One of my favorite authors I read while a doctoral student was Jim Collins. His book Good to Great profiled the rise of successful companies that didn't just earn money, they were game changers in their field. Collins' books are invaluable for ministry not because we're trying to manipulate the market, but because he hits on something unique about successful companies: the right people matter.
To illustrate that, he uses a bus as his example. Leaders are the bus drivers. And they're working to make sure they get the right people on the bus in the right seats. The reason why? People > Programs. We can have incredible programs, initiatives, projects, and ministries. But without the right people... nothing matters. For Collins writing in business literature, he says "Who then What." You identify the right people first, then you find out how to deploy them.
What do the "right people" look like? I think the right people are marked by a few key qualities.
1. Humble - The right people don't claim to have all the right answers, don't make it all about them, are willing to serve in whatever capacity they can, aren't motivated by pride or ego. The right people recognize that their responsibility as leaders either on staff or as a volunteer is to first and foremost be a servant.
2. Faithful - The right people are invested in the ministry. They're faithful in attending, giving, praying, learning, growing. They're faithful in the small things first. They're faithful in their obligations at work and at home. Faithful people make great leaders. They're trustworthy. You know you can count on them. So when you're looking to fill key seats on the bus, look around and see who's faithfully serving now and can be trusted with more.
3. Teachable - None of us have it all figured out. We all have room to grow and develop as leaders. Someone who is teachable recognizes this, is receptive and grateful for constructive feedback, acknowledges weaknesses and shores them up. A teachable person is flexible and adaptable and is willing to learn what they need to do in order to do the job well. Someone who isn't teachable is going to shut off feedback, stay set in their ways, and not open themselves to new ideas.
4. Hungry - The right people are chomping at the bit to do more. They're excited about the vision. They've bought into the mission of the church or ministry or company. They want it to succeed. They have a burden for people or their community. They're not satisfied with status quo. Hungry people make great leaders because they're not just content to sit in their seat on the bus. They want to know how their seat makes a difference.
5. Available - Not everyone needs to be on the bus. Not everyone on the bus needs to be in the "key seats." There's a reason why when you get on an airplane they put restrictions on who can sit in the exit row. In the event of an accident, those people need to be available and able to do what's needed. Not everyone is available to be on the bus. They may have health issues. They may have too much on their plate at work or at home. They may be coming off a season of burnout or exhaustion. They may already have a seat (or two) on the bus.
6. Supportive - All of us have been in the car with a backseat driver. There's a reason there's one steering wheel on the bus. Leaders have been given the task of driving the bus. There's not only incredible opportunity but incredible responsibility (and liability) for the driver. The weight of driving the bus to lead a ministry or church or company is both exhilarating and exhausting. If we want the right people, they need to be supportive. Not yes men, but supportive. Yes men don't ever ask questions or push back and ask why. Supportive people trust leadership, but feel the freedom to ask questions to help understand.
What would you add to the list of "right people" for the bus? How have you seen right people in a church help it thrive?
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Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.