Six Essentials to becoming an excellent leader

In my experience, any significant endeavor in sports, music, business or ministry has a few essentials that, if paid attention to, can make all the difference and, if ignored, can create all the dangers. Generally speaking, there are not dozens of “essentials” in any arena of life.  There are probably less than ten.

Recently, in my daily Bible reading, I ran across 2 Timothy 2:14 in The Message which reads: “Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people.” (Emphasis mine)

I began to think of what a handful of essentials for a leader might be. Perhaps you will think of a few of your own. If so, please comment and let me hear from you.

Here are six that I thought of:

1.  Have both your identity in Jesus and experience continuous intimacy with Jesus

It all starts Jesus, ends with Jesus and is sustained by Jesus. Don’t let anyone or anything take the place of Jesus in your heart and affections. “Guard your heart with all diligence for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

2.  Discover your purpose and make sure that the best of who God made you to be constitutes the most of what you do from day to day

Helping clients get increasing clarity on their life purpose is one of the issues I deal with early in the coaching process. It sets the stage for direction, decisions, and priorities as well as contributes immensely to a leader’s enthusiasm and vitality. Marcus Buckingham says: “Make the best of your job the most of your job.” Having the Lord make clear to you what your specific life purpose is will be absolutely essential to being a leader who lasts.

3. Build teams with the right people

I love Jim Collins’ thought of getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats. A good leader will build teams of people to invest in and work through and, thereby, increase the overall contribution.





 It’s not just a catchy acronym, but a glorious truth.

4. Learn to delegate decision-making authoirty so you can stick to what only you can and should do

The leader of a “true team” will not just give assignments and tasks to team members but will delegate the authority to make decisions. When this begins to happen it’s a whole new ball game for you and the team. This frees you to focus on things that only you can do. Many leaders are bogged down with details and assignments that others could be doing, should be doing and would love to be doing if asked and trained to do so.

5.  Don't allow yourself to have too many direct reports so you can have quality time with them

When the group, church or organization grows there is a tendency to keep adding more direct reports (DR). This is a sure fire way to burn-out and will also lower the morale of your DRs.

Low morale is due to the fact that when you have too many direct reports (coupled with the possibility that you are making most of the decisions yourself), your DRs will not be able to get the time with you that they need. Do your best to keep DRs to five or less. I know of one church with 6,000 in weekend attendance where the lead pastor has three direct reports.

6.  Pace yourself and practice Sabbath as a princple, not just a day

Burn-out, exhaustion and perennial tiredness is epidemic in the leadership world I live and minister in. Leaders are overwhelmed and over committed. They are chasing their own tail lights in the traffic of life. They are traveling too fast and trying to do too much and, in many cases, for the wrong reasons. As leaders, we all need to practice Sabbath as a principle--not just a day. By His grace, we need to learn to live each day with a margin and times of disengagement. The chances of you doing this will be much higher if you have a good team(s) and delegate decision-making authority to those on your team.

 What essentials would you add to these six?


Six questions you should be asking those you lead!

Good leaders ask great questions, not just give great answers. Here are six questions from Eric Geiger you should be asking those you lead.

Orginally posted by Eric Geiger

Six questions you should be asking those you lead

Great leaders ask great questions. Great leaders ask questions to learn but also to encourage those they lead to think strategically. Below are six questions leaders should be asking those they lead. They may not show up in a meeting agenda or on a questionnaire, but wise leaders are continually asking those they lead these types of questions.

1.  Do you have what you need from me?

Great leaders seek to ensure that those they lead have the necessary resources for their roles. They also work hard to remove obstacles, organizational bureaucracy, and barriers that slow them down.

2.  Are you growing?

People who want to grow and develop will enjoy working for leaders who help them grow. Caring about your team’s development is the first step in ensuring they are developing.

3.  What is the greatest opportunity?

This is a different question than “What is your biggest problem?” Helping your team focus the majority of their best energy on their greatest opportunities and not their greatest problems is wise stewardship. Focusing on great opportunities is better than focusing on great problems.

4.  How is our strategy impacting your work?

Strategy is how a team accomplishes the mission. The mission is the what; the strategy is the how and the now. If the strategy is not impacting work, then the activity is not aligned to the mission and strategy. Without this question, energy and resources may be leveraged in directions contrary to the strategy.

5.  How are our values driving your work?

The culture of a ministry or organization is the shared values that drive behavior. Without this question, values can easily become words on a wall and not values that impact how the team decides, executes, and serves alongside one another.

