It’s no secret that finishing well is a huge value for me and led to the book “Leaders Who Last.

Here are some essential keys for the Christian leader to finish well. I regularly teach these and, by His grace, seek to practice them in my own life and work.

(I will use he throughout, but mean both he and she.)

A leader who finishes well is one who…

1. Maintains A Vibrant And Genuine Relationship With Jesus

He is consistent in practicing a set of spiritual disciplines (means of grace) that give the Lord an opportunity to create transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of these include, but are not limited, to:

  • Scripture memory
  • Serious Bible Study
  • Daily Bible reading
  • Repentance and confession
  • Dynamic corporate and private worship
  • A deepening prayer life of adoration/thanksgiving/intercession
  • Community in a group with some likeminded brothers and sisters
  • Personal accountability with a few close people of the same gender

This key, and the next key, set the stage for the rest of what follows!

2. Is A Life-Long Learner

He is willing to learn from anyone, at anytime, on any subject. Leaders are both readers and writers so their followers can drink from running streams and not stagnant pools. I have never met a leader worth his salt who was not a voracious reader…hungry to learn, read, ask questions and keep growing. The person who says you cannot teach an old dog new tricks has never met a hungry dog.

3. Displays The “Fruit Of The Spirit”

The fruit of the spirit, more than the gifts of the spirit, will enable a leader to last and significantly impact others. More leaders fall over character issues than competency issues

4. Lives Out Of Personal Convictions, Based On God’s Promises And Character

The leader bases his decisions and actions on the promises and character of God--not on which way the political or organizational winds are blowing.  By God’s grace, he does the right thing--not the expedient thing or the easy thing.

5. Continues To Serve Out Of His Unique Gifting And Calling, Leaving A Lasting Legacy

As Marcus Buckingham says, “The best of your work should be the most of your work.” The leader has good self-awareness and knows his “sweet spot,” spending 80% of his time functioning in his gifting/calling/passion.

You will get tired faster and shorten your ministry life-span if you are spending huge chunks of time where God has not gifted and called you. Say no to lots of things so you can say yes to a few things.

6. Lives A Life Of Integrity, Transparency And Vulnerability

In survey after survey, followers (far and away) state that the number one attribute that they are looking for in their leaders is integrity that leads to a high degree of trust and credibility.

The leader owns his sin and doesn’t make excuses or blame others. He is quick to say things like, “I’m sorry…it was my fault…I take full responsibility…please forgive me…I made a mistake.

Be good for your word. Say what you mean and mean what you say.  Practice under-promising and over-delivering, rather than over-promising and under-delivering.

7. Is Aware Of The Power That Leadership Carries And Stewards It Well

Everywhere you look you see leaders abusing the power entrusted to them. They do this in the way they treat people, the way they communicate and the way they make decisions. Dictatorial, top-down, harsh, mean-spirited and intimidating leaders are not leading according to 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5. They do not follow the example of Jesus. It’s not tough leadership, rather sinful leadership they are exhibiting.

“Power may justly be compared to a great river; while kept within bounds it is both beautiful and useful, but when it overflows its banks, it brings destruction and desolation to all in its way” Andrew Hamilton

8. Remains Physically And Emotionally Faithful To His Spouse

In a day when so many leaders (single and married) disqualify themselves through sexual sin and the use of pornography, this is a gigantic issue for all of us. I am not going to give simplistic answers on this one but simply say that if it is an issue for you, please, please address it with some reliable friends and don’t try to “keep it a secret,” as it says of David in 2 Samuel 12:12.

9. Learns How To Pace Himself And Creates Healthy Boundaries And Margins

The wise leader who wants to live as long as God has in mind for him constantly reminds himself that he is in a marathon, not a 100 meter race. He embraces not only a good work ethic, but also a good Sabbath ethic. He sets finish lines at the end of a day, week or month and has the courage to power off the cell phone and computer to invest in restorative activities and spend time with his family.

So, there you have it fellow leader. How are you doing on these nine? How about picking one or two of them that speak to your current need and get serious about trusting the Lord and cooperating with the Lord for some significant transformation as you make yourself accountable?


