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Book Review: Leadership as an Identity

I just finished Leadership as an Identity: The Four Traits of Those Who Wield Lasting Influence, by Crawford Loritts. It was recommended by a friend as one of the best leadership books he’d read and I really enjoyed it. I heard Loritts speak a number of times when I was in college at a number of Campus Crusade events, so it was nice to ‘reconnect’ with him and his ministry (he’s now the Senior Pastor of Fellowship Bible Church in Roswell, Georgia).

As the subtitle suggests, Loritts lists four key traits of godly leadership. They are: 1) Brokenness, 2) Uncommon Communion (with God), 3) Servanthood as an Identity, and 4) Radical, Immediate Obedience

Overall, I found the book to be very helpful. Loritts pulled principles from a number of biblical places, and the book is filled with many great quotes from other Christian leaders. Here is what I took away as the big idea, followed by some of the key lessons and quotes that impacted me, by section.

Big Idea

Leadership is ultimately about character. If you have all the skills and talent and charisma in the world but lack character, you will eventually lose your influence. Christian leadership is fueled by pursuing a close relationship with God and all that comes with it.

1. Brokenness

  • “Brokenness is not a onetime event. It is never finished.” (36)
  • “Sometimes well-meaning people have tried to talk me out of [my] sense of inadequacy. But this sense is vital to fruitful ministry.” (Randy Alcorn, 37)
  • “Pride is one of the easiest ways for a younger leader to lose his influence.” (Ken Behr, 39)
  • “Your ability to discern God’s will is directly related to presenting your body as a ‘living sacrifice.'” (44)
  • “Brokenness empowers a leader because it forces him or her to do more than lip service to the grace of God.” (Tim Kimmel, 54)
  • “Failure should not be the primary source of our brokenness. It is the ever-present realization that we could hurt [God’s] heart–that we carry within us a pull towards sin–that ought to keep pushing us toward God.” (57)
  • “Authentic brokenness always casts the spotlight on the glory of God and not the fact that we struggle.” (67)
  • “God breaks us at various times in our lives to raise us up to the next level. A brokenness episode in our thirties does not exempt us from a brokenness episode in our forties.” (Monty Watson, 75)
  • “If a leader doesn’t humble himself, he leaves God no choice but to humiliate him. And he will because he must. The work of his kingdom cannot be left at the mercy of a leader who is wrapped up in himself.” (Tim Kimmel, 83)

2. Uncommon Communion (with God)

  • “Why do so many workers break down? Not from overwork, but because there has been friction of the machinery; there hasn’t been enough oil of the Spirit.” (DL Moody, 86)
  • “Never underestimate the power of self-deception and the pull towards self-reliance.” (92)
  • “Unexamined failure teaches you nothing.” (96)
  • “The only thing worse than waiting on the Lord is wishing you had!” (113)
  • “I can’t think of a time in which I had everything I needed ahead of time to do what I believe the Lord wanted me to do.” (117)

3. Servanthood as an Identity

  • “Sometimes the [term ‘servant leadership’] is used in a utilitarian way…we need to be careful that we are not using servant leadership language as a strategy–as a means to manipulate people to do what we want them to do.” (131)
  • “Don’t think of yourself as a leader but as a follower of Jesus…most leaders have fallen because at some point of their lives they ceased to be a follower of Jesus.” (131-132)
  • “Both pride and humility have, for the most part, very little to do with your actions and choices, but they have everything to do with your motives and attitudes.” (133)
  • “Unfortunately, too many leaders love the tasks but just tolerate the people.” (145)
  • “Those who work with me or report to me should feel as if I have invested more in them than I have asked them to give.” (146)
  • “This is what Jesus defined as greatness. You must be a servant. You don’t just act like one; you must become one.” (150)

