Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace

Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace

by Tim Stevens

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Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace by Tim Stevens

Discover the tools of leadership to revolutionize your workplace.

Tim Stevens traveled an alternative road—leaving high school and immediately joining a national non-profit organization. He rose quickly through the ranks of leadership, but nine years later left it all behind to help an upstart church get its footing. During the 20 years Stevens served as Executive Pastor at Granger Community Church near South Bend, Indiana, the ministry grew from a congregation of 300 to more than 5,000; from a staff of five to more than 130; with a preschool, restaurant, three campuses and more than 1,800 new churches planted in southern India.

Leaders learn by leading. Stevens knows that creating a healthy and successful organization requires throwing out the conventional instruction manual and writing one that balances practical lessons, spiritual truths, and twenty-first century realities—exactly what you will find in Fairness Is Overrated.

Stevens, now an executive with the Vanderbloemen Search Group, takes his lifetime of service and dispenses with conventional wisdom. Short, powerful chapters end with actionable discussion questions. Four pillars hold up every successful leader: Be a person of integrity. Identify the right people around you. Build a great culture. Lead through crisis.

This is a manual of doing, not talking. No fluff, no stale inspirational platitudes. It’s time to move past planning and kick-start Monday into action.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400206551
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 01/13/2015
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 333,064
File size: 610 KB

About the Author

Tim Stevens is the executive pastor at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana. His team-style of leadership has helped grow the church to more than 5,000 gathering weekly in three locations and has seen a worldwide impact, which includes a community center in downtown South Bend, Indiana, and more than 1,800 new churches in southern India.

Read an Excerpt

Fairness Is Overrated

And 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace

By Tim Stevens

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2015 Timothy Alan Stevens a/k/a Tim Stevens
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4002-0655-1



A MARGIN IS THE PORTION OF THE PAGE THAT YOU intentionally leave blank. You will notice on this page that the printers didn't put text all the way from the left side of the page to the right side. Rather, they left space all the way around—those are margins.

Yet in life, everything in our culture is telling us to ignore margins. Spend more money than you make, and you will have no financial margin. Fill your schedule from early morning until late night, and you will have no time margin. Surround yourself with needy people and constantly be reactive to their expectations, and you will have no emotional margin.

Mark Batterson wrote, "You need margin to think. You need margin to play. You need margin to laugh. You need margin to dream. You need margin to have impromptu conversations. You need margin to seize unanticipated opportunities."

I want to live a life with margins.

When I live on less than I make, I have the financial margin so an unexpected expense won't capsize me, and so I can respond in the moment to someone else's real need.

When every moment of my life is scheduled, I don't have the margin to stop and listen to someone who needs an ear; I don't have the time to jump in and help a neighbor fix his sprinkler; I don't have the flexibility to go to one of my kids' sporting events that was scheduled at the last minute.

Margin makes you pleasant; no margin makes you grumpy.

Margin allows you to be generous; no margin makes you Scrooge-like.

Margin helps you listen. Without margin, you come across as someone who doesn't care.

Margin gives you the space to learn, grow, and dream. Without margin you become stale and empty.

Most important, margin increases the chance you will hear the still, small voice of God when he speaks. Without margin, you might continue through life without the blessing of God.

And yet I think it is safe to say that most leaders in America live without margin. We don't want to live that way, but we find ourselves constantly trying to catch our breaths.

Here are some practical ideas on how to create margin:

• Carve time into your week for margin. I liked to stack all my meetings on two days each week, which gave me margin to be responsive on the other days.

• Live on 80 percent of your income. Set aside another 10 percent for regular designated giving (church, charity, and more). Put the final 10 percent in a separate account to respond to whatever God might prompt your heart toward.

• Know yourself. What drains you emotionally? What fills your emotional tank? Be sure to schedule time to refill your tank with activities that add life to you. (More on this in chapter 4.)

• Minimize the number of life-sucking people around you. It's okay to have some relationships where you give 200 percent and they give nothing, but if all your relationships are like that, you'll die a slow, lonely death.

• Every now and then turn off the noise. You can't hear from God if you are constantly listening to the beep of the newest e-mail, the vibration of the latest text, the alert from your Twitter feed, or the chirp of a new Facebook notification. Schedule an electronic detox on occasion, and take time to listen to God, others, and yourself. This is so crucial I'm devoting chapter 3 to it.


