LEADERS ARE DISCOVERED IN THE KITCHEN
What Makes a Dream Team and a Team a Dream
Bishop Freddie Steel
THE LAW OF THE LID
Have you ever heard of the ‘Law of the Lid?’ Don’t worry, I had not either, that is until I picked up a book that dedicated a chapter to it.
Best-selling author, Rev., Dr. John Maxwell, reveals something in one of his many writings called ‘The Law of the Lid.’ The ‘Law of the Lid’ means that you, as a principal leader, or your organization will go no higher nor move further than the level and degree of proficiency, ability and excellence of those surrounding you or are operating in pivotal leadership roles. People in those vicarious positions will either hold you and an organization back or will be the fuel and energy to propel you and your organization further.
I vividly remember one of my first jobs and a lesson learned about 37 years ago.
You may remember Burger Queen. If I'm not mistaken, it merged with or became Burger King some time in the late 70's. I was so proud to have an 'official' job. I had mowed lawns in our neighborhood and tried selling newspapers (I think it was called 'Grit') but THIS was a REAL J-O-B!
I was very impressed with my two youthful managers. They were energetic, take-charge and focused young men that helped create their atmosphere - the work environment. During the training days I remember having finished my hand at either flipping burgers or something like that and, having completed that task, I stood, waiting for my next assignment. I was waiting for the next 'tell me what to do' assignment. I call this a ‘hand-holding mentality.
Hand-holding is when a worker or someone identified as a leader will only function through the ‘hand-holding’ relationship with their superior without ever being willing to take on the personal responsibility or personal initiative. Workers are rarely self-starters whereby leaders by virtue of their placement must be self-starters, people of personal initiative and owners of responsibility whether it is their own, others or their organization.
Workers are as important as leaders. However, if I had to choose between workers and leaders, I would rather have five exceptional leaders rather than one hundred workers. If an organization has five exceptional leaders they will help find, train and raise up workers whereby one hundred workers, unless trained and equipped, will never multiply their lot but stay at a state of maintenance.
Now, back to my Burger Queen story: Picture this.
The food-preparation area is buzzing, everyone busy at it, a lot going on. There I stand, waiting for orders. My manager walks over to me with a cleaning rag in his hand and said, in essence, from now on he never wanted to see or my hands idle. He said that he always wanted to see me doing something - find something to do. That would include wiping down counter tops, taking out the trash, sweeping or mopping the floor, re-stocking the preparation table - just don't stand waiting to be told what to do next. Now, don't laugh, but THAT incident changed and fashioned my life, forever! Honestly!
KINGDOM CONDUCT IN THE KITCHEN
I remember listening to one of Pastor Bill Hybels’ teaching tapes (Willow Creek Community Church - one of largest in America) describing his process for identifying new leaders. Each year he hosts a retreat with his current leaders and those who have been working with these leaders in their perspective departments.
After mealtime, Pastor Hybels will make his way over to the sink and begin to wash dishes. The person who comes to his side and offers to dry the dishes while he washes them is essentially hired or at least identified as a leader on his/her way 'up' (though my view of leadership is servant-ship and has nothing to do with upper eschelons of a structure). He will scan the room and look for signs of initiative, self-starters. When he observes someone digging around looking for the trash bags so he/she can empty the trash, on their own, without being asked or instructed, shows up on his radar.
PREPARING THE NEXT GENERATION WITH KINGDOM CONVICTIONS
I think back of another story, this one was also a teaching tape I listened to years ago. A long-term and very successful pastor hired his grandson to join the pastoral staff. The grandson was thrilled to have completed his training and was anxious to serve alongside his revered grandfather - his hero.
The grandson shows up early on Monday morning looking like a million dollars: Nice suit, shoes shined, desk version of his leather Franklin Planner in hand. He meets his grandfather in his office and granddad welcomes him and is obviously excited to begin this new pastoral journey with his grandson.
The first thing the pastor instructs his grandson to do is to take off the suit. Granddad informs him that the gymnasium is in a mess and needs a thorough cleaning in a terrible way. That's not exactly what he signed up for but the new junior pastor obliges and gets to work on the gym. Not what he had in mind for his first day in the pastoral ministry, but he did it with a right heart and spirit.
Day two rolls around and it's pretty much a repeat. Looking good, meets his granddad/pastor in the office and, once again, the master pastor instructs his grandson to take off the suit and informs him that the restrooms in the Christian education wing of the campus was in dire need of a thorough cleaning. This time, the grandson just had to speak up and express his confusion explaining to his granddad that this was not what he had invested all of his time and energy into pursuing but that it was in order to help pastor and minister to God's people and serve and support his grandfather's senior pastor's role. Now comes the lesson.
The wise granddad began to tell his grandson that what he was having him to do was ministry because what he was doing will affect people and the church in a positive way and that when you are a leader, you own every detail, personally, whether it is the empty toilet paper holder in the restroom or snow on the church sidewalks, everything matters and everything must matter to leaders because ownership breeds excellence, accountability and stability.
