand, there are gifted and called leaders who are reluctant for a variety of reasons and are not leading at all. Guest writer Scott Kauffmann for Steve Graves unpacks this for us; great read that will truly get you thinking!

Originally posted by Steve Graves

Four random times this year I am asking a friend to guest write on my blog. I asked them because I think they are great thinkers as well as great writers. They will write an original article connected to my three guiding themes of Strategy | Leadership | Impact.

Today Scott Kauffmann is our guest. 

Scott is a Partner and Content Lead for Praxis, a venture group for faith-motivated entrepreneurs. He served for eight years as a VP with Redeemer City to City, a leadership development agency for church planters, where he served as Tim Keller’s lead editor and content strategist. Scott began his career with 18 years at Accenture. He lives with his wife and two teenagers in Manhattan.

Contributed by Scott Kauffmann

What if you don’t think you’re a leader … but it turns out you are?

I remember that at some point during my teen years, my mom told me she thought I was going to make a good leader.

I thought: Maybe she’s being kind. Maybe this is a preemptive strike on my dad’s behalf. Maybe she learned with my three older brothers that she’s supposed to say this to sons.

Two things I did not think: She might be right.

And: Is it OK if she’s not?

Who is considered a leader? 

In contemporary Western culture, we’ve assembled a vast ecosystem around the topic of leadership. Uncountable millions of words have been written and hours spent to define, identify, recruit, parse, exhort, convert, and develop good leaders.

The first question, of course, is: Who’s a leader, anyway? Is leadership primarily defined by a position, a type of person, a set of behaviors, a self-image? Or something else?

Some define the leader class very inclusively. This approach supposes that anyone in a role with influence on others is a leader — a parent, a volunteer leader, a highly engaged student, a teacher, a manager or supervisor, even a charismatic and conscientious peer at work. Seniority qualifies: if you’ve developed some competence or life experience that makes you valuable in a civic, social, church, or work environment, you’re a leader. Influence qualifies: if you don’t have positional leadership but people listen to you, you’re a leader. Early promise qualifies: the letter-writing / student government perennial / club-starting high schooler is a leader. Even aspiration qualifies: if you think you are destined to be a leader one day, join the club.

This inclusive definition runs on a pragmatic “leaders are more made than born” mindset. And people lean toward the inclusive definition when they want to sell something to leaders or talk about their offering’s market size or impact.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s a very exclusive definition, which is more about special gifts, elite status, and significant positional responsibility for large organizations or movements or schools of thought.

This exclusive definition runs on a heroic “leaders are more born than made” storyline. People lean into this one when they have something fancy to say or expensive to sell.

I’ve actively worked within both paradigms. Over my three-plus decades in the workforce, I’ve been part of many product and service initiatives that were designed, positioned, and messaged explicitly for leaders. I’ve seen the circle drawn very tightly — to C-level executives at Fortune 500 companies, for example — and at other times, very loosely. I’ve run the numbers, read the articles and books, written the copy, sat in the boardrooms, spoken at the seminars, built the training courses, rubbed elbows with the stars. I’ve spent a lot of time in this “who’s a leader, and why, and how” conversation.

And there’s only one constant: wherever the cut line is drawn at the bottom of the leader class, whether practically everybody’s a leader or practically nobody is, one thing’s for sure: you need to be above that line. If you’re not there, you need to be working to get there.

Because who doesn’t want to be a leader?

More people than you’d think, actually.

The reluctant leader

What interests me is not where the cut line is drawn, but the people who are the last ones to discover that they’re above the line.

I’m fascinated by that curious kind of person with no particular aspiration to positions of leadership. It’s the high performer who thinks of himself primarily as an expert, a craftsman, a specialist, an enthusiast. The charismatic influencer who thinks of herself primarily as a team player, a colleague, even a follower or servant. They’re willing to accept themselves within the inclusive definition of leadership — at some point, it just comes to you by default — but they don’t aspire to clear any more exclusive bar.

I’m not talking about people with that particular kind of humility, like the Level 5 Leaders in Jim Collins’s Good to Great, who are really saying in their hearts, “I’m a leader, but there’s nothing particularly special about me.” Nor even about false humility, which thinks, “I’m a leader, but I’d like you to convince me anyway.”

I’m not talking about those leaders who don’t make a strong first impression but who burn inside with belief: “I’m a leader, no matter what you think, and watch me prove it.”

I’m not talking about what happens when leaders inevitably experience failure and come to doubt their ability or decisions. Nor about Impostor Syndrome, which is when high-performing people can’t acknowledge their accomplishments and fear they will be exposed as frauds. The former is trying to accept failure, and the latter is trying to explain away success, but both are saying, “I’m a leader, but what if I’m not?”

