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Michael Todd: Are You Leading at the Right Pace?

Michael Todd

“The pace of my leadership almost took me out,” Pastor Michael Todd told the audience of the 2020 Global Leadership Summit. Todd encouraged leaders to discover the “pace of grace”—a pace that will enable them to stay in leadership for the long-haul, in other words, a pace that is sustainable.

Todd encouraged the group to think about the leadership example of Jesus, who “fulfilled everything that was ever spoken about him, he did it in three years, and you never hear about him running to his next appointment.”

Michael Todd Knew What It Was to Hustle

The pastor of Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Todd knew what it was like to hustle. But he distinctly heard God tell him he needed to slow his pace down a few years ago. It was when Todd took this direction that things began to change for him and his church—in amazing and, some would say, miraculous ways. “I can’t tell you how many things happened because I did less, and I was in the place to be healthy enough to sustain the success and the blessings and the great things that were happening to our company and our organization,” Todd said.

Several things happened when Todd slowed down, such as a video of him preaching going viral on YouTube and his church being able to purchase the SpiritiBank Event Center, which seats 5,000 people, and pay it off in five months. Todd also released a book that stayed on top of the New York Times bestseller list for several weeks in a row. The changes happened so fast that Todd says his church’s budget went up over 1,000 percent over the last three years.

But the most important thing that happened when he slowed down, according to Todd, occurred in his family. In the middle of all this success, Todd’s son was diagnosed with autism. Had he not slowed his pace, Todd explained, he would have missed the opportunity to lead his family “through the greatest crisis his family has been through.” Instead, slowing down allowed him the margin to do things like take his son to therapy, be there emotionally for his wife, and go to counseling himself. In short, it made him mentally and emotionally available to lead and love his greatest assignment, which is his family (affectionately known as the Todd squad).

So many leaders don’t have opportunities like this, though, because they believe in order to lead they have to be running at an unsustainable pace. “Is everything in your leadership moving at the same pace?” Todd asked. He mentioned several areas of life—integrity, health, spirituality, family, character, peace, joy, fulfillment—and asked whether these things are “working together in harmony” or not.  

When you aren’t in the “pace of grace” as Todd calls it, you are in an unsustainable place. When you have poor pace you experience the following:

Missed moments – like things that bring you joy

Missed meaning – like the things that you’re supposed to learn

Missed miracles – we don’t see what God is doing

Todd said when he was outside of the pace of grace, he was very short with the people who were closest to him. He would give grace to people more removed, but the close relationships that matter the most. He no longer enjoyed things he used to enjoy, and he didn’t rest. It took his wife noticing these things to convince Todd something was wrong. 

If you are experiencing these same things, Todd said, he gave this advice: Changing the pace is better when it is initiated by you than when it is imposed on you.

“It doesn’t matter if your business is successful if you’re not successful. It doesn’t matter if you get another award if your children don’t like you. It doesn’t matter if everybody knows your name, but you can’t stand to hear it be called by one more person,” Todd emphasized.

What Is the Pace of Grace and How Do We Get There?

“The pace of grace is the sweet spot between great results and genuine rest,” Todd explained. He likened it to striding versus running. When you stride, you take long, decisive steps in a specific direction, and you can do this for a very long time. It’s sustainable. Running, on the other hand, is not. 

Plus, the pace of grace will give you health for your mind, will, and emotions. 

That’s all well and good, but how, in our crazy busy world, do we start to get into this pace of grace? Todd offered these points:

Get a vision of yourself being rested and whole – A vision is what you see when your eyes are closed.

Make it visual – write down a goal of what kind of a pace you want to be in by this time next month, by this time next year, etc.

Be verbal – tell your goal to someone like your boss, friend, or your spouse.

Don’t violate what you set 

“Pace directly affects peace, and peace is true prosperity.”

Todd emphasized the reason it’s so important to set a sustainable pace for yourself as a leader is because “We need you as a leader much longer than you are set up to last right now.”

Check out our other coverage on GLS 2020:

Nona Jones: The Conversation on Race You Haven’t Heard Yet

Craig Groeschel: How to Lead Through the Dip

Marcus Buckingham: How to Build Resilience (in Yourself and Your Team)

Vanessa Van Edwards: The Best Way to Communicate When You’re a Leader

Amy Edmondson: How to Tell If Your Workplace Is Psychologically Safe

Lysa Terkeurst: Failing to Forgive Will Stifle Your Innovation

The Top 100 Quotes From This Year’s Global Leadership Summit