Lead long enough and you gather trade secrets. Take, for example, my relationship with my wife. Early on, we decided that I would make all the big decisions for our home, and she would make the small ones.

So I get to decide our family's stances on major issues. Should the United States Censure North Korea? Should Puerto Rico be granted statehood? Should Peyton Manning be pulled when the Broncos have a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter? These are the things that demand my leadership.

My wife, however, decides the small things: where we live, where I work, who our friends are, and how our money is distributed. You know—the little things.

It's an arrangement that works well for us. However, occasionally our spheres of authority collide. She is our social director. That means she schedules the dinners we must attend. But sometimes I watch sports on nights when she has planned social engagements. She's good at checking with me about my TV sports schedule and plans accordingly. But she struggles to understand the nuances of sporting events. For instance, she doesn't really understand how the last two minutes of the game can last 30 plus minutes. If a game goes into overtime, she really gets lost.

Thus, over time, I have learned ways to stall her. If I know the game is down to the wire, I will dress in a way that makes her send me back to my room where yet another TV is tuned to the game. Black socks, white shoes, and shorts usually do the trick. That stunt will buy me a good 15-20 minutes. If the game goes into overtime, I have to pull out the big guns. When she walks up to me ready to go, I will ask, "Are you wearing that shirt?" Please understand, my wife dresses perfectly all the time. But my simple question sends her back to try on 82 more outfits, leaving me ample time to finish the game, and maybe even watch the postgame shows. You may call it manipulation. I call it leadership.

Leading a diverse team

All joking aside, leading is difficult. And it changes based on the situation and the people involved.

Our church staff is diverse. With so many different personalities, helping each person perform to the best of their abilities can be daunting. Our team members have a wide array of motivations and personalities. Some need encouragement. Others want a bigger challenge. Some routinely need a figurative boot applied to the back of their figurative pants. A few are great in pressure situations, but if they don't sense urgency, you might find them on the roof of the office making giant rubber band guns. Yes, that actually happened. Twice.

Our context is a bit different from a typical church. We run several companies to fund our ministry efforts. We run a restaurant, two driving schools, a publishing and marketing company, a T-shirt screen printing business, a 50-acre wilderness ranch, two truck rental dealerships, a dream lab for teens, and a general store. Phew! All these businesses are run by people who just wanted to do church differently. How's that for different?

Quite honestly, sometimes I feel like I'm herding raccoons.

In this environment, it's essential to develop people who can work within a diverse team and handle multiple projects simultaneously. To identify key leaders, I use a simple three-part test. When people show these characteristics, I look for ways to develop and promote them.

Self-control

Heated discussions are common in our meetings. It's not because we like to fight. It's because we believe that what we are doing truly matters. We need spirited debate to find the great ideas that will enable us to do the best job possible. But stirring intense passion can also cause some people to lose control of their emotions. We're all allowed a few crazy moments, but the ability to reign in your emotions is crucial. People who become aggravated and cannot cool down are rarely given greater responsibility. Anger is not always wrong, but if it makes us shut down or resort to personal attacks, it becomes a liability for the entire team.

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