School and I never really got along. My favorite subjects were lunch and gym. The crown jewel of my scholastic career was being awarded the Presidential Physical Fitness Test in the 8th grade. Don't hate, that 1 pull-up was not easy with my middle school twig arms!
As I have gotten older I am able to do a few more pull-ups and I have fallen in love with learning. Leadership has helped with this. Being a leader requires learning new things.
While I do not have to sit in a classroom any longer, I have put myself into some learning circles recently. One of my most transformational learning seasons was a roundtable event with a group of 20 other pastors who share my responsibilities of leading from the second chair. Most of these individuals lead teams and ministries that reach multiple thousands of people.
I want to talk to you about the 6 most impactful leadership lessons I gleaned from this group. These emerge from a church setting but apply to leadership on a broader level as well. You will find various quotes from these leaders peppered among the points. Hopefully, you are as challenged as I was.
Look for proven models and utilize them.
Even at the largest level, these leaders value what is effective over what is original or cool. Each leader instructed members of their team to find others who do their job better than they do and build a relationship with them. Wisely, they limit these relationships to 1 or 2 new ones a year because too many may overwhelm. It takes a long time to really understand another model, much less give it time to work.
"The smartest leaders are close friends with people who are much smarter than they are."
Stop doing so much.
"If I were starting our church over again, I'd always be asking myself the question: 'What do we need to stop doing?'"
As you get larger you have to get simpler, mainly because communication and connection in larger organizations become more difficult. One striking quote was, "After visiting 40 churches in a year I've noticed so many program based ministries." For a church to grow it needs a simple and clear assimilation process as opposed to more programs. Success comes from connecting people fast and allowing people to get involved in your church.
Do the hard things today.
Progress happens when you embrace discipline. There is a reason these churches are so large, they are not afraid to work insanely hard. These leaders are ultra-committed to process. Process is sometimes a grind. Processes are not "sexy", but they work.
"The way you deal with subpar performers says a lot about your leadership."
"If you allow leaders to do anything without evaluating the good and the bad then you are not really developing leaders."
"We have hard conversations all the time. The place we have the most is in our performing arts. We tell more people the hard truth that their mom didn't love them enough to tell them...they cannot sing!"
"People call us intense. Usually that just means they are too lazy to work hard or too afraid to change."
If you want to grow your church or team, the thing you have to change is you.
This was the most challenging point to me personally. I noticed these leaders do two things differently than myself: First, they think different. While it is hard to explain every way, one way is in how they approach a problem. They do not see an issue as something they need to fix, rather an opportunity to watch another leader grow by allowing them to fix it. Next, they ask more questions than they give answers. These leaders did not come across as experts, they remain curious learners.
Never underestimate the importance of the health and culture of your team.
Hillsong Church, a ministry that has world renown and campuses in various countries, spend the majority of their time specializing in culture. More than they talk about any other issue, they talk about this. One interesting fact is their largest budget line item is for this area. Across the board, these leaders echoed this sentiment. If you want your team, church or organization to grow larger, spend the majority of your time focused on your staff culture.
What a challenge. These leaders live their lives at a very high capacity, yet a peaceful pace due to this principle. Staying strong is vital to being present as a leader. One leader said, "Whenever I have so much happening that I cannot focus on the person or task in front of me, I know I am trying to do too much. In those moments I delete 30% of the responsibilities and tasks on my calendar." Wow!
"Take your days off. Realize that it is unbiblical to work on your day off."
"When you leave the office...leave it at the office."
"Don't text, email or call on your days off. If you team can't get their work done during the week then adjust their roles or find people who can. If you cannot give up control and trust them, then that's a you problem."
While I still do not like school, I still have so much to learn. If you are a leader, so do you. Join with me in thinking new thoughts, gaining new insights and doing whatever necessary to keep learning and leading!
-Levin Lloyd is the Executive Pastor of Stevens Creek Church, in Augusta, GA, and a coach with CourageToLead.com