1. Where are you feeling the lack of margin in your life?

2. If you made just one change to increase margin in your life, what would that be?



TEENS GET A LOT OF GRIEF ABOUT HOW MUCH TIME THEY spend on their phones. I hear adults say, "They never put their phones down!" or "He is texting nonstop!" or "I bet she couldn't live a day without her phone." But in truth, teens do what teens see. And I see adults every day who belittle others because of the bad phone habits that they, too, model.

One day a couple of years ago I got up before daylight and spent hours traveling by plane to go across the country for the sole purpose of a one-hour meeting with some leaders for whom I have huge respect. I had looked forward to this meeting for weeks, waiting to hear their stories and grateful for the opportunity to share what God was doing through our partnership.

During the meeting, there were several points at which each of those leaders picked up his phone to read or type. At the same time, they glanced up at me on occasion as I was talking, said, "Uh-huh," then continued to "thumble" with their phones. I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say it was a rare moment in that one-hour meeting when one of them wasn't looking at or typing on his phone. I'm not a touchy-feely type of guy, but on that day I felt devalued. I felt as if there was something they would rather be doing, but they just didn't have the guts to tell me that this meeting was not a priority. I walked away from that meeting determined never to do that to anyone.

Here are a few "fully there" habits I appreciate in others and try to put in to practice myself:

• When you start a meeting, turn off your ringer and move the phone away from you. If the screen comes to life when you get a text, then turn the phone upside down so you won't see it. If it is likely to vibrate, then put it somewhere it can't be felt or heard.

• If your phone does vibrate during the meeting and your guest says, "Go ahead and answer it," reach down and silence it without even looking. This communicates to your guest that he or she is very valuable to you.

• Don't buy in to the "What if there is an emergency?" line. Rarely does that happen. It is not a good excuse for looking at your phone multiple times during every meeting.

• If you know you will need to be reached during the meeting, let your guest know, "My wife is at the doctor's office and may need to reach me, so I apologize in advance that I'll be taking her call when it comes." That tells your guest this is an exception—you wouldn't normally do this.

• If you are in a meeting with multiple people, follow the same rules. Don't convince yourself that your participation isn't needed so you can disengage and respond to texts or play Candy Crush Saga. We fool ourselves into thinking we can multitask, or that our disengagement won't be noticed for a few minutes. Not true.

I'm not saying phones are evil or that every time you use your phone you are devaluing others. I'm a heavy smartphone user. Your phone doesn't need to be out of sight every time you interact with another human. There are times when I'm sitting around with five or six friends or family members and every one of us has a phone out. That's part of the twenty-first century. I even think it can enhance the conversation and social interaction. But there are times when you have limited interaction with others and you should be all there.

It's about valuing people. And sometimes that means we are looking in someone's eyes and being fully engaged so we can really listen to the person's story and hear his or her heart.


1. What habit do you need to change so people know you are fully listening to them?

2. If you are really brave, ask your spouse if he (or she) believes you are fully present when he (or she) is talking to you. Ask your coworkers. What do they say?



I HAVE A CONFESSION. I WAS ADDICTED TO THE TELEVISION show 24. I watched every week and couldn't wait for Jack Bauer to save the world, once more, from some terrifying attack that was going to kill millions of people. And he always came through, just as the seconds ticked down.

Occasionally Jack would go deep undercover. No one could reach him. There was no way for anyone to communicate with him to change or abort the mission. Once he went dark, he would stay under until the mission was accomplished.

If you remove the intensity, gunfire, adrenaline-racing action, occasional psychotic behavior, and torture, then I think there are some real-life lessons we can learn from Jack Bauer. Sometimes we also need to go dark.

Most of the time you are available. People know where your office is. They know your e-mail address. They know how to reach you on Facebook or Twitter. They probably even have your cellphone number. Perhaps they can connect with you through Xbox, Instagram, Tumblr, or a thousand additional ways that are being thought up as I write.

And there is nothing wrong with being connected in our fast-paced world. But there are times when you must intentionally disconnect. Maybe you do this by turning off your phone and iPad at eight every night and leaving it off until the next morning. Maybe you do this by disconnecting from everything one day each week.

So what exactly does going dark mean in today's world?

The Urban Dictionary website defines it this way: "To disappear; to become suddenly unavailable or digitally out of reach for an undefined period of time."

