I regularly listen to Andy Stanley’s leadership podcast. Each one is short (20 mins), pithy, and packed full of practical wisdom. A little while ago he did a two-parter on leadership lessons learned in the first 20 years of North Point Community Church (the church he pastors). I listened to it yesterday and thought his five insights were worth sharing – so here it is, along with a hearty recommendation you subscribe to his podcast:
- A quality product is essential. [Here a caveat is necessary . . . Andy’s podcast is aimed much wider than just church leaders so he’ll often use more corporate business language – don’t get hung up on it – sift the gold]. In essence he’s saying doing things really well matters. Giving your best to all you do is crucial if you want to see the thing you’re involved with flourish. [And to anticipate more objections, more caveats – of course the gospel doesn’t need us to ‘make it’ a quality product, and God is sovereign in building his church. He’s just saying let’s take our responsibility to steward God’s gifts seriously. Unless you’re a hyper-Calvinist this shouldn’t trouble you]. Pursue excellence – it honours God and inspires people.
- Build a culture of continual improvement. One of the mantras around North Point is ‘make it better.’ How can you keep developing and improving what you do. Without this a culture of complacency and mediocrity can quickly set in.
- Have a clear statement of your mission. Everyone in your team should be able to articulate it quickly and easily. You should be able to print it on a T-shirt. Andy argues that there is a real power in a clear mission statement. Knowing what you’re about liberates people to know what to get on with, and also what not to be doing.
- Develop a culture of learning. This is linked to number 2 above, but this one is more concerned with things like reading, conferences, webinars etc etc. Andy argues that one of the ways you keep people inspired, motivated, and improving is to be constantly curious. Keep handing out things to read, and make time as a team to talk through what you’re learning. Not all of it will be useful, but you’re training a mindset which in the long-term will pay dividends.
- Assemble to best team you can. As Jim Collins would say, ‘Get the right people in the right seats on the bus.’ Andy’s memorable phrase for this is ‘the people you choose are more important than the system you use.’ And we know it’s not always possible (or even desirable) in volunteer organisations to be overly picky – but the principle is good I think. Where you can, get the right people in the right places and lots of other things take care of themselves.
So there you have it – Andy Stanley’s 5 most important lessons from 20 years of leadership. I think these are helpful because they apply broadly – whether you’re in business, para-church, local church, leading a team or small group. Whatever you’re doing there’s something here to reflect on and apply. So grab a coffee, and a pen and paper, and think about how you might put some of these into practise in your sphere of responsibility.