At a diverse variety of organizations, across a span of about forty-five years, I experienced leadership at many levels. Nearly twenty years of that time was spent as a CEO, leading organizations with a combined total of about a thousand employees and combined annual budgets of nearly $200M. Throughout that time I was constantly trying to understand better what my real job was. I know that sounds awful. Am I saying that I never knew what I was doing in those positions? Absolutely not.
I am saying I have dedicated myself to trying to understand and teach the various roles of the senior leader. Not the formal duties written out and filed somewhere and pretty much taken for granted. I don't mean specified duties such as
preside at staff meetings and report to the board. I am talking about fundamental areas where leadership rises above the ordinary and experiences levels of success that transcend the job description.
I believe these areas are where great leadership distinguishes itself, sets itself apart from low-impact maintenance-men (or women). One cannot rise to great leadership simply by running a better board meeting, though by running a bad meeting, one can shoot one's foot off. I am talking about areas of leadership which will almost never be found in a CEO's job description. There are ten of them, and without them, leadership will quickly become pedestrian and uninspiring.
At the National Institute of Christian Leadership, I present one entire lecture on these ten leadership roles. In this blog I will deal with only four of them. This is a not so subtle come on to attend the NICL. If you want to hear the rest, which after reading about these four you are certain to do, then you must register for the NICL. I hope you will join me for a year of provocative leadership teaching and personal interaction that will challenge and inspire you.
Here, then are four of the ten roles of senior executive leadership. Whether you are a football coach, a CEO or a pastor, these four roles are among the top ten which define your greater responsibility. A job description is what it is. These are four among the fundamental roles which set apart the great leaders from the folks just "doing their jobs."
I: Talent Scout
I list this first for a specific reason to be seen. Great leaders live with their eyes open for talented people that can be impact players. They watch folks down in the ranks to see who can move up and help take the team to its desired future. They also keep their eyes open outside the organization. Everywhere they travel, in every business meeting, at conferences and in deal-making the wise leader is watching for the stars in other organizations.
Great leaders are not intimidated. They never hire down. Great leaders keep their eyes peeled for the best and the brightest, the capable, talented diamond, or at least diamond-in-the-rough, that needs to escape someone else's team and play on theirs. One of the best employee choices I ever made was hiring a certain young man away from another university. He was at a substantial level below where I wanted him to lead. On paper, he was too young, too inexperienced and with slightly less education than many thought the job required. Still, I knew he could rise to the challenge and I went after him. Yes, he was terribly young, but he was also hungry and when you are trying to build a team that can help you crank up a dead engine, hungry is better than age.
Great leaders are constantly seeking, finding and recruiting people who can make the team better. I have sought to hire folks who were better and brighter than I. You may say that should not have been all that hard. I agree, but it is still a laudable goal.
II: Visionary and Vision-caster
While it is true that no one in your organization will ever see the vision quite as clearly as you do, that cannot become an excuse for not communicating the vision clearly, consistently and with unflagging passion. As you have no doubt noticed, I make a distinction between visionary and vision-caster. Great leaders are always visionaries, some more than others, obviously, but they are always the person through whom the presiding vision of the organization comes. The leader can delegate many duties but never, ever receiving the vision.
Nor can communicating the vision be delegated. It is one thing to receive the vision, to really know in your heart what the vision for your organization is. That must happen, but if you cannot communicate that vision it does very little good. Its fine for you to know there is a promised land ahead but your description of the land of milk and honey is the fuel that keeps everyone moving.
III: Resource Management
The translation of a vision into a reality just eventually grow practical legs. What does this cost? How much do we have? Where do we get the rest? How do we get there? What do we do first? These are the kinds of real life questions that turn great visionaries into successful managers.
