The Best Leaders I Know

It’s Adam Grant week on this blog.

After reading his latest book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, I strongly suggest you devour it if you’re interested in leadership. Whether you serve a congregation, a government agency, an educational institution, or a for-profit organization Grant’s wisdom is extraordinarily helpful.

I’ve been blessed to work with many leaders in my years of professional ministry and even the toxic ones helped me become a better leader myself. God uses everything.

At the risk of offending your pastor/boss/colleague – I hope you will share Grant’s wisdom with leaders in your world. I’ll be paraphrasing his work but these qualities are what to look for if you are calling a new leader, if you are supporting a current leader, or if you aspire to be a good leader yourself:

  • The best leaders do not have to be the smartest people in the room. In fact, they are curious about what they don’t know.
  • The best leaders are not defensive when someone challenges them/suggests they do things differently. In fact, they relish constructive feedback.
  • The best leaders never, ever humiliate their colleagues, nor do they tolerate those who do.
  • The best leaders listen to their peers. If your personnel committee tells you to get a mentor, coach, and/or therapist, do it. If your colleagues tell you to bone up on your preaching, teaching, administrating, or pastoral caregiving, do it – even and especially if you are a seasoned pastor.
  • The best leaders think like scientists. Adam Grant writes that most leaders are either preachers (we have sacred assumptions that cannot be challenged), prosecutors (we attack like lawyers seeking flaws in another’s arguments), or politicians (we want to win over our shareholders/stakeholders in order to win.) Scientists – on the other hand – rethink assumptions, consider the arguments of others, and refuse to lobby for the sake of “winning.” Scientists experiment. They try something and aren’t afraid to fail.
  • The best leaders have interests and skills in other fields beyond their specialty. The best pastors I know are experts in something besides pastoring. Several are BBQ geniuses. Others are tech wizards. And still others roast their own coffee beans, brew their own craft beer, or design their own clothing. Some are excellent dancers and painters.
  • Again, the best leaders are intellectually humble.

Intellectual humility = knowing what we don’t know and Adam Grant shares that he is personally ignorant about “art, financial markets, fashion, chemistry, food, why British accents turn American in songs, and why it’s impossible to tickle yourself.” He also knows quite a lot about lifelong learning and the joy of being wrong. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was also good at rock climbing and Formula One racing trivia.

I am ignorant about Game of Thrones, plumbing, Pokemon, and the Baltic countries. But I’m a very strong navigator on road trips and – as I’ve shared before – I am an award-winning parallel parker. And once I installed a ceiling fan.

Being a leader should feel joyful.

Working with leaders should feel joyful.

If it doesn’t feel that way, please read this book and/or slip a copy on the desk of the not-so-great leader you know.

It’s going to be a generative week.

One response to “The Best Leaders I Know

  1. Popular read here in the Fresno area. I put a hold on it at the library only to see that all 18 copies are already checked out, in transit, or lost. Guess I’ll wait for awhile.


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