a heart check-up for leaders

You can’t lead if no one follows.

On the other hand, a lot of people don’t think they are leaders because they don’t have a business title or position, but others are watching them and following their example all the time. We can all learn to lead better.

I had the privilege last week of attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. Bill Hybels, the founder of the Summit, spoke first. He shared three hard-fought leadership lessons from his experience. This is my adaptation of his first point:


“Oftentimes, leaders with the highest level of vision and passion have the lowest awareness of the spirit of their team.” ~ Bill Hybels

Leaders can get so fired up about their vision and strategies that followers begin to pay the price. The leader starts to view everyone else as caring less about the goals than they do. The leader then determines that if the followers don’t care about the vision, then the leader doesn’t have to worry about the followers’ heart… and those followers become expendable.

This attitude may not get expressed out loud, but everyone can feel it.

Some ways to protect against this error and truly care for your people:

  • Do an objective/outside evaluation. Bring in a professional team, get a coach, ask a friend. Find out what your followers are thinking and feeling. Have someone else give you honest feedback about how you are treating your team (or students, or children…) with your attitudes and actions.
  • Make sure the leader and team “own” the desired culture. If the leader does not lead by example, others will get frustrated with the hypocrisy and not embrace or apply the culture either.
  • Get serious about training the leaders who manage other people. Some people simply should not lead. If others are continually getting hurt, discouraged, held back, or frustrated by a leader – do something about it! Hybels said, “People join organizations, but leave managers.”
  • Increase the level of candor in evaluations/reviews. An easy format to use is the Start, Stop, Continue categories… and be specific! People (including children!) want desperately to know, “How am I doing?” They can’t get better or grow in areas, if they don’t know what it is that they need to improve.

The kindest form of feedback is the truth. 

  • Practice a ruthless commitment to conflict resolution. View conflicts not as burdens, but rather as opportunities to strengthen the relationship. (more on this area in a coming post!)

WOW! I have plenty to work on here… and that was just his first point! I’ll write about more of the sessions in upcoming posts.

Is there anything you would add to this list? How do you care about the heart and spirit of the people who follow you?

teamwork magic #2 – working together

Once you have formed your dream team, now the magic begins, right? Not exactly… In the real world, working effectively together always requires commitment and work. Here are a few tips I have learned from the “hard knocks” of experience…

Pray together: Do not neglect the power of prayer to build relationships and provide wisdom for the job. Share personal requests and pray fervently for the issues you face together in the ministry.

Develop as a team: Be committed to learning and growing together. No one on the team already knows everything there is to know about each other, about teamwork, or about the challenges you face on the job.  A healthy team will set aside some time in every meeting to discuss a book they are reading together, listen to a podcast, or visit with a mentor.  If possible, get away once or twice a year for a more in-depth time of development; take the Birkman as a team, process a 360 evaluation, or attend a conference together.

Destroy Silos: Watch out for team members who can not or will not focus on the good of the team. They may feel passionate for or overwhelmed by their own responsibilities; but mature team players learn to “wear more than one hat” and to prioritize the overall well-being of the organization. Help each team member to be successful in their area, but do not allow a team member to give preferential treatment to their staff only.

Improve Communication Skills: Prepare a team pact and team norms… and review and apply them diligently. Discuss together how you will ensure that everyone is heard during meetings.  How will you draw in the introverts and control the extroverts?  Learn new brainstorming and creative thinking tools. Decide together what kind of issues will come to the table for team discussion and which issues can be dealt with by empowered individuals or task forces. Use visuals and share meeting facilitation and presentations so that all can improve their skills.

Practice Biblical Conflict Resolution: Do not allow passive-aggressive behaviors: procrastination, stubbornness, resentment, sullenness, or gossip.  Be super-committed to protecting each other in word and deed.  Do not allow a member to condescend to a decision in the meeting and then sabotage the implementation later. Deal with conflict quickly and directly; use love, tact, and grace. Follow up on agreed upon necessary changes. Never settle for cordial artificial peace with teammates; true respect and unity is so much better.

Implement Decision Making Processes: Different processes are appropriate for different decisions depending on scope and complexity.  Sometimes a team member decides, sometimes the director determines, sometimes the majority rules, sometimes consensus is the best option… If you use consensus, watch out for team members who consistently stall every important decision. When you find that you cannot make progress in important areas, it is probably time to use a different process.

Have fun: Healthy teams enjoy being together – at work and at play. Celebrate accomplishments, goals reached, and personal achievements. Use music, color, food, humor and venue change to keep the “magic” in your times together.

What do you think adds the “magic” to teamwork?