Creative Leadership

Leaders: Do Your Top People Really See the Big Picture?

Lot’s of people wonder why Joel Osteen from Lakewood Church in Houston is so successful.  Why his TV program generates huge audiences, his books make best seller lists, and the church is so large.  There’s always a mix of reasons, but whatever you think of his theology or preaching style, one of the biggest reasons is that his leadership team gets the big picture.  They understand that you need to invest in NOW to achieve success TOMORROW.  They’re willing to risk their success on the potential of a great idea.

On the other hand, I see a lot of other leaders who’s teams don’t see the big picture. As a result, they only care about this moment – how they can look good, how to gain more power, how to keep their job, or how to avoid risk. They don’t take chances, and are highly intimidated by outside voices.  They even go so far as to skew information so results favor their side.

Teams like this usually spend a lot of time behind the scenes in politics and scheming.  In some cases, I’ve seen employees who would let the organization crash before they admit they might be wrong.

Trouble is, sometimes it’s tough to tell which team you have – the long range thinkers, or the short term thinkers.  On the outside, they can look just alike – loyal and hard working.

How to tell?  Ask questions.  Ask lots of questions and don’t take people’s word for it.  It’s not disloyal to your team to ask for proof – it’s smart.  And when you find a short term thinker?  Get them off the team.  No matter how much you think you need their particular skill, there’s no amount of talent that makes up for an inability to see the big picture.

The stakes are too high, because it’s about the future of your organization.

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  1. You would think that as Christians we would be able to take the “long” view. 

    I catch a lot of flak because I often don’t care what others have to say about my actions.  

    Bottom line is I have to do what I need to regardless of what others think.  I have to (ultimately) answer to God, not anyone else.

  2. Is the long range view something that you are born with or develop or both?

    What if you find you are a short range thinker – what then are your options?

    I am not too sure I have any answers for these questions that popped into my mind while reading this.

  3. I think you have it the nail on the head Phil. Too often I look up and find myself just chasing a deadline when what I really want to be doing is effecting change within the organization. A lot of churches are plagued with people who are content with just getting the a bandaid on a problem and not addressing the oozing gash underneath. I choose to give Christ my best and sometimes it is not the popular thing. Sometimes it even appears crazy. :: Step out. Take a chance. What is the worst thing that could happen? You could fail, and if you do, pick yourself up off the ground, dust yourself off and move on. I have learned more in times when I am picking up the pieces when I have made mistakes. Additionally, when we stretch ourselves and are completely vulnerable, will God choose to use us or bless what we are doing. Be a visionary. Look to what can happen, what is possible. And then move forward in that direction. If you are a good leader people will join you and will have an army moving forward in the direction of positive change.

  4. Phil is extremely right about leadership seeing “the BIG picture.”

    Have spent considerable time in both secular & Christian media. The latter is, in my experience, far more brutal. Because only a handful people – if any – “get” television and media at the leadership level. Sometimes that’s the pastor. (Also beware of the executive pastor, the spouse, or any person that through survival has risen to head of the tv ministry but who possesses no tv experience.)

    Joel Osteen, by virtue of nearly 20 years producing his father’s tv program, “gets” tv. It’s in his bloodstream. So his speaking style, message and venue are tv friendly. His church spends enormous money on time buying, because Osteen strongly believes TV is part of Lakewood’s missions plan.

    That said, most every producer on secular tv shows I’ve worked with understands, through experience and education, the language of tv – from concept to production to budget to editing to delivery. They “get” it. If not, they usually get the boot. But to churches, tv (media) is seen as an extension of pastor’s morning message and/or a ministry cobbled together with many others. The church viewpoint is ministry first, not creating a tv program.

    Here’s the tough part: it may be your hard-earned, recurring job to educate those who don’t “get” media. Some will grasp it, others slowly, but a few NEVER will understand. If those few are at the leadership level, be careful. You’re walking on thin ice.

  5. It is fascinating to watch what happens when people get behind a movement. Some powerful things happen… I had a strong vision 7 years ago to introduce people to Christ through an event driven format with excellence in music, media, and message. Initially, a core group of people caught on and went with it, but when things didn’t go “their” way, they fell away.
    What I have come to understand, is people come and go but we cannot rise and fall with the attitude of others.
    We do not let small minded thinkers and opinions keep us from striving towards what we know is possible. Clarity of direction is critical for success. Our ministry strives to have the best possible people who “swing for the fence” at the ground level, because the foundation ultimately determines the height.
    I prefer spiritual risk takers living in the danger zone ready to do whatever it takes as opposed to people who always want to take the safe route. Its time we take the road less traveled to achieve the mission.

  6. Great points, Phil.

    “… and are highly intimidated by outside voices. They even go so far as to skew information so results favor their side. Teams like this usually spend a lot of time behind the scenes in politics and scheming.”

    In our case it was the exec that wouldn’t work with his team. We would ask legitimate logistical questions, but we were ignored. Paradoxically, he thought he was seeing things from the ‘50,000 ft level’, but he was in reality being very short-sighted having *huge* plans that he wanted implemented in a matter of months (with no budget!) that would, in reality, take a year or more with much more money than we had. No matter how we tried to work with him, it all ended in frustration because of his lack of any real management or team-building skills.

    In the end, it was the entire staff and volunteers who left the ministry. Of course it was spun to make it look like the fault of everyone else but him. He hired more people, told them how toxic the previous staff was and now they are back to square one doing the very same things we were doing 5 years ago! classic.

  7. you are soooo right! walking on thin ice lol … been there!

    If the higher-ups aren’t willing to at least educate themselves on the basics, or at minimum, let their experienced staff work out the details of logistics, budget, production and delivery, then you will have a tv ministry that will fail.

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