For me, this usually means the following:

• I don't check e-mail.

• I make sure my e-mails stop forwarding to my phone.

• I don't carry my cell phone.

• I don't check any office voice mails.

• I don't blog. I also don't read anyone else's blogs.

• I don't tweet or go on Facebook (except for family stuff or pictures about my week).

• I don't read how-to-be-a-better-leader books (like this one).

• If I'm still in town, I don't stop by the office. I also don't go to my church.

I don't wait to go dark only when I'm on vacation or out of town. Instead, I plan this in advance because I know it's important. It is what I must do for my health and sanity, and for the wellness of my soul. I don't wait until I'm desperate—by then it's probably too late.

Last year I planned well in advance, and by the time my going-dark week arrived, I was on the edge. A good friend looked at me and said, "The life has drained out of your face." It had been an intense season and a long haul without much of a break. It was time to disconnect.

I've been asked, "Don't you miss a lot of important stuff when you go dark?" Yep. When I choose to go dark, it means I miss some opportunities. I am not involved in some key decisions. I miss some calls and e-mails that were important. I miss some deadlines. I disappoint some people. And for an entire week, I am unavailable to my team.

But it also means that I'm back the following week in a better frame of mind to serve and lead. I have a brighter outlook for the future and more margin in my life.

I haven't mastered a healthy life of balanced living. But I think it is worth asking yourself some questions:

• Do you have someone in your life who can look you in the eyes and say, "Dude, you need a break!"?

• Do you realize that you can't wait for someone else to tell you to take a break? You are responsible for your health—no one else. It's great when you work in a place that also values your health, but ultimately you are responsible.

• Do you know what fills your tank emotionally, physically, and spiritually? For me, when I spent fifty hours in one week last year engineering, hammering, drilling, sawing, and measuring, it brought amazing healing and health. And doing it with my dad, being surrounded by my kids and wife, and having my mom around, those relationships added to the joy. (More on this in the next chapter.)

You can't wait to take a break until the work is done or until no one else needs you. Those days will likely never come. It's possible that the best thing you can do is disappoint someone in the short run so that you can serve him or her better in the long run.


1. When is the last time you disconnected digitally in order to renew your body, soul, or mind?

2. Consider taking time right now to put your go-dark week on the calendar.



MY WIFE AND I OFTEN GET A LAUGH OUT OF HOW DIFFERENT we are from each other. She lives for parties—in fact, the longer she is at a party, bouncing around talking to people and laughing, the more energetic she becomes. On the other hand, if you watch me at a party, it would be similar to watching a balloon lose all its air—minus the bouncing around the room part. My energy is sucked away when I'm in large gatherings of people, especially if I don't know them well.

I think the best marriages are made when two people understand what fills the tank of their spouse, and when they each do everything they can to make sure it stays filled. And I think the best leaders know what gives them energy, and they know what drains it away.

I'm in my forties, and I'm just now beginning to figure myself out. I'm realizing that to be whole and healthy, there are certain things I need:

• I need to give. A lifestyle of generosity keeps me focused on others more than myself.

• I need to know I'm succeeding. When I don't know if I'm doing the right things or doing them well enough, I begin to feel off balance.

• I need to design and build. If there is an alternate universe, I'm pretty sure I'm an architect over there. I love to dabble in engineering or designing, and then to build or manage the project to completion. Sometimes this might be a deck, other times it might be an organizational change, or occasionally it will be a multimillion-dollar building project.

• I need quiet time. I'm not a person who prays on my knees for a specific amount of time each day. I try to whisper prayers to God and listen to his voice all day long. Quiet time in the car, in my office, or at home helps me do this.

• I need eight to nine hours of sleep a night, and every now and then a good twelve-hour night. I envy people who can live on less sleep, but that ain't me.

• I need quality time with my kids. When they were younger, I spent time with them because they needed it. As they get older, I gain as much by my time with them as they do. They challenge me, inspire me, and make me laugh.

• I need a few friends: people who let me be me, who understand my quirks, who laugh with me (not at me), and who know I'm not mad when I'm quiet.

• I need to write. Writing is a passion. When I can't find the time to write, I feel mentally constipated. When I have time to write, everything in my brain flows more freely. (Probably not the best analogy, but I'm guessing you know what I mean.)