6.  Whom are you developing?

Leaders are responsible for future leaders. For there to be a sustaining culture of leadership development, people must be talking regularly about whom they are developing for the future.


Eight traits of outstanding staff members

 Anyone building a team wants to have some outstanding, stellar team members. What qualities would you look for in the people you want to add to your staff team? Thom Rainer shares eight of them.

 Originally posted by Thom Rainer

 Eight traits of outstanding church staff members

The stories are tragic but too common. Different members of a church staff unite in opposition to other staff. An executive pastor goes behind the back of the pastor and undermines the leadership of that pastor. The lead pastor of a church rarely communicates with the other church staff. The different members of the church staff operate in silos instead of cooperating synergistically. A lead pastor fires a staff member without any due process or compassion.

Those are but a few examples of a divided church staff. The result is always harmful to the church they are called to serve. Sometimes the negative impact of the division takes years to overcome. Sometimes it lingers the entire history of the church.

This article is for individual church staff: senior pastors, lead pastors, executive pastors, and numerous others serving in such areas as children, students, discipleship, worship, small groups, and pastoral care, to name a few.

These eight characteristics are for you as you relate to the other staff at your church, regardless of how they respond or reciprocate. The most godly and influential staff members I have known share these eight traits.

1.  They pray for other staff members individually. In their private prayer time, effective staff members pray for the others who serve on the team. They pray for those who support them. And they pray for those who oppose them and even antagonize them.

2.  They seek to build up the ministries of the other staff members. In public and private, the best church staff members say great things about the other ministries. They seek to work with the other areas of ministry instead of competing with them.

3.  They communicate openly. They have no hidden agendas. They are not duplicitous in their public words versus their words said in private. They make certain everyone else understands fully what is taking place in their ministries and why.

 4.  They express disagreements with other staff face to face. They are not cowards who spread venom behind the backs of other staff. If they have a disagreement with another staff person, they go to that person directly in a spirit of humility, honesty, and love.

5.  They seek to serve. They will show up at a ministry led by another staff person to help and demonstrate support. They will ask other staff how they can help them. I know the story of a discipleship pastor who brought a meal to the worship pastor during the busy Easter season just to let him know he appreciated him.

6.  They execute the tasks they are given. When one church staff member does not execute the tasks for which he or she is responsible, the entire staff is demoralized. There is a sense that some are working and others are not. It makes the entire staff ministry look weak or incompetent to church members. Often, other staff members have to pick up the slack.

7.  They defend other staff members to church members. Every church staff member receives criticisms on a regular basis from church members. But the best staff members will not allow a church member to denigrate other staff to him or her. The outstanding staff members will defend their fellow team member or, at the very least, direct the church member to speak directly with the person who is the subject of the criticism.

8.  They support and encourage the families of other staff. Families of church staff need support and encouragement. For sure, they often get enough of the negative feedback. Support and encouragement is especially powerful when it comes from another church staff member. Few things unify a church staff and, thus, a church as much as intentional encouragement of the families of church staff.

Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Unity and love are incredibly important for Christian witness. Unity and love are imperative for church staff who serve together.



Critical Factors for Success

I believe that everyone wants to be successful in life/work/ministry/family, regardless of how they may define success. No one has an expressed purpose, or innate desire to fail, although some do.

I don’t think that anyone wakes up one morning to the realization that their supreme desire in life is to be a failure. I also believe that God’s definition of success is decidedly different than the world’s definition.

“Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”

~I John 2:15,16 (The Message)

So what does the world want?

  • Power
  • These are a few “wants” that come to mind. I’m sure you can think of others.

    Today I want to address three critical factors that are essential to success in biblical leadership--factors that, if violated constantly and consistently, will more than likely lead to leadership failure.

    I am not saying that these are the only ones that can lead to failure if violated, but these are certainly at the top of my list based on personal experience and the experiences of those I have led, coached or worked with/for through the years.


    In my leadership seminars, I say that the most important item on your job description may not be on your  job description, but should be. I believe with all my heart that the primary responsibility of every Christian leader is to hear regularly from God

    “Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, ‘Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”    

    ~I Samuel 3:10 (NIV)  Emphasis mine

    That should be the heart cry of every sincere follower of Jesus, and especially so for his leaders. Through the time-proven practices of spiritual disciplines, we place ourselves in a postion to hear from the Lord: hear words of encouragement, hope, rebuke, challenge and guidance for life and leadership.

    When the pressure is on and the schedule is tight, oftentimes quality time with God is one of the first things that gets neglected or ignored.

