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June 24, 2017

Leadership Practices We Don’t Talk About Enough

By Shawn Lovejoy

I read a lot about leadership. Nothing great ever happened in the Bible without a godly leader in place who made some good choices. I have been a student of leadership for over 15 years now, and I’ve seen a ton of “Leadership Best Practices Lists.” I even have my own (I’ll talk about that later).

Here are some not-so-commonly listed leadership practices:

  • Leaders pray about decisions.
  • Leaders never do what’s best for them, but they do what’s best for the organization. 
  • Leaders work harder than everyone else. 
  • Leaders are more disciplined than everyone else.
  • Leaders are willing to sacrifice more than anyone else. 
  • Leaders don’t shy away from making tough calls.
  • Leaders realize that the people that got you to here usually won’t get you to there. 
  • Leaders are honest. Even when it’s hard. 
  • Leaders love people. 
  • Leaders believe in who God made them to be and are confident in their identity.

Although all of these are good and true, there is one that I want to unpack a little further with you. In fact, it’s one that often gets the most questions when I talk about it with others.

“Leaders never do what’s best for them but what’s best for the organization.”

For some of us, this statement makes a lot of sense. Others struggle with this. Few understand the implications of this leadership practice. In Jim Collins’ book Good To Great, Collins discusses the most important aspect of building a great organization: He calls it “Level 5 Leadership.” In the book, he states that a level 5 leader is someone who blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will. He says, “Level 5 Leaders channel their ego and personal comfort needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great organization.”

To live this way, however, it will often mean that:

  • I must be willing to take blame and give away credit. 
  • I must balance results with the relationships I have with my team(s).  
  • I must value being respected over being liked. 
  • I must value effectiveness over personal comfort.   
  • I must value the organization’s mission over my own. 
  • I must stay even when staying is the most difficult thing to do.
  • I must step aside when that’s what needs to happen.  
  • I must understand that being the leader will cost something to my family and me. (It always did in the Bible.)
  • I must understand that the best thing I give to my organization is a healthy family and a healthy me.
  • I must live my life the way Jesus lived. He never put His desires first. 

Here’s a second leadership practice that I want to unpack further:

“As the leader, I must understand that being the leader cost something to my family and me.”

One of the big mistakes I see leaders make, especially in the church, is to try to answer God’s call, while not “uprooting” their family or making them uncomfortable. The problem is that I can’t find this pattern in Scripture.

In the Old Testament, for instance, every time God called out the leader, the family paid a price for that call. Whether it be Noah, whose family faced great ridicule as Noah obeyed God. Or Moses’ family, to whom it must have seemed that the entire world was at odds with their husband and father. Or Abraham’s family, who endured great uncertainty to move away from home and all of their relatives to obey God’s call. 

While these few instances and many others make it clear that when God calls the leader to uncertainty and even suffering, He also calls the family to the same path. I meet pastors all the time who aren’t open to certain ministry avenues because it would mean their family would have to move away from family to answer the call. I’m sorry, but I can’t find this anywhere in Scripture.

Even Jesus’ obedience to the Father in the New Testament is clear evidence of the fact that our obedience to God comes with a price in our families. If keeping His family comfortable and not “rocking the boat” with His family was His primary goal, Jesus never would have left the carpenter shop. But He did.

“As the leader, I must understand that being the leader will cost something to my family and me.” It’s biblical. It’s also true in every arena of leadership. If it’s lonely at the top (and it is, sometimes), it will be the same for the family. If God’s call always comes with a price (and it does), it will be the same for our families. So, we need to stop trying to protect our families from any discomfort or uncertainty and answer God’s call at the same time. We’ve got to talk to them about God’s call and be up front with them about this biblical calling then they won’t be shocked when the going gets tough.  

This principle is most true in Spiritual leadership. That’s why I tell pastor want-to-bes all the time to not enter ministry unless you know your spouse is called too. That’s why it’s important that before you start a church or lead a church, you allow God to speak to your spouse and unify your family in the call.

They’re going to pay a price. They must be willing to endure it if they know they were called to it. Leadership is an enormous privilege, but it comes with a price. Let’s keep our eyes and our families’ eye open to both. That’s the model of Jesus.


Shawn Lovejoy

Shawn Lovejoy is Founder & CEO of CourageToLead.com. They facilitate leadership growth and organizational health for leaders through executive coaching and organizational consulting. Shawn has been a successful real estate developer, a church planter, megachurch pastor, and now leads a fast growing coaching and consulting organization. Shawn is the author of three books, most recentlyMeasuring Success: Your Path To Significance, Satisfaction, & Leading Yourself To The Next Level. Shawn has been married for 25 years to his best friend Tricia and they have three children: Hannah, Madison, & Paul. They all live in Trussville, AL, a suburb of Birmingham.


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