I recently spent five days with the leaders and their spouses, of some of the largest churches in Canada.
These leaders are my peers.
Fifteen of the leaders have led churches for over 35 years. They’ve soared when so many others have flamed out.
Here are 12 uncommon qualities I observed in them.
12 Uncommon Qualities of Leaders Who Last
1. Leaders who last have spouses who love them and are the biggest fans of their leadership.
Ministry in a large church is very taxing on marriages and families. Without a spouse’s supportive partnership, leaders flame out.
I was with some of these leaders when Gary Kubiak was hired as the new head coach of the Denver Broncos. Pastors and coaches have a lot in common. We watched part of the Broncos press conference. Kubiak made a point of lauding his wife, Rhonda for her support. “…this business, without a great family, is tough. For me to go out and chase my dreams, Rhonda is always letting me do that. It’s a tough business, a lot of hours, a lot of work. She’s always kept it under control and said, ‘Go get after it.’ So we’re going to get after it again here.”
Spouses who “go after it” with their pastor partners are the biggest factor in leadership longevity.
2. Leaders who last age in place without becoming archaic.
Four of the leaders I met with have been in the same church for over 20 years. The key is that they have not had a one-year experience, twenty times. They have re-invented themselves through their time of ministry.
They’ve stayed fresh with their communication style. In the words of Ron Michalski, “they have changed with the times but have been anchored to the Rock.”
3. Leaders who last know its always too soon to quit.
Every honest leader will tell you they’ve experienced the ever present temptation to quit. Durable leaders refuse to quit in order to finish well. The difference between quitting and finishing is always a character issue.
4. Leaders who last are life long learners.
The leaders I hang with are current with the latest leadership book releases, blogs, podcasts and periodicals. They have a voracious appetite for reading. “Simplify,” is a new release by Bill Hybels. Tony Sawler not only recommended the book, he gave me his copy so I could read it during a holiday break. Thanks, Tony!
5. Leaders who last are consistent and flexible.
Resilient and nimble organizations are led by people with proven dependability. Durability creates dependability and stability, which are the foundation of flexibility. Significant course corrections are best navigated with a seasoned pilot at the helm because ministry advances at the speed of trust. Massive organizations can make major changes because of durable leadership.
6. Leaders who last, laugh and they leave the people they lead, laughing.
A sense of humor is indispensable when leading people through un-fun moments in their lives. Each one of these leaders knew exactly what to say to make the rest laugh or at least smile.
7. Leaders who last honor the successes of the past and launch bold new initiatives.
8. Leaders who last may not be known as innovators but succeed at adapting and adopting the innovations of others.
They selectively apply the proven strategies, systems and structures of others.
9. Leaders who last have a self-sustaining passion for what they do.
They are internally motivated and know how to encourage themselves.
10. Leaders who last recognize that there are seasons of ministry.
Ministry seasons are not sequential. After a summer of seeding, the anticipation of a harvest season may be lost to an unexpected blizzard of wintry conflict. But winter is not forever. There will always be the spring of new seasons of God’s favour. That’s what HOPE is all about. With the Lord, there is always a “next year” to follow a season of disappointments.
11. Leaders who last are seldom the smartest person in the room.
Wise leaders rely on the proven wisdom of consultants, mentors and seasoned veterans. Durable leaders seek counsel. They ask lots of questions. They know who can get them the answers or where to find the answers they need.
12. Leaders who last ask the right questions to achieve their big picture goals.
When it comes to scheduling time, the right leadership questions are, “What do I want to accomplish in the next 30 days?” AND “Who do I want to become in the next season of my life?” The answers to both questions are required to lead well and long.
APPLICATION: Where are you in your leadership journey? Please leave a comment below.
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