Not All Leadership Styles Are the Same

Leadership style and culture is contextual. At least this is my experience.

As NewThing has continued to grow internationally, I have had to learn (sometimes the hard way) that leadership culture varies from one global context to the next. The diversity of leadership styles is a beautiful thing but can be difficult to manage.

(Please note the following observations are anecdotal and based on my personal experience.)

Not long ago we hosted three leadership residents from Kenya at Community Christian Church. I had a front row seat to watch how they were taught to lead and how it was different from how I was taught to lead.

For example, American leadership values buy-in. Leaders don’t lead through command and control, rather they lead by casting a compelling vision casting and negotiating what that looks like. There is a high value on collaboration. We collaborate. We need to get the team to ‘buy-in’ and cooperate. We can’t lead through command and control.

In Africa, it’s different. What I’ve learned about leadership in Africa (specifically East Africa) is that leadership is hierarchical. There is a LEADER who leads down and if you’re on the leaders team you simply carry out what the leader asks you to do. While collaboration isn’t valued as much, African leaders are incredible at focusing a team and moving quickly to achieve results despite the circumstances.

An African leader once told me that in Africa, you never delegate upwards. This leader explained that you never ever create more work for the people above you. Your job is to do the work or figure out how to do it. This can sometimes lead to challenges of workload.

Leaders from the West have no problem coming to their leaders and asking for help to get certain jobs or projects accomplished. It’s been more than one season that I’ve felt overwhelmed by all the work coming my way.

It’s important to note that no leadership style is better (or worse for that matter) than any other. Leadership varies and that’s all there is to it. So if we’re going to become effective global leaders, we need to embrace this fact.

So when you’re working cross-culturally it’s important to acknowledge this and prepare yourself to work through it.

Let me know your thoughts and opinions on this topic. It’s important the church gets this one right. 

4 things that will make your next vision casting moment awesome


Leaders cast vision.

I think we all know this.

Yet how many of us have been really inspired lately by a vision we’ve heard?

I’ve sat through some really lame vision casting when I was in the Army, in the corporate world, and yes, even now in ministry.

What about you?

Whether you’re planting a church, starting a new organization, or even helping your family see a better tomorrow it’s going to be necessary to cast a compelling vision.

What is vision?

Andy says it well:

Vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be. —Andy Stanley

Your role as vision caster is to give us the could and the should.

People respond to vision. When you give us a compelling tomorrow we’re going to want to play harder, contribute and sacrifice. This assumes you know the could and the should. (Hint: get that before you try casting vision.)

4 Elements of Vision

Here are 4 things I’ve learned that will help you cast compelling vision.

Remind people why this is important. You need to help people understand that this is a priority and demands attention and action.

Show enthusiasm and excitement. If you’re not excited, who will be? Your body language, your tone of voice should reveal this. I am not suggesting you make it up. But show us how excited you are.

Be clear about the goals and outcomes you are inspiring us to consider. In fact, be very clear about them. We can’t get excited about a vision unless it’s clear what it’s going to mean for us, our families, our city etc. Got it? Clarity.

Ensure you have a good mix of stories and statistics. Statistics describe reality and show that you’re serious about metrics. This indicates you actually care about achieving your goals. Stories give us the human element. They help us see how this vision is going to impact real people or how real people are influenced.

Include these 4 elements in your next visioneering moment and you’ll go a long way to achieving your goals.

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And would you consider telling a friend. That would be great.

3 essential platforms for equipping leaders for mission

Where are leaders equipped?

I was meeting with a church leadership team recently. They have a vision to plant churches and start new sites. When I asked them where they trained leaders to accomplish this mission, they couldn’t tell me.

Not good.

The good news is that ALL churches can and should train leaders.

But you can’t expect leaders to emerge.

Churches need to be serious about identifying, equipping and sending leaders to the mission. You must be intentional about this.

So the question for you is this: where do you train leaders? Continue reading “3 essential platforms for equipping leaders for mission”

the two forgotten traits of great leaders

They are GRIT and HUSTLE. And I think they go together.

GRIT means you persevere; you’re tenacious. You have a passion to see things through to a goal.

HUSTLE is all about movement; making things happen; energy; getting busy about getting things done. (Like when you’re soccer coach told you he wanted to see more ‘hustle out there’ from you.)

We underestimate the power of these qualities in leaders.

There are lots of things it takes to be a great leader. Great leaders are visionaries. Great leaders empower others. Great leaders is influence. 

But lets not forget great leaders also show grit and hustle.

When I think of all the great leaders I work with, they all demonstrate these traits in some way. In fact, if you can show me these in anyone, I am convinced you have the makings of a GREAT leader. These leaders have a sense of urgency and this focuses them on what needs to be done.

Indeed, showing grit and hustle have helped me succeed…

When I was in the Army, demonstrating grit and hustle got me promoted.

When I was in business, grit and hustle helped me climb the ladder pretty quick. That led to more money and greater opportunities.

When planting churches we talked about getting after it and finishing the tasks before us.

I would like to see the church talk about these qualities in potential ministry leaders and church planters. I think they’re essential.

Grit and hustle aren’t sexy and they’re not cool. They can be hard. (No – they are hard). They’re kind of old school. Someone actually argued with me that they aren’t Kingdom values of which I disagreed. (Didn’t Jesus and Paul and so many others persevere in the face of opposition – grit); didn’t they show some hustle about the mission – hustle – I think so.)

So for all of you who hustle to get things done and you show some grit when things get tough, I’ll always have a seat on the bus for you.

BONUS: This is a GREAT Ted Talk from Angela Lee Duckworth about GRIT and how it’s a predictor of success in kids. And this is a great post about GRIT from Forbes.

what will it take for you to follow me?

If you’re stuck in your leadership, I know a really good question you should ask the people you’re leading.

It will also be one of the hardest.

Early on in my church planting journey I was struggling to build cohesive teams. It seemed no matter what I did, I couldn’t find the right contributors and I couldn’t find the right people to apprentice into leadership. I struggled to run the ministries I was leading and so I was doing most things myself as a result.

I hit the wall. Continue reading “what will it take for you to follow me?”