Leading Character

Leading Character

by Dan B. Allender, PLLC

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Effectively leading a church or ministry organization requires many things—a motivating vision, a clear mission statement, an intentional strategy, high capacity staff members. No one questions these things. However, there is another fundamental requirement without which no ministry can thrive or sustain itself for the long haul—and too often it is either ignored or disregarded, especially by those in Christian ministry. According to Andy Stanley, that fundamental requirement is systems—communication systems, decision-making systems, budgeting systems, programming systems, structural systems and more. And it is systems, perhaps more than anything else, that determine what happens—or fails to happen—in an organization. Stanley writes, “You can pray your heart out, fast your heart out, commit your heart out and surrender your heart out to initiate change or launch a new ministry, but if you fail to address your systems, there will be no change and your ministry will not thrive. It’s not because God is not interested or you’re not spiritual, it’s because God works through systems. Every time God creates something, there is something systematic and predictable about it. That doesn’t make God predictable or small; it’s just how God operates.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310308980
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 09/02/2008
Series: Leadership Library
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 112
File size: 1 MB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Dr. Dan B. Allender received his MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary and his PhD in Counseling Psychology from Michigan State University. Currently, Dan serves as Professor of Counseling Psychology and Founding President at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology in Seattle, WA. A therapist in private practice, he is a frequent speaker and conference leader. He and his wife, Rebecca, are parents to three adult children and grandparents of two grandsons and one granddaughter.

Read an Excerpt

Leading Character
By Dan B. Allender
Copyright © 2008 Dan B. Allender
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-28762-9

Chapter One How did you first become a leader? Do you remember the circumstances? Maybe you earned an actual title to indicate you were the person in charge-the captain of the team, a candidate for public office, the CEO. Perhaps other people gravitated toward you naturally, counting on you for decisions and willingly following your lead. Or it's even possible that your leap into leadership resembled mine-and came about more or less as a matter of default.

I was teaching at Mars Hill Graduate School, which was, at that time, a satellite school of Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. We were, however, in the process of moving the school toward independence, and six of us who were on the faculty were involved in this transition. At one point, about three years into the process, we were required to complete and sign an accreditation document. And one of the blanks on that form required an answer to this question: Who is the president?

I'll never forget that meeting. When it got to the point where someone had to consent to list their name as the president, the room got very quiet. As we looked around at one another, it became clear no one was going to speak. We were all testing each other, waiting to see who would be foolish enough to agree to such a thing.

Eventually, we reached a consensus that because I was the oldest, I would take on that position-although no one, including me, expected that Iwould ever really act as the president.

That assumption continued until the moment when, about four months later, we faced our first dismissal of an employee. And with that responsibility, I may have become the only human being in history ever to fire the same person three times in less than twenty-four hours.

I fired him, providing due cause and asking him to think and pray about our conversation. At the end of our forty-five minutes of interaction, I said we would speak again the next day, never imagining he would go home and create an entire plan as to how he could enhance his performance and revise his job description. He came back eager for the opportunity to present his plan-and it was clear the firing had not taken effect.

I gathered enough wisdom and strength to fire him again. At that juncture, he asked, because of certain things he was doing, if he could stay another week to ten days to finish those projects. I considered that an enormously gracious suggestion on his part. "How reasonable," I thought. So he went back to work.

Later that day, our receptionist-who had previously worked for a large corporation-asked me, "Is he still employed?" "Yes," I said, "but just for another week to ten days."

At that point, she began to enumerate all the things this person had access to and explained how this could be very problematic if he harbored any kind of ill spirit toward the school. Well, I hadn't even thought of an ill spirit, much less the complications that could occur. She told me that in her previous job, when employees were asked to leave, the company allowed them an hour or so to go to their desks and gather all of their personal belongings. Then they were escorted out of the building.

It made sense! Which meant I had to fire him for the third time.

And that was only the beginning. In the years that followed, I made every classic mistake a leader can possibly make. Then I invented some I don't believe ever before existed on the face of the earth.

But every mistake became a lesson learned. And very often these hard-earned lessons prompted valuable conversations with other leaders. I began to see that certain patterns surround outstanding leadership. I noted, for example, how often the leaders I most admired are each widely known for their strong, highly regarded character. That is not to say that they are stodgy, unimaginative, play-it-by-the-book kinds of people. In fact, most are quite honest about their struggles in ministry and with the wars of leadership.

Yes, they have impeccable integrity, but they also make me laugh. They not only wow me with their individuality and spontaneity, they impress me with their meticulous honesty and forthrightness. They struggle and worry about their kids. While they are committed to their marriages, at times they feel lonely and need more support from their spouses. They are real, human, fully alive, and beautiful people.

Too often, leaders suppress such openness. What they are allowed to say from the platform or in conversations with others is narrowed down to the "expected and tolerated," and all else must be hidden or denied. Such limitations create a degree of being two-faced-one face public, the other private.

At times that hypocrisy is even internalized. When this happens-when we deny the parts of ourselves that would cause disruption if they were seen or acknowledged in polite company-we are on shaky ground. Because no one can live long with such disparity without a loss of integrity.


Excerpted from Leading Character by Dan B. Allender Copyright © 2008by Dan B. Allender.Excerpted by permission.
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