It’s hard to find an “exec” these days...well, at least not like when powerful men and women made powerful decisions. You know, folks like Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie. Somewhere along the way that style seems to have lost its popularity, particularly in churches. Maybe it’s a good thing...the jury is still out.
For a time, I had the exquisite learning experience of coaching top Silicon Valley CEOs on ways to stand and deliver when they had to give talks at conferences, or speak to stakeholders during quarterly reports, etc.
It was easy. I had been coaching pastors forever, and been an upfront leader and performer for years, and this was exactly the same thing—help them get attention, keep attention, and evoke trustworthiness.
BUT, I learned something big—execs don't always "exec."
No self-respecting CEO wants to make any kind of a decision without having voluminous amounts of data from his colleagues. Consequently, when I was dealing with the “big” chief, every other “C Level” executive was in the room and quick to correct misinformation. Legal, technical, marketing, finance...they were all there. I was surprised to find that the person at the top was often just a mouthpiece for the real expertise of those under him or her.
There certainly isn’t anything wrong with that—good decisions usually emerge from good information. Sometimes, though the CEO couldn't even break a tie effectively.
Don't we still need leaders capable of the individual chutzpah to make unpopular decisions?
Here are two issues:
First, there are not many clearly unique leaders (execs) these days. In my work in churches, for example, I experience many people who give directions to other people, but they don’t always exhibit good leadership. What’s that? Well, this short list would at least help:
A humble command (never understated, but never overblown)
A non-anxious presence (everything that goes wrong doesn't spell the end of the world)
A willingness to fail (a basic recognition that not everything works...ever)
Short of those qualities (and, yes, I’m sure you can think of many more), no one can lead. They can hire, fire, flail, and look self-important, but they are rarely leaders.
Second, there seems to be a downturn in what we used to call “character” in our execs. Understanding that this is hard to define, one organization that teaches kids to be in collaboration instead of bullying each other lists them as:
Comment: Do we find leaders in the church who never “sidebar” inappropriately with a small group of people, or say one thing when they really mean another?
Comment: Do some leaders simply indulge those they work with or do they genuinely want their input and partnership? Is their any mutuality in their respect or is it opportunistic and one-sided?
Comment: Do most leaders take responsibility for their actions, or do they scold those who they target as their sacrificial lambs?
Comment: Do some leaders fain fairness just to encourage loyalty, or are they truly fair? Do they allow themselves to be judged by the same standards as everyone else?
Comment: Is the leader's caring consistent or just well-timed? Do they always have an openness to the vicissitudes of those around them?
Comment: Does the leader seek out, support, and encourage other pastors in their community, or do they focus only on their own church and its strengths and weaknesses?
Comment: Does the leader criticize their own denomination constantly? Do they demean the decisions and foibles of their board of elders?
Maybe it's just me. I see leaders, I'm just struggling to see leadership.
Doug Lawrence, internationally recognized speaker, author, and advisor, helps churches assess and improve their skillfulness in creating engaging worship experiences by utilizing his more than 35 years of "deep trench" worship leadership in prominent mainline churches.
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