It is my guess that your list is much different from mine. Perhaps you love food and need to prepare or enjoy an amazing meal on occasion. Maybe you regain energy by spending regular time in nature. Perhaps it is music that refills your tank. Or maybe you need to start something new from scratch and watch it soar.

You won't always get what you need. No one does. There are many seasons when I have to ask God for grace to get through a period of too little rest or too much work. But when I'm feeling stressed or tense, it's often because I'm not paying attention to my list.


Excerpted from Fairness Is Overrated by Tim Stevens. Copyright © 2015 Timothy Alan Stevens a/k/a Tim Stevens. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction, xi,
1. Live a Life with Margins, 5,
2. Wherever You Are, Be Fully There, 8,
3. Go Dark, 11,
4. Know Yourself, 15,
5. Stay Home from Church, 18,
6. Leave a Legacy, 22,
7. Be a Lifelong Learner, 25,
8. Get Naked, 28,
9. Control Your Calendar, 32,
10. Guard Your Family, 36,
11. Leave Your Kids Behind, 40,
12. Develop Rumble Strips, 43,
13. Be Careful What You Wish For, 47,
14. A Résumé Is Worthless, 53,
15. You Can't Train Character, 57,
16. Social Media Is Your Friend, 62,
17. Hiring from Within, 65,
18. Fresh Eyes, 69,
19. Questions to Ask, 72,
20. Job Descriptions, 76,
21. Find Leaders, Not Doers, 82,
22. The Dynamic Tension Between Creatives and Leaders, 86,
23. Pay Well, 91,
24. It's Messy When You Work with Your Friends...., 95,
25. Leave Well, 98,
26. Teams Trump Personality, 107,
27. The Three Ss, 110,
28. Always Believe the Best, 114,
29. Let Your Leaders Lead, 117,
30. Have Fun, 120,
31. Meetings That Work, 124,
32. Listen to Your Team, 128,
33. Ask Questions, 132,
34. Dealing with Mistakes, 137,
35. All In, 140,
36. Leadership Retreats, 143,
37. Hours and Flexibility, 147,
38. Fairness Is Overrated, 152,
39. Identify Silos, 155,
40. Destroy Silos, 160,
41. Be a Good Follower, 164,
42. Signs of an Unhealthy Culture, 169,
43. Leading Change, 177,
44. Count the Yes Votes, 182,
45. Resignations and Character Issues, 185,
46. Bad Attitudes and Limited Capacity, 190,
47. Unavoidable Layoffs, 194,
48. Communication Is Key, 199,
49. Go Off-line, 204,
50. The Pain of Growth, 207,
51. Work on Alignment, 212,
52. The Five Stages of Failure, 217,
Conclusion: Leadership Gone Wrong, 221,
Notes, 225,
About the Author, 234,

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Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
deandeguara More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic leadership resource that should be in every executives tool belt. Tim Stevens thrown everything in this book including the kitchen sink. I only wish I had this book 2 years ago to help navigate me through some personal leadership constraints I had. 52 chapters on helpful topics that we usually find needing input on. I HIGHLY recommend this book!
markyMI More than 1 year ago
The book is full packed with 52 bite-sized written principles that is categorized into four skills that every leader who aspires excellence must develop. First, on being a leader worth following. – In this section, the author provides the right guardrails in the life of a leader so that you will not look more spiritual but you can lead with strength in a way that is right and honourable. Second, on finding the right people – “The success of a leader will rise or fall on the decisions he or she makes about the people around him or her.” Third, on building a healthy culture – “Healthy leaders are intentional on employing simple strategies to nurture a great culture. And this happens through daily decisions, learned skills and practiced principles.” Lastly, on leading confidently through a crisis. – The author says “It’s leading through a crisis that separates great leaders from mediocre leaders. You can’t wait until the crisis comes to think about the essential skills you’ll need to get you to the other side.” I feel like it’s a leadership handbook written in a blog post style. It’s brief and bite-sized yet pregnant with practical wisdom for every leader. The book is primarily written to church leaders and business leaders as well. It’s easy to read. On reading it, I was challenge to rethink my priorities as a leader. In our culture, there is an overemphasis on performance rather than the character and personal growth of the leader himself. The author will show you how to become a leader worth following for both in your workplace and in your family. So if you want a leadership book to read to challenge your growth as a leader and to remind of the essentials in leadership, I highly recommend you start to read this one.