Five Practices of High-Performance Christian Leaders,

Five Practices of High-Performance Christian Leaders | Practice 3: Strategy

By Dr. Ben Lovvorn

Welcome back to this leadership series on the five practices of high-performance Christian leaders! In this video, we’re going to talk about practice 3: strategy. The high-performance Christian leader must practice the art of strategy.

Strategic leadership can be defined as the process used to effect the achievement of a desirable and clearly understood vision by influencing organizational culture, allocating resources, directing through policy and directive, or building coalitions and consensus. To be successful in any endeavor as a leader, you must be a strategist. Here are five tools you can use to become more strategic in the way you lead others.

1. Develop specific plans.

If you’re in a position of organizational leadership especially, a strategic plan is an invaluable tool that you will want to invest time in developing. Many leaders get caught up in abstractions. They have big dreams and ideas. But it’s hard for the people you’re leading to know how you might actually get there. The strategic planning process forces you as a leader to provide a roadmap. It can be tremendously beneficial, helping those you are leading know where you are trying to go and how you are going to get there.

Your strategic plan should articulate a clearly defined vision of the future, as well as identify the major activities you will undertake to move from today’s reality to that envisioned future. You can have a long-range plan (10 or more years), a mid-range plan for the next two to five years, and a campaign plan that covers the next one to two years. You can even break those plans down to what you are going to do in the next 90 days to take significant steps toward accomplishing those long-range goals. As the timeline you’re considering gets shorter, the objectives you make should be more specific and measurable. This helps you ensure that you’re moving down the road, making progress toward accomplishing your vision.

2. Allocate resources carefully.

Next, make sure that you allocate resources carefully. We are all dealing with limited time and resources. So you need to make sure that the resources you have at your disposal get allocated in a strategic way that will best accomplish the mission you’ve been given to pursue. Resource allocation is different than accounting. As a leader, you need to decide on the best place to invest your resources, and you have to make hard decisions about where resources should not be invested. In the parable of the talents, for example, Jesus told of two servants who were entrusted with differing amounts of resources. Both of those servants doubled their money—a 100% yield—and both were rewarded in proportion to that yield. But the third servant did nothing to yield a return for his master. And most would interpret his actions to be like those of an unbeliever.

So, whether you are responsible for overseeing money or people or both, those are resources that God and others have entrusted to you. It is your responsibility to ensure they are invested in efforts that will yield the most fruit for the kingdom.

3. Shape a healthy culture.

The next tool available to you as a leader is your ability to shape a healthy organizational or team culture. The culture is how things are done. What behaviors are expected? What behaviors will not be tolerated? As you shape your culture, you should consider (1) what type of culture will help the team best accomplish what God has called you to do together, and (2) what type of culture is best for your team members? Your organizational culture should evidence that your team members are created in the image of God, and that you want them to become more like Jesus Christ. To help communicate our culture here at First Baptist Dallas, we have developed operating principles (how we do things) and green team characteristics (who we are). I talk about them often, and have them posted all over the walls, the elevator doors, and in the breakroom so I can keep these values in front of our team here at all times.

For example, I emphasize the value of ownership. We view our employees as owners of their areas of responsibility. This helps us accomplish our mission because they are not waiting for me to tell them every step they are supposed to take or every task they are to accomplish. Instead, they must take responsibility for the success or failure of their ministry. It also shows that I recognize their value to the team and to the Lord. They are much more than individual pieces of a machine that can simply be discarded and replaced. They are children of God called and commissioned to serve Him in a unique way.

4. Set the right policies.

Next, a leader should use policies to further influence the culture and help the team know how to handle various situations. Now, many managers take policies and procedures to an extreme. The idea is not to bog your team down in bureaucracy. In fact, it’s the very opposite. By adopting broad policies to guide your team, you can free them up to act without having to work through a bureaucratic process.

For example, organizations who heavily emphasize customer service often adopt policies that allow their employees to make decisions and spend up to a certain amount of money in order to take care of the customer. In churches, you should have a child protection reporting policy that outlines what you are going to do if you suspect a child is a victim of abuse or neglect—that enables the staff member to take immediate action without asking a supervisor what they should do.

Organizational policies also greatly benefit leaders because it keeps you from having to make every decision on a case-by-case basis. For example, you don’t want to spend your time deciding how many days off each of your team members should get. No, you adopt a policy so they know how many they get. If you have to deal with everything on a case-by-case basis, you will waste all your time and energy making small decisions.

5. Form strong partnerships.

Finally, the leadership should leverage and optimize strategic partnerships. While strategic planning will help you march forward toward an envisioned future, strategic partnerships can open doors and make ways to accomplish more than you ever thought possible. Strategic partnerships are those relationships that are founded on our shared faith that result in synergy for the sake of the gospel. Synergy means that together, we are able to accomplish far more than we could individually, and even more than the sum of our two parts. In a strategic partnership, 1+1 does not equal 2… 1+1 equals 10 or 100 or 1000! If I said, “I want to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” there is only so much I can do. But in partnership with other churches and ministries, we can do so much more than we ever thought possible. It is not God’s plan for us to do his work alone. It is His plan for us to partner together as the Body of Christ to make Him known!

This has been our third practice of high-performance Christian leaders. Next time we’ll talk about the fourth practice: teamwork. See you then!