As it turned out, these menial assignments didn't last just two days but for more than a year. The wise senior pastor/granddad wanted to teach his grandson/associate pastor the lesson that not only is leadership a matter of ownership but leadership is also about being content with whatever assignment God has given you even if appears to be humble, irrational, nonsensical or beneath him. Granddad informed him that when he determined that his grandson had grown a right heart and a right attitude of gratitude to simply be able to serve, serve anyone, anywhere without striving to maintain an image or position, then he would be released to take on more advanced roles and responsibilities.
Here's the last illustration and then I will lay out some principles concerning leadership.
FORTUNE 500 STRATEGIES LEARNED FROM THE BIBLE
I read just recently that not long after mega-church pastor Dr. Charles Stanley went to First Baptist Church of Atlanta someone gave him a copy of the book 'Think and Grow Rich.' Now, hold on just a minute because it is not what it seems. Dr. Stanley equates the growth of First Baptist with having read this book, a book that he says he reads again each and every year.
In this book, there are guidelines and principles of success that the business and professional world recognizes, values and enlists with great and fabulous results. They are never satisfied with status quo and never, ever blame someone else for the dissatisfaction they hold for their current plight. They take ownership of how is should be and what it should be.
When I was still a single evangelist I started reading Donald Trumps books, as well as others that are motivational such as Zig Ziggler, Brian Tracy, Os Hllman, Og Mandino, Dale Carnegie and most anything from Nightingale Conant Publishers. Reading these books, especially Donald Trumps, revealed to me that they were utilizing Biblical principles such as the laws of sowing and reaping and utilizing nothing but faith-filled declarations and these were working for them even though they were not Christians. They never permitted themselves to have any excuse where their future was concerned.
I simply reasoned it out and said that if these extremely successful people could be such because they were utilizing Biblical principles and spiritual laws whether they knew they were or not then I, too, would identify these principles and engage them without exception.
What was amazing and what I discovered in Donald Trump's books was that he never acknowledged a 'no' or an 'it won't work' situation. These phrases meant nothing to him. And, what's more, the books would reveal the rewards he earned by refusing tolerate excuses from himself or anyone else or laying blame somewhere else. He took ownership, personally, of the current condition or circumstances and lived by a particular mindset.
SOLUTION, THEN SOLUTION, THEN SOLUTION
Donald Trump's mindset was or is 'solution driven.' It kind of works like this.
Whenever or wherever I find a problem, I own the problem and, will therefore, enact an immediate solution. Whether it is a stamped, stack of mail waiting to be mailed by someone, a light bulb burned out, a torn piece of carpet, a wet vanity in the bathroom, I am the solution for details, great or small, owned by me or not, I will add to my organization by bringing solutions to whatever need I discover, whenever or wherever I discover them.
Second, Mr. Trump said that all of us are paid for one thing and one thing only: the size of problems he/she solves. The value of any leader is determined by the number of problems that never show up on their manager’s radar.
Third, that means that problems should only be handled one time and one time only. There should be no such thing as a lingering, open-ended, left-till-later problem. Whenever a problem is met, it belongs to the conscientious leader who discovered it.
I was in a fast-food restaurant the other day and saw a poster inviting the customer to inquire about their company’s fund-raising program. The restaurant was not busy at all at the time that I asked the young lady waiting on me to tell me about it. She had no idea as to what I was talking about and referred it to the shift manager. The manager politely informed me that she had no idea either and that I could consult the manager when she came in the following day. Here is how a leader would handle that.
A proper response would be the shift manager telling me that she wasn’t aware of the program but that if I would wait a few minutes that she would be more than happy to find what information is available. If I were the shift manager and couldn’t find any printed materials, I would then do something like run a quick internet query and, at least, hand the customer a web site to refer to but I would absolutely, positively never, ever leave that customer without a solution of some sort.
If a leader carries anything, a leader carries a smile, a proper attitude and a determination to be a solution-finder and help at all times. It really is the very same as employing ‘The Golden Rule.’
I remember one organization and occasion where I was in leadership and asked one of the office workers for a zip code. He informed me that he didn’t know the zip code for that particular city. Shocked at that pall reply, I asked him to get it for me. I inquired to see if he really wasn’t aware that zip codes were recorded in the local telephone books and were easily found through an internet query.
A leader is somewhat like a chess player who holds several moves forward in their mind as they maneuver across the board a move at a time. They never see the game or the process as a single step at a time but they look ahead to several moves or several steps that lead to the anticipated win.
Fourth, a person who has leadership abilities will never report a problem without an immediate, 'I-have-taken-charge' and it is therefore resolved' response. When this is not the case, the leader is only being a messenger delivering status reports or updates and should then be paid for being a messenger as opposed to a leader.
Leaders are confident and move beyond what is comfortable or safe and assume responsibility for the permission they have been given and act independently to move their assignments or their organization forward.
