[Op Ed] The Christian Post | 30 Lessons I’ve Learned in Leadership by Leading the Same Organization for 30 Years

ESPN produces a series of documentary films titled “30 for 30.” They highlight important people and events in sports history. Each of these is powerful and highly engaging.

Today, I want to share with you my own 30 for 30. I want to call it 30 LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED IN LEADERSHIP THROUGH LEADING THE SAME ORGANIZATION FOR 30 YEARS. Many people have led organizations for 30 years. Yet, only a few have led the same organization for the past 30 years.

905 For and 12 Against

As a kid preacher, I came to be the pastor of our church on Sunday, Oct. 26, 1986. Before we began our third of the five campuses we now have at Cross Church, our church was called First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas.

In September of 1986, I came to preach in a view of being called as pastor. After an extended weekend, the church voted to call me as pastor. The vote was 905 for and 12 against. One month later, our very young family left our home state of Texas and arrived in Arkansas driving an old orange suburban. On the last week of October of this year, I will have served as Senior Pastor of Cross Church for 30 years.

I have learned much about leadership by serving and growing with this region called Northwest Arkansas. This region has been filled with a strong innovative leadership culture, producing powerful corporations with global headquarters here. Walmart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, and the University of Arkansas have anchored this Northwest Arkansas region. Surprising to most, somewhere between 1,200–1,400 national and international companies have a presence here to service their Walmart account. This presence may be from a few employees to hundreds. Additionally, private business, law, education, and politics are thriving here. In reality, the world comes here to do business. That is one way this region has taught me so much about leadership.

Simultaneously, I began serving in all kinds of roles and with many responsibilities in the Southern Baptist Convention. In the most recent two years of my life, I served as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in America. Additionally, the Lord has graciously given me all sorts of opportunity to minister to many evangelicals outside of our Southern Baptist Convention.

Through all of these things and life experience, I have learned plentiful lessons on leadership. I want to share just 30 of these lessons on leadership.

I will only list these lessons in this article today. Perhaps in the future, I will write something on each of them. They are not listed in any order. I will stay with only 30 lessons to represent my 30 years here, but in writing, I initially listed at least 60 lessons on leadership I have learned these past 30 years.

30 Lessons on Leadership I Have Learned in 30 Years Leading the Same Organization

1 .Leadership is rallying people to a better future. 

2 .Vision is seeing it before you see it.

3. All people matter.

4 .Put change in your pocket in relationships so you will have something to spend when you lead people. 

5. Walk slowly through the crowd.

6. Limit time with people who deplete you, but expand time with people who replenish you. 

7. Enjoy the special moments.

8. Learn from your defeats but celebrate the victories.

9. Stay out of the ditches in your leadership.

10. Truth guides great leaders, not trends.

11. Do what is best for the organization.

12. Who surrounds you will define you.

13. Hire people slowly but fire people quickly. 

14. Wisdom, discernment, and timing are critical in decision making.

15. Do not sell out to keep any staff member.

16. Transition is inevitable and strategic change always has a cost.

17. People who are highly critical of others will also be critical of you.

18. Never let anyone outside of your circle of love.

19. You can go faster alone but farther with others. 

20. Invite your opponents to help you formulate the future.

21. Lift the principles high and do not lose the vision on details.

22. Beware of mission drift; confront mission rift.

23. Investing in leaders strategically ascends the organization and extends your leadership influence. 

24. Never believe all the good people say about you or you will also have to believe all the bad they say about you. 

25. Leadership is comprised of various seasons.

26. Leadership longevity is possible when you learn to surf the waters of cultural and leadership change successfully. 

27. Always start your day with God.

28. Generosity sets a leader apart from other leaders. 

29. Build exercise and fitness into your life five to six days a week. 

30. Not every hill is worth dying on.

You Have One Shot

You have one shot in your life. Live enthusiastically. Lead passionately. Make a difference. Make it count!

Read more at 30 Lessons I’ve Learned in Leadership by Leading the Same Organization for 30 Years.