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. 

A Leadership Residency Story from Albania

Denis (left) and Daniel (right) embark on a new leadership residency in Albania.

This is Daniel. He’s a NewThing leadership resident in Albania.

My friend Denis is a lead pastor of a new church plant. He doesn’t have a lot of resources and he’s very busy leading his church.

But he does have a passion for the Kingdom and a desire to see the Jesus movement flourish in the Balkans. He understands that to see that happen will require his personal investment in new leaders. That’s why Denis is apprenticing Daniel and will help him plant a new church.

Denis wrote this:

We are enthusiastic to share with you that since this week we start the residency program in our church and network. We will host a young student in our church, he is student which I led to Christ and is moving to live in the Church and be together in life and ministry. I think that this i a good opportunity on the next 12 months to impart all of what God has done in my life in to His life for God’s Mission and Kingdom and His Church.


Daniel is the future of the church. We need to identify, equip and send as many Daniel’s as we can find.

I am grateful for the ethos of residency at NewThing. It’s out intentional effort to invest in the next generation of leaders. All of us at every church MUST invest in people like Daniel.

Do me a favor and PRAY for Daniel and Denis as they embark on this journey together.

And if you want to know more about how you can help Denis and Daniel plant a new church, please contact me.

Here are some other posts I wrote about residency.

How Leadership Residency Helps Churches Plant New Churches

Leadership Path or Pipeline? You Need Both!

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?”

Leadership Path or Pipeline? You Need Both!

Is there any question that Jesus started a movement?

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

If you’re dreaming about starting movements to achieve the Jesus Mission you will need to plant sites and churches that can then plant more sites and churches. This is multiplication. why-you-need-both-a-leadership-path-and-leadership-pipeline Continue reading “Leadership Path or Pipeline? You Need Both!”