The buck stops with you. You must know how to understand the limits of your resources without becoming discouraged. The overly inflated extrapolation of unrealistic data and wrong assumptions will lead to out-and-out disaster. Budget management is not the tedious, unnecessary task of the peons in your team. The leader must get the reports, READ the reports and work together with the team to make strategic use of the resources. The leader is also responsible to develop the plan to increase those resources. Here are the questions that must be answered. What is the vision? What will it take to get us there? What do we have now? What do we do first with our little stuff right now to get started toward the big stuff ahead?
IV: People Management
I heard a young pastor say that he loved pastoring, but it was people he could not deal with. I say, get out of the ministry. Get out of leadership anywhere. True servant leadership is about loving and caring for your people. They want to do a good job for you. They just need direction - specific, clear direction. They look to you to be the structural engineer of the organization. Who goes where? What is my job? To whom do I report? Who reports to me? How does what I do further the vision of this organization?
Resource and people management is what it's all about.
Now - look at how it all fits together. The leader must get the right people on the team to believe in and get on board with his (her) vision. Limited resources (they will ALWAYS be limited) must be managed for strategic effect. Finally the team you have assembled must be structured and directed so that they can succeed. They must be summoned into the plan. If you intend to do it all, why have a team?
Get the right team. Get the right vision. Use the resources the right way. Organize your people the right way to effectuate the right plan of attack. Those are four of the secrets of the successful leader/manager.
Believers, particularly the naive and immature, may be tempted to say this kind of talk has nothing to do with Jesus. He never had to do this stuff so why should I? He did have to do this kind of stuff. Exactly this kind of stuff.
Look at the feeding of the five thousand. Each if these four elements of management and leadership are in that story.
- Jesus carefully selected the team he wanted. He was the consummate talent scout plucking first one team member then another, sometimes from highly unlikely places. He chose his team creatively, selecting members that had been overlooked by others. By the way, remember that one of his top twelve, hand-picked executives was a total failure. If slightly less than one half of one per cent of you senior executives goes haywire you are doing great. Everybody, and I mean everybody, hires badly sooner or later.
- Jesus told his team to feed the people. He cast a huge and impossible vision and summoned into meaningful, personal participation. He showed that he cared about the needs of his listeners and that he had faith in his team to do the job.
- He called for and received a realistic resource report. He knew exactly what he had to work with. He knew that he had "five barley loaves and two small fish." The report was precise numerically and descriptively. He did not get angry at the report or panic at the lack. He inspired his team to be believe that the plan could begin with what they had.
- He organized his own team and the people for the miracle to come. He told his team to have the people "sit down in groups of fifty." His management directions were clear and specific and the structure he created brought order out of chaos. In seconds, Jesus imposed a clear and workable structure on a potentially unmanageable throng. What a beautiful structure. Twelve senior mangers, each overseeing eight groups of fifty each is as good as it gets.
Jesus was a visionary leader to be sure. He was also a model manger, getting together the right team, casting an inspiring vision for them to see and believe in, managing available resources creatively and creating an organizational structure that could succeed.
As I said, this is only a look at four of the ten leadership/management roles of the CEO. I would be delighted and honored for you to join me for the National Institute of Christian Leadership. Pastors, business and even political leaders have found the program to be life changing. Why would the pastors of mega-churches, pastors such as Larry Stockstill, Jackie White, and Steve Berger attend the NICL? Why would leaders come from as far away as Myanmar, Canada and Albania? What would leaders of every age and station attend? Why especially would leaders like Robert Morris and Jentezen Franklin host the NICL and pay for their own staff to attend? And why do multiple universities grant as much as a year of graduate credit in business and religion? Why indeed?
Come and join me for a year designed to challenge, inform and inspire the leader in you to find and fulfill the vision God has given you. In addition to the master’s credits already being awarded towards a degree in ministerial leadership, Southeastern University is now offering 12 credit hours towards an MBA with completion of the institute. NICL grads are already taking advantage of this amazing offer. For more information please visit TheNICL.com or call Daniel Prince at 407.333.7106.