By the very fact that a person is a leader and functioning in that capacity, they do not demand permission for every action nor do they use the excuse of needing permission in order to carry our their responsibilities. A ‘safe’ leader will never take on the responsibility of making decisions or act independently under the permission and authority they have been granted. A safe leader remains, essentially, a messenger who reports on the status quo and feels that role should be recompensed at the same level as a real leader who has solved many problems and helped move his organization forward alleviating concerns and the weight of details for those whom they are serving.
Fifth, leaders will never report or reply with: 'I don't know how;' 'I can't find;' 'I don't know where;' or, 'I didn't try.' Being paid for solutions, a leader will report with a succinct description of the problem along with the resolution already enacted.
Every problem has a solution or solutions and will be the first order once the problem is discovered. When a leader is solution-focused or possibility-driven, they think creatively and abjectly for answers and solutions. In their mind, they are never boxed in or left without some avenue of resolve. They meditate, inquire and investigate until potential resolutions are found.
Sixth, a leader will wears three different hats, especially so if they are a part of an organization that is comprised of people who are connected in both the professional and casual, familiar relationships. Leaders will have a leader hat, a friend hat and a worker hat and they know when to wear which hat. Leaders do not prefer one hat over the other at any particular time but is versatile in wearing each hat whenever the role requires.
A leader will never hold so closely to a leader hat that when the need demands he/she would be hesitant or unwilling to lay the leader hat aside for the worker hat. It is the concept and understanding of servant leadership and the devotion to things greater than our personal desires or preferences.
For instance, when you are in an organization where you are working with friends, you must, essentially, wear your worker/follower hat so that personal feelings are laid aside for the good of the objectives and organization. In other words, if a leader has to speak strictly with a fellow-worker who is also a friend, by wearing the proper hat at the right times one is kept from undue tensions and issues that can clutter, hinder and hamper an organizations progress. Consequently, I remind our team on occasion that I can never be offended because I choose to hold and value the relationship and the mutual assignment we share above the privilege of being offended so that the work of the Lord may prosper and move forward.
This approach helps to keep hurt feelings and even anger out of the equation so the work of the Kingdom continues unencumbered. There is nothing too much more debilitating than for bad attitudes and tensions to permeate a work environment or even a portion of a work environment. Leaders have the ability to set their minds and emotions above the fog of conflict and other distractions and remain focused on the tasks at hand.
This approach also helps leaders to be used, really used, and even used sacrificially sometimes with a joy and a confidence that counts the costs a privilege, even at times when the reasons for the extra demands are not clearly understood.
Seventh, leaders are magnets of enthusiasm. They see the good in the bad. They live by the paradigm that whatever they are encountering by way of challenges, the ‘cup is half full’ as opposed to seeing the need as being the ‘cup is half empty.’ They look for the good in everyone and in everything. Shut doors, unexpected needs are not stifling but are opportunities for God to manifest His generosity.
A leader’s enthusiasm brings a calm and a stability to those all around them. When handling criticism or complaints, a leader listens empathetically and does not leave the discussion until they are satisfied that they have succoured and settled the matter more than adequately.
Leaders never complain but they inform and they never complain downward or laterally but they manage discord and similar sentiments with their superiors in a strategic and proactive way. They cover one another’s backs and make sure everyone and their team or organization is always seen in the very best light. Whenever a leader is disgruntled and goes public or is open about it, that leader has ceased thinking in terms of the organization and has become self-focused and preoccupied with their own plight as opposed to the collateral damage their actions could bring.
Many years ago I was in a setting where a great and real injustice toward a fellow staff member took place. It boiled down to the issue that the leader no longer wanted the other person on staff. From a setting where I was present, the manager reported to his
‘board’ that the staff person had done something intolerable and painted him in a terribly false color and light. It was absolutely a situation of character assignation and I was sickened by it.
Although I was sickened by it and the terrible grief it caused and the damage it did to this staff and his family, I knew I had to guard my actions so that my disgust and deep convictions as to how wrong a thing this was would not hurt or hinder the organization. I quickly made up my mind to resign and leave. However, I also knew that even though I held the deepest of feelings and sentiments about the occasion, no one but Mary Gaye, the manager and I would ever know it so that there would be no collateral damage to the organization caused by my disagreement or departure. I feared God far too much to become an instrument of conflict that could hinder the Kingdom of God.
Mary Gaye and I were always careful to paint the manager in a good light and the fellow staff member as well who was, in essence, experiencing character assignation and slander. It always boils down to the Lord’s Promise and message reminding us that blessed are the makers and maintainers of peace for they shall be called the children of God.
God is going to take you and your organization higher and further. Know those who are the closes to you if you are a leader, manager, team leader or senior pastor. Identify those who have obvious and definite leadership abilities even if it is determined by way of gifts profiles and tests. Maintain a healthy, open dialog deportment that we call HOT: Honest, Open and Transparent. Encourage transparency and frank honesty and reward it with goodwill.
Set the lid and make it higher by bringing alongside you people of greater abilities or talents and give them the license to make decisions and take ownership in your presence or in your absence. Then, reward them appropriately as well as verbally.
If our organizations are going to excel, we must all have a dream team. When you do, as I do, it’s not a dream but a thrilling reality.