Growth or Control? Which will it be? Can't have it both ways!

You can either organize your team or organization for growth or for control, but you can’t have it both ways.

Which are you going to choose?

Steve Graves helps us see the difference and the difference it will make when you choose growth over control.

Originally posted by Steve Graves

Growth or Control? Which Will You Choose?

As an old cowboy once said, “You can’t ride two horses at the same time.”

Sometimes we just have to choose between options and live with the outcome. This reality is very true when it comes to setting the organizing principle for any enterprise. You can’t be headed north and south at the same time. And you can’t be organized for growth and control at the same time. Holding on to both means losing both.

I first heard this idea a couple of decades ago from a mentor who was leading his Fortune 100 team through an explosive growth period. He and his company were on the early track of forging and executing high-level massive global partnerships managing billions of dollars of business each year.

His biggest challenge? Helping the “old timers” loosen their grip on the hyper-control, highly-linear culture that had made them famous. These “old timers” loved the results of growth but were uncomfortable with the looser, more agile approach to partnering. Time and again, my mentor had to preach that you can’t have both and you have to choose—control or growth.

I recently heard this same idea (again) from a colleague in New York who was quoting a pastor friend. In an instant, all the memories of my early mentor flooded my mind. There it was again: you can’t have both. You can’t design for growth and control at the same time with the same energy. I say it all the time and really believe, “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” 


If you want growth, you need to bake it into your design model. One common element some companies utilize is more decentralized operations and, in particular, decision making. This is essentially the idea contained in the old classic The Starfish and the Spider by Ori Brafman and Ron Beckstrom.

Brafman and Beckstrom look at organizations as diverse as the Apache Nation and Craigslist to make their point that decentralized organizations have tremendous potential for growth. By depending on peer relationships to govern, these organizations dramatically increase the speed of new ideas and growth. Craigslist, for example, had just 40 employees (in comparison, Facebook had 6,500) but managed more than 50 billion posts per month.

Peter Drucker saw this trend coming decades ago: “It isn’t difficult for us to get people into middle management today. But it is going to be, because we shall need thinking people in the middle, not just at the top. The point at which we teach people to think will have to be moved further and further down the line.”

How do you structure for growth? Here are five tips:

1.  Know where to place your best bets. In other words, you need to know what you growth drivers are. Luck is not a growth driver. And you must fuel the growth drivers with adequate resources. No fire burns long without oxygen and some kind of fuel.

2.  Set a growth climate and culture. Talk growth. Set goals. Monitor and measure growth. Reward growth.

3.  Give employees more authority. In everything from customer service to budget creation, but especially in innovation, give employees more authority than you’re immediately comfortable with. In this Forbes article on Chick-Fil-A, notice two things: 1) how quickly it’s growing; and 2) how often the VP mentions the authority that individual operators have.

4.  Encourage meaningful crosstalk. You want your employees talking with each other. When you get a question, help them think about other employees who could help them answer that question. Encourage them to share cell phone numbers. I know this can slide into non-efficiency and must be balanced. But meaningful and healthy crosstalk is essential to spur and sustain growth.

5.  Urge the executive team to do lots of vision casting and road clearing. If they are doing that job they won’t have much time to police the day-to-day operations (the habit of many leaders), which will give those managers more freedom to innovate).


The starfish idea sounds cool and fun, but it’s not always best. And frankly, it doesn’t always work. Companies organized for control are efficient, less volatile and have less short-term risk. Also, they are usually easier to partner with and safer investments.

All organizations eventually have a season of maturity (if they stick around long enough). Their growth slows and they swing back to a control model for a season. They’re the local pizza place that never compromises on its recipe, or the bank that doesn’t grow quickly but is the most financially sound one around.

How do they do it? Here are a few tips for this season:

1.  Use this time to shore up your people and processes. There is usually some wear and tear that happens during all growth spurts. So patch the holes. Mend the nets. And again, those are for both people and processes.

2.  Double down on your culture aspirations. Often, leaders and organizations go the opposite direction. People only buy into control long-term when they believe in the people exerting that control.

