Leader Up!

This blog is littered with a few quotes from L. David Marquet’s book, “Turn The Ship Around!” and contains one quote from Dr. Crawford Howe.

 “Are you and your people working to optimize the organization for their tenure, or forever? To promote long term success, I had to ignore short-term reward systems.” (“Turn The Ship Around,” p.11)

Through the years I’ve heard pastors near the end of a tenure say; “I’m going to let the next leader handle that one.” Usually, the comment refers to a tough decision that needs to be made or an issue that they don’t want to address. I’m learning the most effective leaders don’t function that way. They make tough decisions with “forever” in mind.

“I thought about that. On every submarine and ship, and in every squadron and battalion, hundreds of captains were making thousands of decisions to optimize the performance of their own commands for their tour and their tour alone. If they did anything for the long run it was because of an enlightened sense of duty, not because there was anything in the systems that rewarded them for it. We didn’t associate an officer’s leadership effectiveness with how well his unit performed after he left. We didn’t associate an officer’s leadership effectiveness with how often his people got promoted two, three, or four years hence. We didn’t even track that kind of information. All that mattered was performance in the moment.” (p.14)

In other words, “I’ll make decisions based upon what will reward me now. The future is someone else’s problem.”

“As long as you are measuring performance over just the short term, it can (short-term reward systems) be effective. Officers are rewarded for being indispensable, for being missed after they depart. When the performance of a unit goes down after an officer leaves, it is taken as a sign that he was a good leader, not that he was ineffective in training his people properly.” (p. 15)

When church leaders cave to pressure to please people in the moment instead of leading people on a journey, they serve up the future.

Dr. Crawford Howe, the single most effective church leader I’ve ever worked alongside, consistently challenged us to make decisions thinking about where that decision was going to lead in the future. He challenged all of us to leave behind a culture ready for the next season.

“Deal with what needs to be dealt with, Brian, and prepare your leaders for their next leader. Create an enduring leadership culture.”

 It’s a paraphrase from my notes, but not far off of what Dr. Howe said to us in a meeting ten years ago.

I watched him continually make tough decisions based upon right planning for the future. He dealt with difficult people (us) and led a district through an extremely difficult decision on selling a campground because it’s a leader's job to lead.

So, what will it be? Marquet’s question demands an answer.

“Are you and your people working to optimize the organization for their tenure, or forever?

Perhaps what matters most is what happens after you leave.