Leadership Longevity: Four Essential Practices (Part 1 of 5)

Someone recently asked me, “How have you managed to lead the same organization through major change and growth for sixteen years, and maintain a high level of trust and credibility?” I didn’t know how to answer them. It was something for which I was deeply grateful and should have reflected upon more, but I hadn’t. So for the following few weeks I spent several mornings doing just that.

Each person’s leadership journey is fluid and has a life of its own. Many of the “norms” shift during the journey. There are always surprises and unexpected obstacles waiting for their opportunity to cause havoc and sabotage the vision. There are often people who become difficult because they don’t understand the vision or disagree with the vision, having their own agenda. In the midst of changing environments it’s difficult to know who to trust. My journey is no different. It’s been required of me to cautiously embrace each challenge by faith and courage, in spite of my inner fears. Some issues are resolved the way I had hoped, and others aren’t. Effective leadership is HARD and often painful. There is a constant temptation to quit.

I could never list every factor that has positively contributed to my journey thus far, but I have identified four practices I attempt to live by that have certainly made a difference.

1. Listen
2. Learn
3. Lead
4. Love

For the next four posts I will take each practice and explain how each one has contributed to my leadership longevity. They will do the same for you in your journey!

What are some of the threats to longevity that you recognize? I would like to know!

14 thoughts on “Leadership Longevity: Four Essential Practices (Part 1 of 5)”

  1. I would say one of the biggest threat would be complacency. Thinking everything is going well because you been in that “situation” before – or have helped someone else though a particular situation. Life isn’t a cookie cutter adventure. Just because answer “A” worked in a place in time previously – doesn’t mean it’s going to work now.

  2. Todd, I have often compared Leadership traits to People Skills: A person is born with a certain amount and life-lessons bring them out. Leadership cannot be learned from a book. I my 37 years at Lockheed, some of my Managent had strings of Educational Degrees, but were actually dumber than dirt. How they made it to and from work, always puzzled me. With that having been said, when God intervenes,HE changes us for His Will and Glory. You are a classic example of just that: No one would ever know that you were an introvert, prefering a quiet wide-open field on horseback, rather that being around a group of folks. God is using you in a Mighty Way to further His Kingdom. I have had some really good Pastors in my short Christian life, but He has used you to teach me more in 1 1/2 years at Midway, than any other time in my life!
    A hindrance to longevity? Staying too long in the ways of the world.
    I am prooud to call you my Friend and Pastor!

    1. Thank you Jim. Principles can be learned from a book, but they remain theory until applied in the laboratory of leadership.

  3. I believe the biggest fear I have is change. But as I look back at the last 74 years, it has been nothing but changes. So as I go forward in life I look for the next change. So I can enjoy it and not be afraid of it, I have found away to walk in FAITH and not in fear.
    You are a blessing in my life.

  4. I look forward to reading the next few posts, Todd. Common theory states that some people are good at making changing and find it hard to nurture, while others are good at nurturing and find change difficult. It is the old question of “prophet or pastor?” You have walked in both roles magnificently (as it seems to me and as Wes has put it). I look forward to seeing the “charm” behind your leadership.

  5. One of the threats to longevity that I have witnessed is the absence of number four on your list, love. Sometimes it is difficult for people to genuinely love through difficult situations, and as it relates to ministry, loving those who fall. I have encountered those who focused more on hating what God hates more than loving what God loves rendering themselves unable to restore the broken or retrieve the lost. It is always admirable to find those that have fallen and gotten up enough to realize that ministry is at its best when the servant can empathize with and restore the broken. We must remember that though we have our “convictions” our convictions within themselves have no transforming power. My prayer is that God would continue to break us into a life of love and wisdom.

  6. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will remember to bookmark your blog and will come back in the future. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great posts, have a nice day!

  7. “If you can’t lead one, you can’t lead many. If you don’t lead one, you won’t lead any.” The only way I have found of sustaining any worthwhile action is daily returning to my Source of refreshment. If I daily practice your steps one and two (Listen and Learn), my priorities seem move back into formation and those I lead will by osmosis either move the same way or resist.. Either way, it clarifies the makeup of the organization and reveals where each team member is.
    In my experience, the only “source” that brings that sustainability is the Source. Perhaps others have found a different way that brings longevity- I’d be interested to hear about it. My best work is done early each morning when I’m with Him.
    “Don’t ever try to sell out of an empty box” …Elmer Wheeler

    1. That’s great stuff Alan! Nothing like being refreshed each day with the One who put the sun in place! I think He has enough energy to keep us going! I love your statement: “If you can’t lead one, you can’t lead many. If you don’t lead on you won’t lead any!”

      Can I quote you on that, or who said it? That’s a keeper!

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