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Leadership Can’t Get Any Simpler Than This!

Ever known someone who thought they were leading, but no one was following? Sad isn’t it? The reason people are sometimes deluded about their ability to lead is that they have neglected one of the core elements of leadership. It’s sad to watch people flounder in a leadership role because in reality leadership is simple.

Simple does not mean “easy,” it means “less complex.” Leadership, good leadership, although not easy is simple. In it’s simplest form it is the employment of three core skills

  1. Casting Vision
  2. Executing Strategy
  3. Fostering Relationships.

When someone in a leadership role performs these three skills, he/she is indeed a leader. When someone in a leadership role neglects one or more of these skills, he/she is NOT a leader.  Leadership is simple, but it is also irreducibly complex.

Irreducible complexity is a term coined by American biochemist, Michael J. Behe.  He defines it this way:

A single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning. (Darwin’s Black Box p39 in the 2006 edition)

Leadership is simple, but irreducibly complex. Don’t believe me? Try this exercise for a moment: consider the most effective leader you’ve ever known. Did that person effectively make you want to strive for something more (cast vision)? Did that person make you and the others he/she led feel valued (foster relationships)? Did that person have a knack for getting the right things done (execute strategy)? I’m willing to bet that you answered “yes” to all three questions.

Now consider someone you’ve known who held a position of leadership, but fell short of being an effective leader. Did that person cast vision? Did that person foster relationships? Did that person execute the strategy? Again, I’m willing to bet I know your answers. You answered “no” to at least one of those questions, didn’t you? Why? Because leadership is simple, but irreducibly complex.

Leadership can not get any simpler than casting vision, fostering relationships and executing strategy. When it get’s simpler (less complex) than this, it ceases to be leadership.

  • Take away vision casting and you have a team of happy people with clear tasks to perform but no passion; people feel drained.  True leaders evoke passion in others.
  • Take away fostering relationships and you have a team of people who know what to do, why to do it, but they are burning out fast because they don’t feel like anyone cares about them; people feel used.  True leaders make others feel valued.
  • Take away executing strategy and you have a team of people who have a lot of excitement, they enjoy one another, but they don’t really know what to do next; people feel bogged down. True leaders point the way and help people get things done.

Without casting vision the environment is stale.  Without fostering relationships the boss drives people rather than leads them. Without executing strategy people are frustrated by inaction. Leadership can not and MUST NOT be less complex than these three skills. Leadership is simple, but irreducibly complex.

That takes us to the hard part of today’s blog post. If you’re in a leadership position you must ask yourself honestly, “Am I exercising all three skills? Am I really a leader?” Because, if you aren’t using all three skills, it doesn’t matter what position of leadership you may hold; in reality you aren’t actually leading. Yeah, you guessed it: leadership is simple, but irreducibly complex.

Learn more about these three indispensable skills and how you can maximize all of them in my eBook, Triple-Threat Leadership.

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Alan Danielson is the Lead Pastor of a church that’s probably a lot like yours. New Life Bible Church is a church of a few hundred people, but not long ago he was on the executive staff of Life.Church in Edmond, OK. Now, along with pastoring New Life, Alan is a consultant and has worked with many of America’s largest churches. Despite this, Alan has a passion for the small church. That’s why he lives by the personal conviction that no church is too small for him to work with. Alan founded Triple-Threat Solutions to help leaders of and churches of all sizes grow. Learn more from Alan at http://www.3Threat.net.