3.  Hold quality above everything else. Everything depends on a consistent experience for customers; so do intensive quality control, random product checks, etc.

4.  Make sure you have the right people and an aligned strategic horizon to fit this stage.

5.  Relax and enjoy this period. It might not be the “organizational empty nest” season but it certainly does not carry the weight and chaos of the early stages of explosive growth. And that is OK. I couldn’t disagree more with the old adage that if you are not growing you are dying. 


At the end of the day, you simply have to choose. Like my friend in a canoe who was fast approaching a downed tree that had created a fork in the river. “It’s better to be wrong than to be indecisive,” he said later.

You’ve got to structure for one or the other. You cannot organize for growth and at the same time organize for control. And always remember, usually your choice is just for a season.





Learning from yet another fallen leader!

Hardly a month goes by that I don’t hear about another lead pastor who has resigned or been asked to step down for one reason or another. As I coach leaders around the country and in a few other countries, I hear about dysfunctions among top leaders which is causing a great deal of pain and lots of problems for staff and the church family in which these leaders serve.

I can deeply resonate with Paul when he says, “And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28, ESV).

I don’t believe Paul is speaking of an unbiblical anxiety that he refers to in Philippians 4:6, but more of a genuine concern which bothers him deeply. Since I spend so much of my time coaching and working with leaders in local churches, it indeed is of great concern to me as well, when I hear of churches where a top leader has voluntarily stepped down or has been asked to step down due to sin of some kind.

A few years ago I was coaching a leader and just recently found out that some very unfortunate things had happened at his church with one of the top leaders. I asked him to share what he could without being a gossip or breaking confidentiality in any way. 

He told me that he had learned a lot through the pain and disappointment over what had occurred. He then shared three things with me that were at the top of his list. I thought I would share them with you. I will elaborate a bit on each of them from my own experience.

 1.  Doing the right thing is always the right thing, even if it could cost you your job.

It’s not always easy to know what the right thing is which needs to be done. We all have our blind spots. Additionally, we do not always take responsibility for our sin and weaknesses.  We also tend to shy way from “speaking truth to power” fearing it could cost us our job. We can be very skillful at rationalizing almost any sin of commission or omission.

I don’t know many leaders who would do or say the right thing even at the cost of their job. But when it’s clear as to what’s best for the entire church or organization, I should, by his grace, do what’s best regardless of the cost. I want to be a person of integrity and do what’s right instead of remaining silent because of the price I may have to pay.

2.  Tough love is always the hardest love to follow through with, but it’s worth it.

Isn’t it great to be part of a team or organizational culture where people speak the truth in love as opposed to playing games and pretending everything is okay, thereby creating an artificial harmony not based on reality? Ephesians 4:15 reminds us to speak the truth in love. I have concluded from this verse that I don’t want to be so loving that I’m not truthful nor do I want to be so truthful that I’m not loving, I appreciate Proverb 20:28 in The Message in this regard: “Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity.” It’s not easy to be lovingly honest, but I always like to be on the receiving end of such Christ-honoring communication and want to be able to give it as well. It takes a lot of grace and courage does it not?

 3.  The health of the church depends largely on the health of the elders and distributed power among them.

John Maxwell has said that, “…everything rises or falls on leadership.” This includes the overall health of any church or organization. If the leadership is unhealthy, unsafe, unwise, unreasonable or unloving, it’s just a matter of time until the whole can be characterized as such. This statement also speaks to the advantages of a “Plurality of Elders” in a church as opposed to a single individual with too much authority, too much power and too little genuine accountability.

My friend has indeed come away with some incredible insight and hopefully will be a better leader going forward as a result of what he’s learned, as painful as it was.



Questions humble leaders ask themselves!

Most every leader would agree that humility is both a biblical trait and a desirable trait. But what exactly does humility look like? What would describe a truly humble leader? Dan Rockwell helps us in recognizing egotistical as well as humble leaders through a series of provocative questions we can ask ourselves.

Originally posted by Dan Rockwell


Self-importance blocks leadership. The difference between self-importance and knowing you matter is ego.

