16 July 2008


Over at Bayou Christian, Bill Crawford has begun an examination of Christian leadership. While he writes in terms of pastors, what he has to say is applicable to all leaders in the Church. He says

. . . people need Good, Average, Leadership.

Good - biblical, humble, risk taking, passionate proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In other words - orthodoxy no matter what. It can't be man made it has to be God breathed.

Average - I don't need to be excellent, outstanding, or special. I need to saddle up and ride every day. I need to be there on the sunny days, and the dark days, I need to be where the hurt is and where the laughter is. I need to be huggable. Average is a daily thing and I think it is good.

Leadership - Passionate refusal to allow people to settle for whatever life throws at them. A constant desire to point to Jesus, and head in that direction. Nothing flamboyant, just is. Someone who speaks up even at the risk of being wrong. Sure you will take some shots. But you know what? I believe the folks in the pews, they deserve our risk taking. They deserve our best - because those folks are the Kingdom here on earth, they are children of the God most high. I have learned to love them and if you don't - you're not a leader. If they mistreat you - that's why there are pastors in the first place.

His excellent comments took me back 42 years to a hot Butler building (a corrugated steel "temporary" building of WWII vintage) classroom at Camp Upshur aboard Marine Corps Base, Quantico. As brand new officer candidates, 600 of us were introduced to the leadership principles and traits that nearly 200 years of Marine Corps combat experience had distilled into useable form.

Reading Bill's comments, I found that much of what he wrote was right on, rekindling my understanding that leadership is both instinctive and a teachable skill.

The Leadership Principles are:












The Leadership Traits, posted as large sacrlet and gold signs in nearly every barracks and command post I have entered, are:

DEPENDABILITY -- the certainty of proper performance of duty.

BEARING -- creating a favorable impression in carriage, appearance and personalconduct at all times.

COURAGE -- the mental quality that recognizes fear of danger or criticism, but enables a man to proceed in the face of it with calmness and firmness.

DECISIVENESS -- ability to make decisions promptly and to announce them in clear, forceful manner.

ENDURANCE -- the mental and physical stamina measured by the ability to withstand pain, fatigue, stress and hardship.

ENTHUSIASM -- the display of sincere interest and exuberance in the performance of duty.

INITIATIVE -- taking action in the absence of orders.

INTEGRITY -- uprightness of character and soundness of moral principles; includes the qualities of truthfulness and honesty.

JUDGMENT -- the ability to weigh facts and possible solutions on which to base sound decisions.

JUSTICE -- giving reward and punishment according to merits of the case in question. the ability to administer a system of rewards and punishments impartially and consistently.

KNOWLEDGE -- understanding of a science or an art; the range of one's information, including professional knowledge and an understanding of your Marines.

TACT -- the ability to deal with others without creating offense.

UNSELFISHNESS -- avoidance of providing for one's own comfort and personal advancement at the expense of others.

LOYALTY -- the quality of faithfulness to Country, the Corps, the unit, to one's seniors, subordinates and peers.

I'll start with a minor semantic disagreement over Bill's use of the word "average.". He says, "I don't need to be excellent, outstanding, or special. I need to saddle up and ride every day. I need to be there on the sunny days, and the dark days, I need to be where the hurt is and where the laughter is. I need to be huggable. Average is a daily thing and I think it is good."

Hold on, there, Bayou! A leader cannot, by definition, be "average."

I think what Bill is saying is that a leader need not -- cannot -- be "elitist." Leadership is not limited to only those few fortunates who are "naturals" at it. With proper desire and some training, almost anyone can become an effective leader. Generations of officers of Marines have been trained to be leaders. Sergeants and Corporals, the backbone of the Corps, are trained and become leaders.

Look at Bill's working definition, and we see that he is describing a person who is far from average in the popular sense of the word. Using his definition, a leader is one who works to be ready for whatever task comes down the pike, who shows up, day in and day out, rain or shine, who is dependable and caring. The leader is not afraid of hurt and is able to give both hugs and kicks in the rear when needed. It is, indeed, ". . .a daily thing."

One of the traits of leaders that I have observed is that they groom and train the next generation of leaders. So potential leaders need not be afraid to assume their tasks simply because they are "only average."

Tomorrow, we will see how both match up with what Bill has written.


