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The True Mission of a Leader

The True Mission of a Leader

Most churches, ministries and organizations in general would love to have the best high capacity leaders possible to fill the slots within their organizations. Unfortunately, organizations often overlook the necessity for those high capacity leaders to actually be leading at high capacity—and what it takes to get them there.

I’ve always been intrigued by leaders, coaches and teams who use the phrase, “I want to be surrounded by the best!” You would think this should be an obvious or natural desire for all leaders. Think about it: When was the last time you heard a leader say, “I want to be surrounded by the mediocre!”? The reality is many leaders and organizations say they want to be surrounded by the best but instead settle for surrounding themselves with mediocrity.

Although “best” is an elusive term, it’s still a goal organizations seek to obtain. “Best” is defined as, being of the highest quality, excellence, the best work, desirable, etc. With that definition in mind, leaders and organizations should always strive for the best. It’s also important for leaders to understand they are ultimately responsible for developing their team to be great.

If you look at sports teams that have a tradition of winning, you will almost always find a head coach surrounded by the best assistant coaches in the business. You will also find a program where everyone in the country is trying to recruit and hire those assistant coaches away

I remember visiting an executive-level leader of one of the fastest-growing churches in America. He began to talk about his senior pastor’s philosophy as it relates to their leadership team and their organization in general. His senior leader said: “I want guys on my team who are high capacity, high quality. I want the best. I want guys on my team whose phone rings from people outside of our organization. I want the guys other guys want.” That passion of wanting to be surrounded by the best will ultimately produce leadership fruit, both inside of the organization and outside of the organization.

It’s not enough, though, to simply recruit the best, as leaders have the ultimate responsibility to develop those team members into even better leaders. I love how the founder of Firestone Tires, Harvey Firestone, put it when he said, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.”

In my opinion, the University of Oklahoma Sooner Head Football Coach Bob Stoops is one of the best leaders in the last decade. And it’s not because the Sooner Nation loves him, or because he has the title of head coach, or that he can inspire others or that he has won a National Championship. The reason I think he’s the best leader is because of the way he’s grown and developed the leaders around him. The proof is in the stats: Since Stoops has been head coach at Oklahoma, he’s produced more NCAA Division 1 head coaches than anyone else in the last decade.

I am a firm believer that the heart of leadership is about the leaders we produce. At the age of 25, I became one of the youngest prison wardens in the country. Throughout my career in corrections, I wanted to and did produce other wardens instead of just other security chiefs or deputy wardens. Leaders have a responsibility to develop and make more leaders.

If you want to be surrounded by the best, you must embrace these three things:

  • It’s your responsibility to develop your team and give them opportunities to be the best.
  • You have to give those who are the best room to grow, dream big and try new things.
  • You must openly embrace that the best people will not only be sought after, but sometimes they will leave and take those best practices other places.

This mindset will sometimes leave organizations scratching their heads and asking: “What do I do with so-and-so? They are knocking it out of the park, their potential is off the charts and they have the leadership margin to spread their wings.”

Allowing people to spread their wings means different things for different leaders, but it boils down to, “How can I steward their talent/potential and continue to allow them to make a positive impact on the organization?”* Many times, organizations make the decision to just bury that talent and, in so doing, severely limit the potential of that high capacity leader.

It’s like the parable of the talents: The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. The one with the two talents gained two more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money out of fear for losing it or risking too much.

“So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”

His master replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?’” (Matthew 25:25-26, NIV)

If your organization, team, staff or business wants to be the best and has been blessed with some great talent, don’t bury it. There are new harvests to be sown with this high capacity seed.

As a leader, if you figure out a way to maximize the potential of the high capacity talent you have been blessed with, you will be rewarded. This may require you to be creative, dream big, think bigger and set clear expectations.

However, the potential of the harvest is immeasurable. If you manage the talent wisely, at some point you will look up and find you have created a leadership tree as tall as Bob Stoops’ and a line of the best leaders waiting to be part of your team.

Are you willing to be surrounded by the best?


This article originally appeared in the February/March issue of Neue magazine.

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