“However beautiful the strategy you should occasionally look at the results!” Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill has lots of memorable sound bites and another of my favourites is: “If you have to go through hell, keep going!” A great quote I often use with leaders when things are really tough going.
Leadership is a challenging responsibility at the best of times and sometimes it is seemingly impossible and engages every bit of wit, sinew and sweat you can muster. Too often you find yourself caught up in the day to day management of tasks and never seem to have enough time or energy left to lead your people forward to reach the vision. You know what you want to do but often you find yourself doing the things you really don’t want to have to do ... which sounds like a bit of Romans chapter 7 but isn’t!
I have just come off the phone to two really good church leaders each of whom is pioneering new discipleship-growth initiatives in the north of England with organically developing mission communities. They both outlined two real challenges they wanted my help with and I marvelled at their dogged determination to find the way through in order to press on towards their vision.
The defining character of these two leaders is their passionate commitment to reaching the desired outcome that will see their vision come about. This local vision and action plan has been shaped in prayer and discussion with their people as well as by the overall diocesan vision and strategy. As they lead the change – transformational change in both cases – they are encountering all sorts of mountains, rivers and oceans of challenge and obstruction. But they are both faithful and humble leaders. They know that they are called by God to lead these people at this time to the destination set by the vision. So they keep on keeping on – through hell and high water! And they are taking their people with them ... In fact, they are now finding that sometimes one of their people takes up the baton and leads through another difficult section of the journey. I have a sneaking suspicion that actually they are enjoying their current challenges precisely because it assures them that they are moving forward!
Jim Collins outlines the attributes of a top-class leader or a ‘Level 5 Leader’ as he calls it in his book ‘Good to Great’ (Random House Business Books, 2004). These leaders do five things: (1) Ask for help, (2) Take responsibility, (3) Develop discipline, (4) Find the right people, (5) Lead with passion.
He also notes that they are humble people, who often point to others strengths and successes over their own. But their passion and discipline means that they hold their nerve with unswerving commitment to the path ahead – the strategy – to reach the step by step goals to see the successful outcome of the vision.
Perhaps the attribute of a ‘level 5 leader’ that is most forgotten – or seen as the weakest – is the very first one Jim Collins lists: Asking for help. This is definitely not a weakness but a necessary strength for all those who are leading change (and by the way, change is ‘led’ not ‘managed’ ... more on that in a later blog!)
The Emmaus Leadership Project is set up to do just that: To help leaders who are leading a vision of transformation to reach their desired outcome. It is a privilege to walk alongside these leaders and their teams for a while and to help them reach the tipping-point in their strategy to see the vision come about.
Why not put the first attribute of a level five leader into practice ... and ask for some help!
“If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously” (Romans 12:8 MSG)