My wife’s mom has been staying with us for a bit lately, and she’s been a joy to have around. She helps with the girls, and while she’s here Charlotte and I are getting the opportunity for more frequent date nights without the cost of a babysitter – a true treat when you don’t normally have family living close by!
She likes to drink coffee, and her favorite is a blend by Paul Newman. I took this picture so I could remember the details when I went to the store to get it. It’s called “Newman’s Special Blend.” Not being a coffee drinker myself (unless it is loaded with massive amounts of chocolate and whipped cream to cover the coffee taste), I can’t swear by it, but she really likes the flavor.
Special blends are, well, special. And when it comes to leadership, I think there’s a special blend that can make your leadership better. Here are four ingredients I’d put into “William’s Special Leadership Blend.”
Jim Collins’ work on this topic in Good to Great, Built to Last, and Great by Choice is unimpeachable. Humility is one of the major traits that separate Level 5 leaders from the rest. Understand – humility is not being a doormat. Humility is understanding that you are not the King – that you are a part of the team but not the whole team – and that your contributions to the team’s or organization’s efforts should be in those areas where you bring the most to the table. It’s a hard lesson for leaders to learn, but you cannot do it all yourself – you don’t have all the gifts! Humility is essential to true team building and collaboration, and that’s the key to success as a leader.
Integrity is simply the integration of your whole life. It’s the idea of the Hebrew word ‘shalom’ – complete wholeness. I’m not one person in this area of my life, and someone completely different over in that area of my life. There’s not one William on Sundays and a completely different person on Tuesdays. I’m an integrated whole. That should be the goal of everyone, but especially leaders. Without it, we become fractured, fragmented, and inconsistent, and it’s impossible to lead diligently from that place. Henry Cloud’s books Boundaries for Leaders and Integrity are must reads for this one – if you haven’t read them, seriously put them on your reading list. You won’t regret it.
This is the internal fire that keeps a leader going – that white hot flame that explodes into action. When a leader sees a vision of what could be, of how things could be in a church, a team or an organization, then they are compelled to move into action. That passionate drive is essential – without that, we become simply managers of the status quo. As John Ortberg has said so well, “Over time, a church can drift from mission to complaint management. Once that happens, you start to die.” That’s not just true for churches – it’s true for any organization. Drive is what keeps you going in the face of opposition, of conflict, and of complaints. Those things WILL come; leaders with drive keep going because they know what could be, and they long to see the vision become reality.
4. A Teachable Spirit
This is especially important in a church setting, but I’d argue it’s important no matter where you lead. It’s tied closely to humility, but I’m listing it separately because I believe it’s worth calling out specifically. Leaders have a teachable spirit – they are continual learners. They never stop learning because they are driven to get better at leading with all diligence. No one this side of Heaven knows it all, and we can learn from anyone! Without a teachable spirit, leaders get set in their ways and refuse to learn from others, and that’s a recipe for mediocrity, staleness, and disaster. Since my first week at Southview ten years ago, one of my non-negotiable requirements for anyone in leadership has been a teachable spirit. I think it’s absolutely critical.
Those are the four ingredients I’d put in a leadership special blend.
What ingredients would you add into a “special blend” for leaders?