Leadership evolution

Evolving (i.e. growing) as a leader is critical for those of us who want to stay in the leadership “game” for the long haul!

We have to be continually growing, refining, stretching, and improving.

Leadership evolution can happen through a variety of means:

  • Books we read
  • Mentors we expose ourselves to
  • Circumstances
  • Prayer and reflection
  • Etc.

This morning as I was reading Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, it occurred to me that I am going through a “leadership evolution” phase in my life.

CAVEAT: the following is a journal entry. If you’re not comfortable reading my journal then run… run very fast… run away! For the rest of you, read on.

Bossidy and Charan write,

Every great leader has had an instinct for execution. He has said in effect, “Unless I can make this plan happen, it’s not going to matter.” But the selection, training, and development of leaders does not focus on this reality. Judging from our observations, a high proportion of those who actually rise to the top of a business organization have made their mark – their personal “brand” – as high-level thinkers. They are the kind of people who get caught up in the intellectual excitement of each new big idea that comes out and adopt it with enthusiasm. They are articulate conceptualizers, very good at grasping strategies and explaining them. This, they know, is what it takes to get ahead. They aren’t interested in the “how” of getting things done; that’s for somebody else to think about.

It wasn’t to long ago that I believed the “how” was the responsibility of others. I didn’t worry so much about the details. I didn’t need too. I had an office manager, a director of operations, several pastors on staff, and a ton of great volunteers to execute the “how”.

Bossidy and Charan adequately describe my leadership style, a year ago, when they write, “They are the kind of people who get caught up in the intellectual excitement of each new big idea that comes out and adopt it with enthusiasm. They are articulate conceptualizers, very good at grasping strategies and explaining them.”

I always had a ton of good ideas! I would come to our meetings and drop them on the table and leave… only to come back to our next meeting with some more good ideas; which of course I would drop on the stack of good ideas from months gone by! This frustrated my team and unfortunately it frustrated me too! I was frustrated that the plans/ideas weren’t being executed and they were frustrated because I kept dropping “initiatives” on their plates and then walking away! I’m confident that they must have thought at every meeting, “What’s the new idea today?”

Over the past seven months two things have happened that have caused me to go through a leadership evolution:

  • I no longer have a staff of people waiting to “execute” (i.e. carry out) my big ideas! If I have an idea… I have to carry it out! I am now responsible for the execution of the ideas I generate and the plans I create! (You can check out a practical example of how I’m doing that here).
  • Shawn Lovejoy and David Putman, my church-planting mentors, keep saying, “No plan is perfect. You need to create the best plan you can and then work the plan!” “Work the plan!” (Of course if tweaking is needed along the way you do it, but for the most part you just work the plan!)

These last seven months have forced me into the details! I have created plans and worked those plans! From fundraising to developing systems for Walls Down Church, I am in the detail side of things more than ever. I have actually learned how to make the “how” happen!

I am becoming what Bossidy and Charan talk about, a “leader [who] has an instinct for execution. He has said in effect, “Unless I can make this plan happen, it’s not going to matter.”

Now, there will come a day when I’ll turn over much of the detail side of ministry to someone better equipped to handle it, but never again will I completely abdicate the “how” side of leadership.

A final quote from Bossidy and Charan and I’m done,

Many people regard execution as detail work that’s beneath the dignity of a business leader. That’s wrong. To the contrary, it’s a leader’s most important job.

4 thoughts on “Leadership evolution

  1. Leadership evolution can happen through a variety of means – – I think that the evolution of a leader is developed through all of the examples you have shown. I like building on the first and then the next and then the next and so on. You start with the foundation and build up upon it. All great leaders have a foundation – a starting point – something that switched the light on – and from that they have built their skill-set.

    I recently did a blog on positive and negative traits of great and failed leaders; maybe something for you to look at and something good for your readers to pick up on.

    http://yattitude.wordpress.com/2008/03/06/ya-ttitude-on-leadership/

    Benny
    Procrasti-NATION must end!
    yattitude.wordpress.com

  2. Great stuff Paul! I was too lazy to read that book so I got the audible.com version:-)
    Anyway, as usual I have the urging within to bring balance to every discussion that I am a part of so here goes…
    Yes, we have to work a plan and no plan is perfect but as Christian leaders we also have to hold loosely to that plan. We can’t become so attached to that plan that when God speaks we are stuck in our little plan, unwilling to move.
    This also begs discussion of the topic of the importance of prayer (the listening kind:-) in the planning process which I know you are deep in. Keep it up!

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