I have spent a good percentage of my career reading and trying to gain more knowledge. I think we all have, to some extent. As a businessman, the thing I really seem to be chasing the most is the “secret”.
Some of the questions I have wrestled with are:
What is the secret to business health and high profits?
What is the secret to being an effective leader?
What is the perfect balance of time spent at work vs. personal time?
What are the 5 things that I can do to “ensure” I am an effective businessman?
This can’t be that hard, right? I mean, there are a lot of examples of success out there, so just tell me what to do and I will do it!
If these questions were not hard enough to answer in their own right, what makes things tougher is that respected people in the field have different opinions on the matter! First, I thought Tony Robbins had the answers. Then, I thought Stephen Covey had the answers. No, wait, I think Jim Collins has the answers. Michael Gerber, Larry Burkett, John Maxwell, Peter Drucker, Dave Ramsey, etc. The list can go on and on.
There was a point where I began to see this “search” as being a little bit like swimming for land in the middle of the ocean. The likelihood of ever really finding the answer was remote, at least the way I was going about it. What I was looking for was a wisdom that is so pervasive and so principled, that it could be applied to any situation and would, in fact, “guarantee” a successful outcome, if followed with discipline.
I decided to think out of the box. Instead of just reading business books, maybe I need to look elsewhere. I believe there are some values and characteristics in leaders that are common in any organization, whether it be a business profit or another type of organization.
Ok, so, let’s say we don’t care about profits. Let’s say we want to look at other organizations that have grown without profit or “doing business” as the motivation. Can I think of an organization that grew quickly, has a loyal following, and is effectively making a difference in people’s lives? Well, for a while I couldn’t think of anything. Then, I realized that the answer was right under my nose.
I remember that I was watching Saturday Night Live about a year ago, and, if you live in Atlanta, after Saturday Night Live, there is a show that comes on called “Your Move,” hosted by Andy Stanley. For all intents and purposes, it is a modern-day, millennial-friendly weekly sermon.
There was one episode where Andy was talking about growing North Point Church here in the Atlanta metro-area. What he was talking about was how to “let go” and how to not let your anxieties and needs of control dominate your life. I also got out of the talk a little about people that are “overachievers” and “workaholics”. In other words, as we begin to achieve some level of growth and/or success, we tend to hold on tighter, work more, and get more stressed and anxious. What Andy described was a time where he decided that he could not do it anymore, and he needed to give it to God. Now, you might think that I am going down a religious path here, but I am not. Bear with me.
As he was talking about giving up his desire and drive to be at the church to grow it (in his early days), he was basically stating that there was, at one point, a time where he had to let go and let others take over…especially God. In other words, ”God, I can’t do all this anymore, I need you to take care of it, so please do so.”
I realized that these “mega-churches” that were around me in the Atlanta area, seemed to have very fast, sustained growth, and they were not motivated by profits or “shareholders”. Their primary motivation was not money, yet they grew and were as financially healthy (if not much more healthy) than most businesses. And, they had people giving money and time for “free” to them. What could be different from “business” than that?
I don’t believe the answer to building, growing, and sustaining a successful and profitable business lies in necessarily just studying business. It lies more in the study and reflection on the growth and health of any organization, and the principles that got it to the place it got to. Money and profits must be a by-product of these concepts, whatever they are, that leaders put in place, whether there is profit to be had or not.
This all being said, I realized that my search was probably barking up the wrong tree. I was looking in a place where there were some answers, or partial answers, but not THE answer.
So, the next question I wanted to research was, how do the most effective leaders behave? What do they do that cause people to follow them, give to them, rally behind them, and have a real sense of purpose. Like….Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandhi, etc.
So, I thought about this for a while. Then, in the middle of my research, I came across one leader that really was head and shoulders above all others, in a purely worldly and secular definition. Jesus.
Why Jesus? Here is his resume:
He trained 12 human beings who then went on to so influence the world that time itself is now recorded as being (B.C.) or (A.D.).
This 12 person “staff” was 100% human, flawed, and certainly not divine. They were mostly illiterate, had “less than clean” backgrounds, were often irritable and childish, and cowardly. So, we’re not talking about the Alpha males or the cream of the crop here.
His leadership style was intended to be put to use by ANYONE.
Today, he is followed by over 2.2 billion people.
Jesus took the people that were the least likely to succeed and carry on his leadership, and then he trained them to start a following that has expanded to over 2.2 billion people today. That’s a pretty good resume! Maybe instead of just reading about Jesus on Sundays and for my own spirituality, I should be paying attention to this guy for my business!!
Today, the new generation of Americans are looking for more purpose in their lives, or, at least they are more honest and vocal about it. I believe that the next generation of effective leaders will embrace this. Specifically, the business world will be crying out for strong, compassionate, principled, innovative, and purpose-driven leaders. These leaders will build people up and not exploit them. They will nurture their people and allow them to flourish. They will not dominate, but rather lead by example. This is in contrast to what we normally think of. We tend to think of great promoters, managers, genius business people. But, those traits will not get you as far as the traits and actions of Jesus.
In my future writings, I intend to take a specific trait of Jesus and, God-willing, explain it in as simple terms as I can, with examples, and how it can be applied today to the business world. The traits and actions that Jesus exhibited are the best learning tool, and teaching tool, that I can find that allows me to do better business. I believe that a business run on principles followed by Jesus will drive more profit and more wealth than that of any other leader in the history of mankind.
So, this blog series is purely to explain and share why I have come to believe that studying this man is the best business research that you can do, and it is the only real research that you need to do on business leadership. Remember, take the “business” out of leadership. You don’t really need it. Great leadership will lead to a great business, and a great business leads to great profits. A healthy tree with ripe fruit has healthy roots, and that is what this blog series is about!
A discussion on how Jesus taught that self-confidence is critical to a leader’s effectiveness.