Leadership Tensions: Ownership vs. Stewardship

Happy Monday everyone!  Today we’re continuing our leadership tensions series with Ownership vs. Stewardship.

As I began writing this post I really felt like this equation had one more step:

Renter vs. Owner vs. Steward

Most leaders aspire to move their staff from renters to owners.  The theory being that we want full engagement rather than passive involvement.  Renters take.  Owners invest.  We want teams who feel ownership of the process and decisions.  The more they feel a part of the purpose and goals of the organization, the more care and intentionality they will have in their part.

In fact, at Cross Point one of our staff values is “Own It”.  I describe that value in more detail in this post.

But the leadership tension with the idea of ownership is that ownership can have a tendency to drift towards entitlement.  The more invested I am in something, the more costly it would be to lose.  The more control I have acquired, the more insecure I become about things not going my way.

Stewardship on the other hand recognizes that I’ve been entrusted with something valuable and I have a responsibility to give it my best care.  I don’t own it but I’ve been given an amazing privilege.

The trouble with leading through this tension is that ownership is so highly valued in our culture that we have a tendency to completely abdicate responsibility and walk away (rent) if we don’t have full control (ownership).

If these are your hands and in them God has placed your role and responsibilities, as a steward you would keep your hands open and gently hold those items being sensitive to how God leads you and directs you.  You would carry them confidently yet gently.  You would be a steward.

When you become complacent, bored, frustrated or disinterested you begin to get tired of holding it.  You don’t see the purpose and you don’t have the energy to keep gently holding this thing that you have little control over.  Before you know it you’ve thrown up your hands and walked away.  You became a renter.

When you become nervous, insecure, threatened or scared your tendency is to start grasping hold of it.  Your fingers begin to curl around it and before you know it, you’ve developed such a death grip that you’re squeezing the life out of it.  You’ve become a frantic owner.

In leading our teams we have to constantly be measuring our pulse of renter vs owner vs steward, both for ourselves and those we lead.

Don’t abdicate.  Don’t death grip.  Steward faithfully!

Is there an area of your life or leadership that you’re either abdicating or controlling?  What could you do to more faithfully begin stewarding it?

How to Make the Most of Every Learning Opportunity

I’m in Dallas for a couple of days with our Cross Point Executive Team.  We’re hanging out at Leadership Network with about a dozen other churches talking about leadership development.

I love these opportunities to get away with our team.  Here are a few things that I recommend to make the most of leadership development opportunities.

1) Listen.  Disconnect from the ordinary noise of your work routine to hear the voices of a different pace.

2) Get out of your comfort zone.  Particularly when you go to a conference as a team, it’s easy to hang out just with each other.  Push yourself to engage with others and learn more about what they’re doing.

3) Ask more questions than you answer.  When you’re having conversations with other churches, try to watch your question to answer ratio.  If you’re answering more questions than you’re asking, you may be losing an opportunity to be teachable.

4) Take notes.   Write down what you hear, what you think and what you hope.  While taking notes of what a speaker is saying, also capture the ideas or action points that are being triggered in your mind.

5) Follow up.  Revisit what you experienced once you get home.  Schedule time for your team to get back together to talk about what you learned and what you hope to implement now that you’re back home.  Knowledge is useless without action.

How do you make the most of learning opportunities?


Trade In the Spotlight & the Superhero Cape

Our culture tends to equate leadership with power and the spotlight.

The top of the ladder is the pinnacle.

Center stage is a territory to siege.

But let me tell you what you rarely hear about the truly great leaders.

The great leaders are not the perceived heroes.

They exchange their spotlight for the spotlight of others.  They defer the credit to those they lead rather than claiming it for themselves.

The truly great leaders see their role as the champion and cheerleaders of others.  Their quest for acknowledgment hits the sidelines.

Great leaders are the hero-makers.  They let others win, succeed and own the spotlight.

This transition from hero to hero-makers, is one of the most difficult parts of truly being a leader.  It’s the death to self that leads you to the level 5 servant leader true leaders aspire to.

I hope to be that leader one day.  Don’t you?

Water Sunday

Hey guys, my friends at Water Missions International have a big event early next year.  If you’re a church leader, this could be a great thing to consider having your church participate in!

What would happen if the American Church came together and said ‘We want to end the global water crisis?’

Water Sunday is an initiative of Water Missions International, inspiring a movement within the Church to respond to the global water crisis. Together, we can be the solution. Water Sunday is the start.