No, the people I’m talking about find themselves one day saying, “I’m not a leader, and I’m fine with that, but what if I am?”

I think most people see reluctance to seek out leadership opportunities as some sort of faulty gene that works itself out of the population over time. And in that view, the only way a self-respecting talented person can solve the problem of reluctance is to strap on more ambition.

The wisdom of our age is that leadership is a function of ability + ambition + destiny. Whatever ability you might have, if for some reason you don’t have the ambition to be a leader — if you don’t want it — then you have to want to want it. You can’t wind up below that cut line.

In thinking of several reluctant leaders and entrepreneurs I’ve known, I don’t think this approach helps. It’s really difficult — perhaps futile — to make yourself want something you don’t want, solely under the power of what you and your community expect for you. It’s basically a form of self-deception, but most of us are too smart to believe ourselves. Instead, we get stuck inside our own limitations, self-absorption seeps into our imagination, our confidence drops. It’s a death spiral.

One friend, an insanely talented founder, put it this way: “For years I’ve simultaneously been obsessed with self-loathing for under-achievement and afraid of risking to achieve.” He sees no way out of the dilemma, and he certainly doesn’t get any help from the leadership literature.

Except that he knows Christianity is true. That’s the only way out.

Destiny vs. vocation 

This is one of those myriad places where the Christian gospel offers a unique and counterintuitive resource, a game-changing way forward. Because we view the equation of leadership not as ambition + ability + destiny, but as ambition + ability + vocation.

As Christians we believe God gives us the gifts for leadership (that’s ability); He gives us the desire for leadership (ambition); and He activates those gifts and desire with a personal, loving, specific call (vocation).

Vocation is different from destiny in at least two ways. First, destiny is impersonal. It doesn’t love you or want the best for you. It just bids you kneel and either rests its sword on your shoulders or hangs it over your head. You can’t reason with destiny or be in a relationship with it. It can’t be trusted, only obeyed.

Believing in destiny is better than believing in yourself, whom you can neither trust nor obey. But it’s nowhere near as good as believing in God, who deserves both your trust and obedience. That is the only place a leader can safely be.

The other big difference is that destiny requires you to succeed. But vocation doesn’t.

A cherished leader once told me I could be sure God was calling me to take a certain career step … but that I couldn’t know up front whether God was calling me to succeed or fail.

It was the most encouraging thing I could have heard at that moment.

The idea that God might be calling me to fail was a life-changing and life-giving insight. If God could be calling me to fail, even if I were to do everything in my power to succeed, it would hurt; it might make me feel worse about myself; and it certainly would make me feel I had let people down, which would be particularly crushing for me. But if I knew and could remember that this is what God was asking me to do for His purposes (granted, a big “if”), I could face that outcome with joy.

All that, plus God might actually be calling me to succeed instead! Which would be great, and it would give me peace in the opposite direction, because I’d know my success came from Him rather than from me. Either way, things went—success or failure—my ultimate identity wouldn’t rest on the outcome.

There’s another wrinkle to the way the Christian formula for leadership (ability + ambition + vocation) works out in the lives of reluctant leaders. This one has to do with sequence.

Usually, we experience the elements in the order of the formula: we demonstrate innate leadership ability from an early age, a natural inclination and desire to lead grows in us, then we sense God’s call to pursue, and be granted, a series of opportunities to lead people, movements, organizations. Ability, then ambition, then vocation.

But for reluctant leaders, our awareness of vocation often predates our ambition. That’s when we experience the moment I mentioned earlier: “I’m not a leader, and I’m fine with that, but what if I am?”

“Please send someone else.” 

 In the account of the life of Moses, we are given a compelling picture of the reluctant leader. In Exodus 2, Moses’ life is miraculously preserved in a way that points to his vocation; yet his catastrophic first attempt at using his influence takes him out of the “leadership pipeline” for forty years. At the site of the burning bush, when God calls him to leadership, it’s an all-vocation, no-ambition moment for Moses (Exodus 3–4).

From his first words (“Here I am”), Moses is willing to be in a relationship with God but has no interest in God’s call to leadership. Five evasive questions into the conversation, Moses’ reluctance has hardened into defiance, at which God becomes angry. Moses finally accepts God’s vocation and goes on to become a fearless leader whom God calls to success (and failure!) over the next forty years.

For Moses, a reluctant leader, ambition comes after vocation. When I read this, I have a sense that Moses’ ambition comes from a place of greater integrity. It’s a gift God gives him for his obedience.

