Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Redefining the "Win"

"Victory belongs to the most persevering."--Napoleon Bonaparte

"Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts." -- Winston Churchill

Leadership, more often than not, is seen as a win/lose game. Either you "succeed" at leadership, or you don't. But what is it, exactly, to "succeed" at leadership? Is it to be better, more respected, more famous, than other leaders? Is it to have the largest following? Is it to be the most courageous, or the most persevering? How do you really, honestly define leadership success?

What does "winning" look like for you as a leader?

Comment your thoughts.


Michelle Brown said...

I would say a leader's success is based more on quality than quantity. By that I mean, has a particular leader been able to so impact another person that his or her life is dramatically changed for the better? If so, then the leader succeeds.

The rest of the world measures leadership in terms of numbers. Jesus took a dozen men, poured into them so fully that the changes in their lives radically impacted everyone with whom they came in contact. They were either loved or hated, there was very little middle ground. Consequently, entire societies were changed, cultures and subcultures were created, and the world hasn't been the same since. We still feel the ripple effects of Jesus' relationship with those twelve men.

It's kind of like "sniper" theology. A few well-chosen and well-placed targets can make all of the difference.

BTW: Love the pic of C3PO and Chewbacca. What a study in contrasts!!

Michael D. Warden said...

Love this thought, Michelle. I've been recently pondering a quote from Neil Cole (author of Organic Leadership). He said, "The best leaders aren't the ones with the most followers. The best leaders are the ones who produce the most leaders."

Which person is the more successful leader: the one with thousands who follow him/her, or the one who quietly invests in 12 people who go on to impact the lives of thousands?

Michelle Brown said...


I also think of it in terms of generations, where the older generation raises and teaches and trains the younger generation to share the same vision or reach for the same goal. But...the older generation has a long view of things, and is more than happy to free the younger so that, while the vision/task/goal is shared, the methods are fluid.

So, ultimately, the elder trains the younger to be better at it than the elder, whatever "it" is, so that the vision is kept alive and transmitted through the generations. So it grows and expands and is transformed, and as a result the pieces of the puzzle can fit together to create a whole picture.

Does that make sense?

It's the both/and of seeing the big picture and seeing what's immediate. Plus, it take a LOT of humility to live out that sort of "sniper" theology.

VertigoDownStairs said...

Okay, so I might be looking at this in a very simplistic manner and need to get out of my little thinking box. But isn't success for a leader when he accomplishes the goal that was originally set for the leader and the group?

For example, let's say a leader's role is to instruct for more efficiency within a working group. Wouldn't it be counted success when, after instruction, the group works in a more efficient manner? Reproducing the leader is not the goal here.

Likewise in Christianity, when the leader has a goal of transformation in the lives of the followers, then success is counted when lives are transformed.

When the goal is to create leaders that will perpetuate the transformation process, then success is counted when followers become leaders.

In leadership as a whole, the goal to perpetuate the leadership is not always wanted.

So, I may be totally missing the mark here. But it seems that it would be hard to know when you become successful if you have no set measurable goal at the beginning.

Kem said...

There are different types of leaders. A good leader does what they are good at and inspires others to do what they're good at.

Anonymous said...

Great question! I think sometimes we have a tendency to too quickly try to measure the effectiveness of a leader. I always go back to Maxwell's quote "leadership is influence" and I think it takes years of influence to gauge the success of a leader. What's the fruit of his/her leadership? How were lives impacted? What are people saying years after following that leader? To Kem's point, I think each leader has to gauge their effectiveness in relation to their wiring and giftedness. God has called me to be a different leader, that is to have influence, in a different area/arena than you. If I try to be you, I will fail at my calling as a leader. If I live true to who God has designed me to be and to the people with whom He's given me influence, you could say I've succeeded.

(There are a lot of layers to this one.)

Michael D. Warden said...

Thanks for the great comments, @vertigodownstairs, @kem and @jcatron! One common theme I see in all your comments is the need to define each person's leadership success in terms of who he/she uniquely is as a leader. I agree, of course!

But this creates an interesting challenge when leaders of various types, with varied skills and passions, join together under the banner of a shared mission, such as in a team/church/organization.

Organizational culture instinctively tries to "standardize" what leadership within the org looks like and what success for each leader looks like. This is natural, but can often leave people in the org feeling like a square peg jammed into a round hole.

So there's this tension: The org pushes to define leadership as looking a certain, specific way...while the great variety/types of leaders within the org push to maintain their individual style/approach as leaders.

What ways have you found to effectively navigate this tension--so that the org gets what it wants (measurable definitions of what "successful leadership" looks like) and the leaders get what they want (freedom to define their own leadership according to their unique design)?

Jenifer said...

A few well-chosen and well-placed targets can make all of the difference.

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