How Leaders Can Stop Hogging the Hero Moments

One-Sentence Summary: Every leader wants to be a hero, but rather than hog the hero moments, great leaders empower others to be heroes. 

As a leader, have you ever been a hero to those who follow you?

Maybe you were the bearer of great news. Or maybe you served or loved them in an unexpected way. Maybe you gave them a job!

Most point leaders have the opportunity to be a hero with their staff from time-to-time, but what about the other “leaders” in the organization?

It’s an important question, because there are lots of people in every establishment leading something or someone. On our church staff, nearly everyone leads a staff team and/or volunteer team. Not everyone, but nearly everyone. There is one point leader, but there are nearly 65 leaders.

What I see too often (and maybe you’ve see this a lot, too), is point leaders hogging the hero moments while lower-level leaders are forced to handle the day-to-day, non-hero stuff. And unfortunately, there’s not too many “hero” moments day-to-day.

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Because Hiring Diverse Strengths Is Not Enough

Every leader knows that a well-rounded staff makes for a better organization. As a leader, you desire to have a diversity of skills, capabilities, and even personalities on the team. You want a leadership team to provide different perspectives. You want a leadership team to contain unique individual abilities. You want an overall staff built upon a healthy diversity of talent.

You want people with financial strengths, administrative strengths, people strengths, and creative strengths. You want leaders around you who are feelers, doers, thinkers, strategist, contemplative, and decisive. You need this as a leader. And your organization needs this to be successful.

That should be easy to accomplish, right? I mean, all you really need to do is hire for strength and personality diversity. Not diversity of chemistry — we all need to love the people we work along side — but diversity of talent. Diversity of abilities. Diversity of personality.

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Unplugging the Microwave of Success

Have you heard the soundtrack to the hit broadway musical “Hamilton?” If you’ve seen the actual musical, just keep that to yourself — intentionally causing envy is tantamount to envy, itself.

The music is quite spectacular. And historically insightful, too. My kids are way more knowledgeable about the Founding Fathers due to our time in the car together. It makes me question everything about my school upbringing! Hip hop trumps note-taking all day long.

Production aside, Alexander Hamilton was quite an amazing guy. He accomplished much, including establishing one of the first banks in America, the Bank of New York. Here’s what made me take a step back while jamming along to the soundtrack — it took Hamilton seven years to establish the bank’s charter. I know, the local community bank went up in a months time, and that seemed like forever in today’s world, but think about that for a moment. Seven years. That’s a long time to focus on something. Anything.

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Do Labels Limit Potential?

Do you have a label maker in your workplace? Or maybe at home like I do? A small little printer with only one purpose in life: labels. My wife really loves label maker, which explains our pantry. She’s labeled every bin, which felt like overkill until I needed to distinguish between powdered sugar and all-purpose flour. A light dusting of flour on your pancakes isn’t a good as you probably imagine!

My wife isn’t alone in her love of labeling. People by nature love to label things. You have probably labeled something today — or many somethings. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. And that could be a good thing. Labels are helpful. And labels give context. A label describes what we know and what we can expect. Powdered sugar or flour. Black beans or green.

Here’s where labeling goes downhill. Unfortunately, as a leader, our propensity to label things often transfers to labeling people. We do it for the same reason as the bins in my pantry — labeling people gives us context. It helps us understand who people are and what we can expect. We label people through personality test, which is often helpful, as these types of tests give us context on how to best lead individuals individually. We label people’s roles though job descriptions and titles. Again, helpful for us and the person on the other end of the role. If we could stop the labeling there, maybe all would be fine. But we don’t. In fact, it’s as if we can’t. We love context too much to stop with personality characteristics and job descriptions.

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Giving Yourself Some Growing Grace

If you are leading in any way, no doubt you are faced with potential personal growth opportunities. These opportunities come in various forms. Some are easy to understand while others are more complex. Some learnings are easier to implement than others. Unfortunately, the most difficult aspect of personal growth isn’t identifying the growth opportunity, but rather dealing with our implementation attempts and setbacks.

Let me explain with a personal example:

I recently was able to take some time away from leading at Woodstock City Church. I spent the bulk of my time processing some interpersonal stuff that was directly impacting my ability to lead well in the long term. One key learning for me (among so many) was how easily I can allow what I do as a leader to define who I am as a person. When what I do is doing well, I’m doing well. When what I’m doing is struggling, I find myself personally struggling. When I fail, I begin to believe I am a failure. It’s identity 101, but none of us are immune to forgetting this Christian life principle. Especially in leadership, where progress and doing is the bulk of the work.

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Does Your Team Really Believe They Belong?

Have you ever felt you needed to prove yourself? Prove your worth? Prove you deserved to be at your company, church, or organization?