Humble leaders know that others make their leadership.

Humility enables confidence. Self-importance reflects ego.

7 indications you might be egotistical:

  1. Egotistical leaders seek status over service.
  2. Egotistical leaders walk into meetings focused exclusively on what they want from others.
  3. Egotistical leaders need others to make them feel important. You’re egotistical if you often feel slighted.
  4. Egotistical leaders compete with others, rather than themselves. You’re egotistical if the aspirations and success of others offends you.
  5. Egotistical leaders hover around the most important people in the room.
  6. Egotistical leaders look for the seat of prominence at the table.
  7. Egotistical leaders feel no one else is quite good enough.

10 questions humble leaders ask themselves:

  1. How might I acknowledge the importance of others?
  2. How might I invite constructive dissent?
  3. Who holds alternative perspectives?
  4. How can I open channels that enable others to offer challenging feedback?
  5. What might I say or do that expresses confidence in others?
  6. How might I connect with people with less status?
  7. What is my greatest contribution? How might I bring it?
  8. Who can I brag about?
  9. How might I help others get what they want, while they serve our vision and mission?
  10. How might I stretch myself? Playing it safe is self-protection.


Reflect on humble leaders. How might you model their behaviors?

If you have an ego problem, find a humble leader and ask them to be your mentor. Seek a coach who will challenge you to make your greatest contribution.

The trigger:

Egotistical leaders, who aspire to humility, hold the key to success within themselves. Use the desires you have for yourself as triggers to turn toward others.

How might egotistical leaders move toward humility?



Three key components to a compelling vision!

I gravitate toward a short passage (better yet a single verse) which captures some very critical ideas about Life and Leadership. For me, Exodus 32:34 is one of those verses:

“But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” (ESV)

God is saying to Moses, I want YOU to take these people and lead them to the place about which I spoke to you.

From this simple, succinct, and single verse I see that:

A leader is a person (in obedience to God) who intentionally, deliberately and proactively tries to move people from where they are to somewhere else.

I really like Marcus Buckingham’s definition of a leader: “A leader is a person who is able to rally people to a better future.”  It’s saying the same thing as Exodus 32:34.

Building on Exodus 32:34, here are some key ideas:

  1. God selects his leaders (see Acts 1:24);
  2. God is there for his leaders and with his leaders, as they travel into the future he has made clear to them;
  3. God enables his leaders to see a better future--better for the Kingdom, for the organization and for the people being led;
  4. God gives his leaders certain gifts and helps them acquire skills which enable those leaders to rally others;
  5. Some people are open to being rallied because they respect/trust the leader and are excited about where he/she is going.

There are three key components to this leadership process:

1. The Person

Here are some things to consider in the person who is leading:

· Christ
· Character
· Chemistry
· Competence  
· Capacity

A vibrant and deepening relationship with Jesus is foundational and essential. That should lead to growth in personal character, which is at the heart of 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5.

For lasting fruitfulness, chemistry with others is of more value than personal charisma and brilliance. Today’s leaders are team creators and builders, and being able to develop chemistry with others is hugely important.

Competence (being very good at what you do) and capacity commensurate with the responsibilities wins respect for and confidence in the leader.

2. The People

They need to be motivated, excited, persuaded and reasoned with in order to see the value of where they are headed which, undoubtedly, will mandate changes that are always difficult and painful from the oftentimes comfortable present we are living in. The leader seeks to create a sense of urgency and value for leaving where the people are and traveling to somewhere else.

3. The Place

The place could be a geographical place, an idea, a concept or a project. In the case of Moses, it was a physical place, the promise land. In other cases, it might be a building, a piece of property, a bold idea and multifaceted project of several years. Whatever it is, it’s where the leader feels, before the Lord, that he/she and the people need to go.

So, fellow leader:


  • Are you the kind of growing leader people want to follow as opposed to have to follow?
  • Have you heard from the Lord regarding that “better future?
  • Are you learning how to rally people to go there with you, or are you taking a walk by yourself?


Sobering, but significant, questions for every leader to ask.