    Don’t let this happen to you!

    Get lots of good quality time sitting at the feet of Jesus and hearing from the triune God. Remember Mary chose to sit at Jesus feet while sister Martha hustled and bustled about and was rebuked by Jesus.


    The second critial factor that gets neglected is quality time with family. If married, wife and children (as He blesses you with them). If not married, time with your father, mother, brothers and sisters.

    “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, andfight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”

    ~Nehemiah 4:14 (ESV) 

    With his help, we need to fight for our homes and make our homes and families a priority both in time and affection.  Andy Stanley’s book, “Choosing to Cheat”is especially insightful on this topic. Ministry/work will suck everything out of you if you are not careful, and your family will get the leftovers--if there is anything left.

    At 77 years of age, I’m still working at making my wife Susan and my four adult children & seven grandchildren a high priority.

    It’s a big challenge for me and I’m not always successful at it, but I am earnestly seeking his help as I set up each week to include all of them in one way or another: to love them, cherish them, affirm them and invest in them with time and attention.


    Lastly, we need quality time in thinking and praying about key people we want to bring into our team or our staff (both paid and volunteer).

    Hardly a week goes by that I don’t have this conversation with some leader I coach--making those important decisions about who to bring onboard.

    I love Jim Collins’ insight about getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats.  

    “Then they all prayed for the right man to be chosen. O, Lord, they said, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen.” ~Acts 1:24 (NLT)

    As leaders we need to pray for the right people to be chosen and  spend sufficinet time thinking, assessing and selecting  these people, as he leads us.

    Nothing can hurt the vision, the ministry and the direction of what God is leading you to do more than having the wrong people with you, or having them in the wrong seats on the bus.

    The subject of selecting the right people is one of the topics that most often comes up in my coaching of leaders. Horror stories abound regarding this topic. Jesus spent an entire night in prayer before selecting his twelve.  That should speak volumes to us!

    So how are you doing with these three Critial Factors for Success? Anything the Lord would have you stop doing, start doing or do differently?


    What younger leaders are looking for in those that lead them!

    Every older leader should be investing in the next generation of younger leaders coming up. What exactly are younger leaders looking for in those that are leading, coaching and discipling them? Chuck Lawless has some very good insights for us.

    Originally posted by Chuck Lawless

    I love young people. Their passion, faith, and courage often put me to shame. They teach me, even though I’m the professor. In the past, I’ve written other posts about their concerns.  As I’ve worked with this generation for almost twenty years, here’s my most current list of what young leaders want, listed in no particular order.

    1.  Authenticity.  They’ve seen enough of the fake. They want to know adults who truly walk with God, who are Christlike in public and in private.

    2.  Modeling. Their heroes are often physically distant, available more online than in person. Still, they want someone to walk beside them, to show them how to fight temptation, love others, raise children . . .  live life.

    3.  Consistency.  Young leaders have little time for friends or mentors who are available only for a while. They’ve had too many other adults who’ve not always kept commitments, and they want consistency.

    4.  Probing.  They not only are open to probing questions from others, but they actually welcome them. I’m sometimes surprised by how willing young leaders are to talk about their issues. I trust they’re that open because they really want to be godly.

    5.  Depth.  They recognize shallow Christianity from a distance because it’s what they’ve most often seen. When they see strong, deep, biblical, Christian teaching and obedience, they gravitate in that direction. 

    6.  Teamwork. Some of this interest resides in a growing commitment to elder-led congregations. Much of it, though, also comes from their honest recognition that they need guidance. They welcome a team that helps them make good decisions.

    7.  Vulnerability. Young leaders want mentors and models who themselves are open and vulnerable. Knowing their heroes wrestle with life, too, challenges them to fight for holiness together. 

    8.  Experience.  My generation often leapt into leadership without looking to others for help. Young leaders today, though, strongly desire to learn from others who’ve preceded them in the journey. 

    9.  Impact. These leaders want to be hands-on, personally involved, heavily invested in their tasks. They believe they can in the power of God change the world, and they welcome the challenge.

    10.  Balance. They’ve watched families fall apart, and they don’t want that to happen to them.  Instead, they want someone to show them how to balance work, family, church, etc.  

    11.  Answers. Even when they strive to stand on the Word, they still want to know why they should take that stand.  Their world is asking them questions, and they want to know how to answer them. 

    12.  Affirmation. Some of the strongest young leaders I know still want affirmation. Dig into their heart, and you’ll sometimes find a leader who just wants to be loved.