4. Radical, Immediate Obedience

  • “There’s no such thing as partial obedience. We either completely do what God says or we disobey him.” (171)
  • “You can never get too big or too important for God to replace you.” (175)
  • “[When they failed,] Saul was afraid of losing his position as the leader of Israel. But David was afraid of losing the touch, intimacy, and favor of God who had been everything to him. Honestly, what are you more afraid of?” (176)
  • “If you quit now, you probably will be quitting for the rest of your life.” (184)
  • “Courage is…complete obedience in the face of opposition.” (186)
  • “It is a good thing to remember the failures of those we admire.” (188)
  • “Courage is like a muscle; it grows stronger with use.” (192)
  • “We need to be acutely aware of the cumulative nature of our little choices.” (Randy Alcorn, 199)
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Lessons from Rework

Since I got a Kindle for my birthday I’ve been tearing through a number of books. One helpful, quick read was Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. It was on my radar for a while, but Josh Reich’s recommendation pushed me over the edge.

Rework feels like you’re reading a series of blog posts — each chapter is short, straightforward and filled with helpful ideas related to leadership, management, and productivity. Not everything translated to church leadership, but much of it did. Additionally, with Fried and Hansson working in a small business environment, there was much that fit well with our current small-but-growing size dynamic.

Here were some of my favorite quotes:

  • “Have you ever noticed that while small businesses wish they were bigger, big businesses dream about being more agile and flexible?” This is so true, especially for churches. It’s easy to be discontent and see the greener grass.
  • “Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done.”
  • “What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.” This reminds me of the Principle of the Path.
  • “When you want something bad enough, you make the time–regardless of your other obligations. The truth is most people just don’t want it bad enough…Besides, the perfect time never arrives. You’re always too old or busy or broke or something else. If you constantly fret about timing things perfectly, they’ll never happen.”
  • “When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.” This seems to be very true with vision. Clear vision makes decision making much easier.
  • “Don’t use the idea of a startup as a crutch. Instead start with an actual business…Actual businesses don’t mask deep problems by saying, ‘It’s OK, we’re a startup.’ Act like an actual business and you’ll have a much better shot at succeeding.” This principle is something I am trying to reinforce with the church planters I coach.
  • “Less is a good thing. Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got. There’s no room for waste. And that forces you to be creative.”
  • “You can turn a bunch of great ideas into a crappy product real fast by trying to do them all at once.”
  • “Whenever you can, swap ‘Let’s think about it’ for ‘Let’s decide on it.’ Commit to making decisions. Don’t wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward.” I’m finding that as our church grows in complexity, it’s increasingly important to make decisions quickly or else the ‘let’s think about it’ pile grows way too big.
  • “The menus at failing restaurants offer too many dishes.” This is why we have fought to keep our ministry very simple. We do Sunday and community groups.
  • “The core of your business should be built around things that won’t change. Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now. Those are the things you should invest in.” This is why our ministry is built around the gospel as declared in God’s word. It won’t change. The core needs of human hearts won’t change.
  • “It’s unfortunate that meetings are typically scheduled like TV shows. You set aside thirty minutes or an hour because that’s how scheduling software works. Too bad. If it only takes seven minutes to accomplish a meeting’s goal, then that’s all the time you should spend. Don’t stretch seven into thirty.”
  • “When you stick with your current customers come hell or high water, you wind up cutting yourself off from new ones. Your product or service becomes so tailored to your current customers that it stops appealing to fresh blood. And that’s how your company starts to die.” There’s lots of tension here, but I think there’s an interesting principle at work here, especially for church leadership. As Andy Stanley says, “Will your church focus on reaching people or keeping people?”
  • “Trade the dream of overnight success for slow, measured growth. It’s hard, but you have to be patient. You have to grind it out.”
  • “When something goes wrong, someone is going to tell the story. You’ll be better off if it’s you. Otherwise, you create an opportunity for rumors, hearsay, and false information to spread.”
  • “Remember that negative reactions [to change] are almost always louder and more passionate than positive ones.”
  • “The decisions you make today don’t need to last forever. It’s easy to shoot down good ideas, interesting policies, or worthwhile experiments by assuming that whatever you decide now needs to work for years on end.” This is why I believe firmly in the “Brett Favre Principle” or the “for now” principle. The only constant in organizational life is change.

Which of these stand out to you? Any that you strongly agree or disagree with?

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