TL007642One of my favorite leadership quotes reportedly comes from one of the great leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela:

“You see, when there is danger, a good leader takes the front line. But when there is celebration, a good leader stays in the back room. If you want the cooperation of human beings around you, make them feel that they are important. And you do that by being humble.”

This comes from a man who led by example, who suffered for what he believed and who never gave up even in the face of more adversity than you and I can probably imagine. It’s often the seemingly small things that great leaders say which can teach you the most about them and about how to lead well.

I recently started reading the blog of Michael Hyatt, Chief Executive Officer of Thomas Nelson publishers.

I have gained a great deal of respect for Mr Hyatt having been in communication with him briefly and, last week, he published a blog post explaining a leadership shakeup within the organization which he heads up. As part of that post, Mr Hyatt said: 


Image of Michael Hyatt from michaelhyatt.com
Image of Michael Hyatt from michaelhyatt.com

Today I announced a few changes in our leadership structure. These changes are designed to better leverage my strengths and also make our team more nimble and competitive in the current economy.As Thomas Nelson’s Chief Executive Officer, I will now focus on the three areas where my team collectively agrees I add the most value:

  1. Vision and strategy;
  2. Author relations and product development; and
  3. External communications.

All three of these aspects of our business totally energize me. In order to focus on them, my direct reports will be reduced from nine to five:…… {click to read more}


This completely blew me away. I have found that a leader who is prepared to give up control of anything is one of a very rare breed. 

In my experience, many if not most businesses would benefit from actually discovering the strengths of their employees and, as Mr Hyatt puts it, ‘leverage’ those strengths.

This issue is smaller the further down the chain of command you go as people at the bottom tend to be positioned more where their strengths are but as people rise in authority and power they tend to take, or be given, responsibilities which they are not gifted for. 

It was so refreshing to me to see a man in charge of such a large business being realistic about himself and being willing to give duties and power away to benefit the whole organization.

I personally know of some businesses where the person at the top desperately needs to do that but flatly refuses because they have control issues – and it is harming their business. Some people just want to hold all of the strings.

I couldn’t help but see how this also relates strongly to churches in the same way and in a slightly different way.

How many churches have you seen where the Pastor, church board or some group within the ministry have too much power and refuse to give over responsibility for certain things to people who are called, gifted and might actually know what they are doing?

Conversely, how many churches have you seen where the Pastor or other people in the church are given responsibilities which are way outside of their abilities and giftings and then find that church members get upset when they do a less than perfect job?

We can all learn something from Michael Hyatt.

Repeat after me: “I will now focus on the areas where my team collectively agrees I add the most value.”

Corporate speak for: I’m going to do the things I do best and leave the other jobs for someone who can do them better.

Be the one who is willing to let go of some of the strings or be part of the team who helps someone see what they need to let go of, either way you will be leading well.

If you don’t then it’s most likely that you’re being a hinderance, it’s as simple as that.