Water Missions International is asking churches across the country to give one Sunday between January and April 2013 to transform lives through safe water. All the resources are available to make sure your church is fully equipped for a Sunday that is as transformational and hassle-free as possible. (You’re going to LOVE the resources – check them out here!) Our desire is that the members of your church would move from being ‘transactional givers’ to passionate people who have been transformed through engaging in the call to care for the thirsty (Isaiah 58).

By combining the efforts of many churches, we are able to make a HUGE impact around the world. In the months that follow Water Sunday, everyone will celebrate together, as photos and stories of transformation pour in from the projects funded through Water Sunday. Your church community will be able to see the faces of those impacted, and the JOY made possible through their efforts.

Water Missions International’s goal is to see lives changed through the transformative power of safe water and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

By partnering through Water Sunday, your church will be part of the active body of Christ responding to urgent physical needs with safe water that will flow forever. In addition, your church will be part of providing the Living Water Jesus talks about in John 4:14 for those who thirst spiritually. Engage your church to join the Body and end the global water crisis.

If you’re a Pastor/Church Staff:  Fill out the “Interested?” Form to receive  your FREE LEADER’S GUIDE.

The vision is for more than 100 churches to participate in Water Sunday this year and provide access to safe water to more than 33,000 people.

Join Water Sunday. Be The Solution.

Leadership Tensions: Tender vs. Tenacious

“Be tender in approach but tenacious in intentionality”  Blake Bergstrom

Blake Bergstrom, the campus pastor for our Nashville Campus, shared this quote in a message awhile back.  I love the quote in general but I particularly love it as it applies to leaders.

It’s another leadership tension… managing the tension of being tender vs. tenacious.  As with most extremes we usually have a tendency to be one or the other rather than a delicate balance of both.  But that’s what great leaders do.  They discern the moments where tenderness is appropriate and they also discern when tenacity is necessary.

Blake’s quote gives some guide rails for us.

Be tender in approach – Treat people respectfully.  Let the fruits of the spirit shine in your interactions with others.


Be tenacious in intentionality – Stay laser-focused on the vision.  Don’t back down from what God’s called you to.  Hold others accountable.

Managing that tension is the mark of a great leader!

Is there a situation in your leadership that requires you to work through this tension right now?

Argue It Out

“Leadership, even at its best, is terribly demanding, and it is crucial that we argue out our ambivalence about our calling to leadership openly with God so that it doesn’t leak out and create uncertainty in those we are serving.”  Ruth Haley Barton from Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

Do you ever wonder if it’s worth it?

Do you ever just want to walk away?

Have you ever had a day when you gave into your emotions and undermined your leadership influence?

Are you ever tempted to think there must be something – anything – else you could be doing?

Yeah, me too.

But the worst thing you can do is live in that uncertainty.  You have to argue it out for your sake and the sake of those you lead.

In the arguing you’ll find affirmation.

If you’re questioning your calling as a leader, leave a comment so we can pray for you today.


A Solution for Your Staff Development Excuses

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED:  Congrats to Patricia who was the winner!


The day in and day out of a leader’s life can become a bit monotonous.  The routine of the weekly meeting schedule can leave you a bit deprived of inspiration and ideas to move your team forward.  The urgency of pending projects and Sunday programming squeeze out moments for dreaming and planning.

Can you relate?

Overcoming this resistance is a leader’s great challenge.  Adding time for planning and dreaming seems like a pipe dream.  Other teams with more time, more staff, more resources have the luxury of staff trips with guest speakers.  You hope someday you’ll get to that place too.

I’ve wrestled with all those things too.  Here are three excuses that I’ve allowed myself to believe over the years:

1)   We don’t have the time.  There’s never a good time.  Seriously.  No matter how far in advance I plan and strategically arrange the calendar, it never fails that staff development always lands at a terrible time.  Do it anyway.

2)   We don’t have the money.  And there will never be enough.  In fact, I actually have fewer dollars per person to spend on staff training and development than I did five years ago when the staff was 75% smaller.  Ministry dollars are lean.  Get creative.  It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun and meaningful.

3)   I have to do it all myself.  For years I naively and rather pompously believed that I had to create all the content myself.  We already discussed how we don’t have time, so don’t add extra pressure for yourself.  Involve others in the planning and use tools that already exist.

This week the WCA Leadership Summit Team Edition releases and it’s one of my favorite tools to solve at least two of my three excuses.  It’s an inexpensive way to take great content (that you didn’t have to create) to inspire and motivate your team.