What’s challenging about the story of Moses is to see that his reluctance takes the shape of false and sinful humility. Every objection seems humble and reasonable, but read carefully and you see that Moses is preoccupied only with himself. Moses asks questions about Moses, and God gives answers about God.



Why are potential leaders in your church not stepping up? Here are some possible reasons.

The harvest is great, but the laborers (leaders) are few. Things haven’t changed much since Jesus said this more than two thousand years ago in Matthew 9:36-38. Bobby Clinton in his seminal book titled, “The Making of a Leader” said the following about this passage,

“When he saw the leaders, He was filled with dismay, because so many quit, so many were set aside, and so many were plateaued and directionless. They had lost their zest for leading. They had no clear philosophy or direction in their leadership. They were leaderless leaders. Then he said to his disciples, the harvest is plentiful, but the leaders with clear direction are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth knowledgeable, discerning, and direction-oriented leader-laborers into his harvest.”

There are potential leaders who, with some coaching, training and encouragement, could step up and be impactful leaders in His church but they are reluctant for a number of reasons.

Here are five reasons (adapted from “The Painful Side of Leadership” by Jeff Iorg and expanded on by me) why some leaders remain on the sidelines rather than get into the game and make a difference for the kingdom:

1.  They have seen (or experienced) abusive, autocratic or arrogant leaders and have had their understanding of good leadership distorted and disgraced. They have perhaps assumed that this is what Christian leadership looks like and want no part of it.

2.  They have a false sense of humility. They think that desiring to be a leader is unbiblical and smacks of pride. They overlook I Timothy 3:1 telling us that aspiring (desiring) to be a leader is admirable and a noble thing to do. Yes, it can morph into the wrong thing and become prideful; but wanting to lead when God is moving you in that direction is a good thing. If you have a calling and a gift that others see in you, it is not pride but honesty that would encourage you to step into what God has in mind for you.

3.  They see the abuse some veteran leaders are receiving. Being a leader is not a piece of cake and will involve hardship, misunderstanding, criticism and suffering.  Just look at the leaders in the Bible. Additionally, people will be downright mean and abusive to some in leadership. Lead anyway. You are in good company--with all of the leaders in the Bible. The pain goes with the territory, but it’s worth it to hear well done good and faithful servant at the end of your race.

4.  They possess a genuine sense of inadequacy. Except for Jesus many, if not most, of the leaders in the Bible felt inadequate. His power shows up best in weak people (I Corinthians 12:9): Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, along with numerous other leaders, felt in over their heads and unworthy to lead.

5.  They have an aversion to public scrutiny. James 3:1 reminds us that, as teachers or people in places of prominence, we will be scrutinized by both God and people. When we sin, which we will, and when we screw up, which we will, and when it becomes clear that we are not perfect and do not make perfect decisions, live perfect lives and have perfect families, we can lean into his grace and trust him with our reputations, our fears and our inadequacies.

Are you possibly holding back from stepping up and stepping into some leadership role or responsibility or perhaps are ready to quit for any of the above five mentioned reasons? Please take it before the Lord of the harvest and trust him with your future.

Do you know of a reluctant, but potential, leader? Share this post with him or her.


Eleven random but keenly insightful leadership observations.

Some short, insightful and powerful random thoughts on leadership from Brad Lomenick.

Originally posted by Brad Lomenick

1. Work environments and team structures going forward will look more like Hollywood film crews. They come together for a project but don't work together full time. 

2. The future (and now) of being a leader is more the role of aggregator and facilitator, compared to the role of manager and boss.

3. The rise of the entrepreneur is upon us, but also the rise of the intrapreneur is upon us. The leader within (intra) an organization who leads with an entrepreneurial spirit. 

4. Power is in the community. No longer does the top down hierarchical leader now have all the power and control.

5. In general, the new "conference" is small, niche focused, and practical, compared to the past model of large, generic, and inspiring. 

6. Storytelling must be part of your influence strategy, marketing plan, and overall brand building plan. Without it you're just another commodity fighting for attention. 

7. The Gig economy is upon us. Free agency is not just a sports term, it's a business and cultural mainstay.

8. No one is born world class. It takes hard work to get there. 

9. Leaders words weigh 1,000 pounds. You have the power to lift up or pull down others with your words.

10. Many leaders quit right before the breakthrough. Stick with it. The messy middle of discipline and perseverance paves the way for potential upside and success. 

11. We need to be reminded just as often as instructed. Leadership is about repetition as much as revelation.