Christine said...

Who are the "subordinates" in the Christian church?

Dan said...

Good post. The military is one of the models I look at when I look at leadership training. The entire idea seems to be that people can and should be taught how to lead so as to get a job done. (Is that right?)

In the church it is so much harder because 'the job' is complex, long term, large scope, and inclusive (and probably more!).

What I am interested in is how this squares with the guys who end up saying 'leadership is a gift' and point to people who really seem to be strong, natural leaders. Barna goes so far as to say that there are plenty of people leading churches who are teachers but not leaders and they need to find another way to do things.

What do you think?

Mac said...

Christine: It's a model, not a plan. Today was spent in introducing the model. Stay tuned for application.

Dan: The mission always comes first (getting the job done) followed closely by taking care of your troops.

You wrote: "In the church it is so much harder because 'the job' is complex, long term, large scope, and inclusive (and probably more!)." So is combat, but the trick is to break things down into intermediate, achievable objectives.

Barna has a point. All leaders are good managers, but all managers are not good leaders. Then there is the old saw that was goung around when I was a student at Illinois State Normal University: "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach; those who can't teach teach others to teach." [Here comes the hate mail! 8>)]

Seriously: Very few professional schools teach leadership--it surely was not on the curriculum at ISNU (now ISU), not at my law school, and I suspect that it is absent from most seminaries.

The syllabus at The Basic School (TBS) is approximately 1500 hours of instruction in about 23 weeks--equivalent to the classroom hours in 4 years of college. More than half are in the Leadership Group. Training leaders is a time- and effort-intensive undertaking. (TBS is the school to which ALL newly commissioned officers report before they proceed to their technical training, i.e., flight school, artillery, armor, supply, motor transport, communications, etc. The idea is that they must be trained to be officers of Marines before they are taught the technical stuff.

Are there "natural" leaders? You betcha, and I have known and served with many: Col Roger Ryman, Col Randy Austin, General Jim Jones (we were company commanders in 2d Battalion, 9th Marines), LtCol J.K. Griffis, LtCol Bill Reilly, Sgt Maj R.E. Lee, MGySgt Dave Ankrom, First Sergeant Gary Beyers, and my TBS classmates LtCol Pat Oates, Ltcol O.L. North, and Capt (now Senator) Jim Webb. They made it look so easy--but if you watched closely, they worked at it constantly. Even those with the gift acknowledge that they must work to be better leaders.

So, the complaint that leadership is only for the lucky few born to it doesn't cut it with me.

Bill Crawford said...


I'm sorry the average thing is a non-negotiable. Too many people are frozen into inability to act becuase they think they can't do it.

Of course you can't do it. You will mess up, you will fall short, you won't anticipate everything.

So what?

I get your point and I think you are starting to get mine.

you really expect me to work through all of this by tomorrow? What about "bayou" are you failing to understand :)-

Bill Crawford said...

Miracles do happen - they are God's average way of doing things.

Mac said...


I do get it. As I said, my disagreement is semantic, not substantive. I'm just concerned that the casual reader will think that a leader can be average, rather than that the average person can become a leader.

I agree that even the most successful leaders sometimes fail. That is because they are trying to do something. Action towards a goal is fraught with the opportunity to fall short, but the leader backs up, regroups and finds a new way to achieve the original goal.

We're on the same wavelength--we're just wordsmithing.

I forgot that you live down on the bayou, a more relaxed part of the world. Did you fry up that big fish yet?

Chris said...

Just wait for the saber-rattling charges...

Bill Crawford said...

It didn't make it through the day. Now when if comes to food - then we are serious.

Adel Thalos said...


Excellent Post. Thank you for your challenges and insight.

"One of the traits of leaders that I have observed is that they groom and train the next generation of leaders."

The sad thing about this statemet is the state of so many of our Seminaries. All of the PCUSA seminaries are apostate...a place where dependence on the inerrancy and authority of scripture is completely mocked and systematically destroyed.


Dr. D.A. Carson has written an excellent book called "A Model of Christian Maturity: an exposition of 2 Corinthians 10-13" His focus is on Paul's leadership in a very personal arena where he is being attacked and undermined on several fronts. This is an excellent resource and one I highly recommend to all pastors and Christian leaders.

Thank you.