I guess that’s more of a rhetorical question, right?

We’ve all felt the sense of performance-based acceptance at play in our heart. It’s part of the human condition. We’ve all wondered if we really belong. If we are worthy of our role.

As leaders, we have to look outside of our own experience to see the bigger problem: The internal battle to belong isn’t isolated to us. If we have felt it, most likely everyone in our organization has felt it — or is currently feeling it. And it’s a problem on several fronts. I know, because like you, I’ve been there.

The Internal Battle to Belong Creates:

1. Sideways energy: When people are trying to prove their worth, their misapplied motivation moves their energy away from the good work and toward a good pat on the back. When people are focused on being noticed, their efforts cannot be fully dedicated to something bigger than themselves.

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Filling Seats on Your Bus

If you lead any type of organization — company, church, or department — you probably have an organizational chart of some sort. It’s one of those necessary structures that help delineate chain of command and channels of communication, among others.

When I first began leading a church (a typical organization in many ways), I was encouraged to envision the org chart 5 – 10 years down the road. What departments would be necessary? What divisions? How many layers? How many staff? I even went as far as putting my name in most of the “open” positions in this hypothetical org chart. Visually, it looked impressive and strategic. Personally, it just looked like I had too much to do!

I think this is a valuable exercise for every leader. If you’ve never done it, you should. But a few years into leading at Woodstock City Church, this exercise created quite the conundrum.

Here’s the dilemma I began to ponder:

Is it better to start with the org chart in place so you can then find the right people for each box, or is it better to find the right people and build the organization around them?

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11 Lessons from Announcing our Name Change

If you’re a leader, you’ve had to make and then announce a big decision before. How’d it go? I bet like me you learned a lot in the process.

At the church where I lead, we just announced we are changing the name of our church from Watermarke Church to Woodstock City Church. If you’re not in the world of church, you should know this is a big decision and a big announcement. It’s the equivalent of changing a company name where the name is the product. This change could be problematic in any size church, but with over 5,000 people attending our church every Sunday, our scale increases the possibility of resistance and complication.

Interestingly, with all the potential pitfalls of an announcement of this magnitude, thus far we have received nothing but praise on the heels of going public. Why? Well, partially due to the name we are leaving — Watermarke Church. Why the silent “e?” What does it mean? Well, nothing really. The silent “e” was added to avoid a potential lawsuit (very Christian-like, huh?).

But the real reason this change has been so well received is because of our approach.

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7 Simple Ways to Engage Millennials at Your Church

In the previous post, we evaluated the church’s ability to capture the millennial generation.

It’s an ever-growing conversation among church leaders. Reaching the “young people” as a church has been a conversation since I was a young person. My guess is every generation of the church has struggled to reach the next generation on some level. But I wonder if it has less to do with their generational grouping and more to do with their stage of life. Certainly every generation has its unique qualities, and we would be foolish as church leaders to ignore these trends, but twenty-something’s of my generation behaved in many ways like the twenty-something’s of this generation. In fact, there might be more in common with twenty-something’s across each generation that we realized.

If my presumption is true, reaching the “young people” in the community is less about their generational intricacies and more about understanding a twenty-something. From where I sit, I don’t see this segment of adults fleeing the church in record numbers. What I see is these young adults behaving like I did when I was in my twenties. They aren’t lost — they’re just disconnected until they feel a tension to reconnect.

To that point, when these twenty-something’s marry and have children, many show back up to church. The reason is simple: They have a felt need for God and the church again. Felt need is what always drives us to God (and the church), whether it’s a felt need to feel less guilty or in this case a need to fix a marriage or learn how to raise a kid.

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What If Public Grace Generated Opportunities For Private Truth?

Do you like politics?

I hate it.

I’ll sound more Christian and say I strongly dislike it.

For a short season in my early twenties, I thought I wanted to be in politics. At least until a close friend told me I was WAY too honest and opinionated to be a successful politician. I’ve never played relational games for sport and I certainly will never be blamed for telling people what they want to hear. That’s the type of person I want in political office, and there are some like that serving today, but I’m not sure we as a people are ready to vote for that person en masse.

I guess we like to hear what we want to hear. We are certainly drawn to what we like to hear.

The portion of politics that would have been most challenging to me was fund-raising. To raise political funds, a candidate must make big, bold statements that rally the home crowd enough to drive funding — whether they believe it or not, or plan to act on it or not. It’s this type of “red meat rhetoric” that dominates the political landscape today. Every political commercial or staged speech rips apart the opposition while passing off the strongest of opinions only to strengthen internal support and raise funds. Politics is a game — not of truth and justice, and in many ways not even about votes, but a game of winning and losing dollars (which are then converted to votes).

To me, the Christian landscape in our country often mirrors the political landscape in our country.

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