The True Test of Leadership

This past Sunday I had a chance to preach at the church I used to pastor.  It was great to see folks, hang out with friends, and worship with my former church family. The neatest thing to me was knowing that this was a place I used to pastor – before God called me away – and they were willing to have me back!

I know it sounds really simple. But that doesn’t happen very often. Many times, pastors leave under duress. Or they leave the church with so many problems. And the church just isn’t interested in seeing the pastor again until they all get to heaven. (Can you tell I tried to say that in the nicest way possible?) So, for me, it was an incredible honor and privilege to be invited back to preach.

I’m reminded of what my dad has always told me. “Son, the true test of leadership is not what happens when you’re there, but what happens after you’re gone.” Don’t get me wrong, what happens when you’re there is really important. But what about after you ride off into the sunset – or you’re six feet under? What then?

I’m honored and blessed to pastor an incredible church now. And do you know that one of the former pastors was there for 48 years? He died in his eighties still pastoring that same church. What happened after his death? The church continued to grow! Now that’s the true test of leadership. How’s it done? I’m not sure there’s a formula but here are a couple of thoughts.

1. Lead with the right length in mind. In other words, don’t lead with a three-year plan, lead with a thirty-year plan. While I’m interested in what we’re doing next month and next year. I’m even more interested in where we will be next decade. I’m in this for the long haul and I want to see long term results that have lasting impact.

2. Put the right people in the right places. I’m convinced that one of the only ways leaders can increase their productivity is by duplicating themselves. The only way to do that is to have the right people in the right places. Who you hire and what they do is vitally important. It will bring rewards long after you’re gone.

So, have you ever thought about leadership that way? For me, it gives a new definition and brings a new urgency. While it does matter what happens when I’m there, it also matters greatly what happens when I’m gone. Only then will the true results of leadership be known.