It’s been a few years, but it’s still a great book on leadership. It’s called Winning, and in it Jack Welch outlines What Leaders Do.
Here’s what he says:
1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach and build self-confidence.
2. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breathe it.
3. Leaders get into everyone’s skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.
4. Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency and credit.
5. Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.
6. Leaders probe and push with a curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.
7. Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example.
8. Leaders celebrate.1
That’s good stuff about what leaders do. Much of what’s being written about leadership these days centers on things leaders have to do, should do, ought to do, and must do. However, very little is written about what leaders can’t do. Specifically, what Christian leaders can’t do.
I believe that list, especially for Christian leaders, to be every bit as important. It would include, but not be limited to, the following:
1. Leaders can’t be politically correct. A politically correct leader is an oxymoron. Leaders, specifically Christian ones, must be biblically correct. That will ensure you are never politically correct.
2. Leaders can’t obsess with finding common ground. Let the counselors, negotiators and arbitrators do that. Leaders define the ground for us and it will never be common ground. Instead it will be uncommon. Genuine leaders take us to places we would never get on our own and they do that by leading, not by taking a poll or asking everyone else, “Where would you like to go today?”
3. Leaders can’t take a pass on problems. Genuine leaders diffuse problems instead of ducking them. They are problem solvers, not problem shifters, and are willing to do whatever it takes, even if it means great personal sacrifice, to bring about a resolution.
A genuine Christian leader will be bold enough to tell people what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.
4. Leaders can’t avoid confrontation. Genuine leaders don’t enjoy confrontation, but they don’t avoid it either. Like driving a car, you don’t aim for the potholes, but you also can’t avoid them. There will be plenty of potholes and pitfalls in the road ahead. Leaders drive carefully and purposefully, but they still drive.
5. Leaders can’t pull punches. Politicians do that. So do actors, and that may work in the world of make believe. But it won’t work in the real world. A genuine leader can’t and won’t pull punches. Dr. E.V. Hill used to say, “I wouldn’t trust a man who throws a rock then hides his hand.” Some are willing to take a stand in the privacy of their own home, but when placed square in the public eye or eyed in the public square, they clam up and back down. That’s not leadership. Christian leaders dare not flinch in the face of opposition or they’re done on day one. Genuine leaders never hesitate to say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done.
6. Leaders can’t be prophetic and popular at the same time. You’ll be one or the other, but you’ll never be both. If you take Paul’s admonition seriously and Preach The Word (2 Timothy 4:2), you’re not going to be popular. In fact, you’re painting a bright red bull’s-eye on your backside. But a genuine Christian leader will be bold enough to tell people what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.
7. Leaders can’t hand off the hard decisions. President Truman had a plaque on his desk that said, “The Buck Stops Here!” Genuine leaders aren’t buck passers. Instead, the buck doesn’t pass by them to someone else because they are willing to make the hard decisions. If it’s hiring someone, firing someone, pulling the plug on an ineffective initiative, paralyzed program, or ministry mired in mediocrity, a genuine leader won’t hesitate to make the call that needs to be made.
8. Leaders can’t run when the going gets tough. Count on it — things are going to get tough if you’re a leader. But when the going gets tough, leaders don’t leave, they LEAD! That’s your job as a leader. To stay on deck in the midst of the storm, with your hands on the helm, guiding your ship to safe harbor. Spectacular storms, fierce winds, wicked waves, even a cowering crew can’t keep the captain of the ship away from where he’s supposed to be.
9. Leaders can’t do it on their own. The leader who tries to do it all by himself is not a leader. He’s a nutcase. It’s insane to try to do it all on your own. Genuine leaders will assemble a team of top-notch leaders around them. The best leaders go after the best leaders. Only an immature, insecure leader would seek to surround himself with lesser leaders. Leaders recognize their weaknesses and bring in people who are strong in those areas so the entire team operates from a position of strength.
10. Leaders can’t do anything else. A genuine leader has to do what he or she is doing. They’ve been called to their respective task and committed themselves and everything they have to seeing it accomplished. They live, eat, breathe, and sleep what they do. Not because they’re workaholics, but because they’re leaders.
That’s what leaders do.
© 2018. Barry L. Cameron
“Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)
1 Welch, Jack. Winning. New York: Harper Business, 2005.
Barry L. Cameron has been the Senior Pastor of Crossroads since 1992 when the church was averaging 188 in morning worship. Pastor Cameron and his wife, Janis, have three children and two grandsons. He’s the author of the bestseller: The ABCs of Financial Freedom, Contagious Generosity, and The Financial Freedom Workbook. The Cameron family has been completely debt free since November 2001.