Share with us a creative way that you do staff development.

The WCA team have kindly given me a copy of the 2012 Team Edition to give away, so share creative ideas and I’ll randomly select a winner on Friday, 10/26.

So Thankful. So Proud.

I’m taking a little bit of a pass on my weekly post about Leadership Tensions this Monday to stop and be thankful for the Cross Point team.

Today our staff are enjoying a much deserved day off after our 10th Anniversary Celebration yesterday.  It was absolutely an amazing day!

(Huge thanks to Bryan Fay for these photos)

This is the largest event our team has ever put together and it was absolutely phenomenal.  I was so proud of each of them!

If you want to check it out, we’re replaying the service continuously for the next couple of days right here.


The Power of Accountability

Leaders create culture, and one of the most important parts of culture you shape for your team is a culture of accountability.

Accountability can oftentimes be misunderstood as bureaucracy, but accountability is much more than unnecessary hoops to jump through to appease a superior.  Accountability serves valuable purpose in creating a healthy team environment.

Things accountability does:

1) Accountability creates conversation.  Conversation creates community.  Community creates trust, and trust is essential to healthy teams.

2) Accountability opens you up to feedback.  When you share your ideas and decisions with others, you allow for greater perspective and feedback that may be beneficial to further improving your work.

3) Accountability demonstrates humility.  It suggests that you’re open and pliable.  Lack of accountability smacks of pride and suggests that you don’t need anyone else.

4) Accountability allows your leaders to champion you.  You serve your leaders by equipping them with the information to support your initiatives.  When they are left in the dark, they are unable to adequately defend you.

5) Accountability breeds unity.  When you’re accountable to one another up, down and throughout the organization, you create an environment where unity is treasured and fiercely protected.

What benefits of accountability have you discovered?

Leadership Tensions: Transparency vs. Vulnerability

Old school leadership taught us to be stoic.  Hierarchy was important and being vulnerable with those subordinate to you was discouraged as poor leadership.

Modern leadership thought speaks more of love and the power of relationships, as evidenced by the best-selling book Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders.

In old school leadership, the words transparency and vulnerability would be taboo.  “Never let them see you sweat” is the understood mantra.

Modern leadership suggests that transparency and vulnerability are good.  That openness and sensitivity go a long way in developing trust and winning influence with those you lead.

So what does that look like?  And what are the boundaries – if there are any – to how far you go?  That’s the leadership tension we’re facing today.

For a bit of clarification, I consulted Merriam-Webster for the definition of both words:

Transparent – readily understood; free from pretense or deceit

Vulnerable – capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open to attack or damage

After reading those two definitions, I would be quick to say that I would prefer to be transparent rather than vulnerable.  However, Brene Brown (one of my favorite authors) interpreted the definition of vulnerable this way in a recent Fast Company interview, “Vulnerability is simply defined as uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”  She goes on to say, “And if you are alive and in relationship, you do vulnerability. If you are alive and in relationship and in business, you do it hourly.”

She claims that businesses can not serve their mission and reach their goals without relationship and that “vulnerability is the glue that binds relationships together.”

In an age where relationships are our currency for getting things accomplished, Brown’s interpretation makes a solid case for the value of vulnerability.

So what about transparency?

Readily understood; free from pretense and deceit.

Whereas vulnerability is a willingness to take risks, to make our ideas known and to engage with others in the process.  Transparency is opening our heart, admitting our fears and acknowledging our past failures.

In my interpretation, vulnerability is something that you commit to when you commit to a relationship with another – whether co-worker, boss, employee, friend, or spouse.  A level of vulnerability must be immediately embraced in order to develop the relationship that will allow you to move forward as a team.  Transparency on the other hand is a slower, discerning choice.  While I’ll be vulnerable to share my ideas and thoughts as it relates to our present relationship, I will be slower to be transparent with the deeper places of my heart.  Those layers are shared over time and as trust is built.

The leadership tension of Transparency vs. Vulnerability is not as much an either-or scenario, but more of timing and discernment.

While a level of vulnerability is important for all healthy working relationships, transparency is more selectively shared in trusting relationships.

Every engagement you have as a leader will have a different ratio of transparency to vulnerability.

A danger sign exists when you’re unwilling to engage either of them.

Where have you experienced good transparency or vulnerability?

Where have you seen transparency or vulnerability go awry?