From Mission

How to Lead Change When You’re NOT The Senior Leader

If you were in charge, everything would be different, wouldn’t it?

But you’re not. At least not yet.

So how do you effect change when you’re NOT the senior leader? How do you lead change when you’re a staff member or simply a volunteer?

Because I’ve written on change, I get that question all the time. That shouldn’t be a surprise, really. Far more people are NOT the senior leader than are the senior leader.

It’s easy to think you’re powerless, or to try to work around a leader you disagree with. But neither is a great strategy.

So what do you do if you want to bring about change but you’re not the key decision maker?

Not the leader

If you do a little homework and learn to think differently, you can be exceptionally effective at leading change well, even when you’re not the senior leader. Even if you’re ‘just’ a staff member or ‘just’ a volunteer.

How?

Here are five ways you can ‘lead up’ to your senior leader when you want to broker change:

1. Think like a senior leader.

So you’re not a senior leader, but try to imagine that you were. Imagine the pressures and issues facing your senior leader and approach the conversation accordingly.

Think through how it impacts the entire organization.

Understand that your senior leader may have budget restraints and many other interests to balance, like a board of directors or elder board. Show him or her that you understand that and you’re willing to be flexible on some points.

Showing your senior leader you understand the bigger picture is huge.

I’m a senior leader and I’ll disclose a bias here.

When someone on my team comes to me with any idea and I realize they have thought it through cross-organizationally (that is, they’ve thought through how it impacts the entire organization), I am far more open to it than otherwise.

Why? Because

They’re thinking about more than just themselves.

They did their homework.

They helped me do my homework.

They showed me they’re leading at the next level.

I always try to be open to new ideas, but here’s the truth. Often before the person is done their presentation or we’re done the discussion, I’ve already thought through 15 implications of their idea.

If they show me theyve thought through the 15 implications before they got to my office, I’m completely impressed and very open.

I’m not saying that’s a good thing, I’m just saying it’s a true thing.

And I think it’s true of most senior leaders.

When you think like a senior leader, you’re more likely to persuade a senior leader.

2. Express desires, not demands.

No one likes a demanding person.

In fact, when someone demands something there’s something inside me that wants to not give them what they asked for.

I don’t always follow that impulse, but expressing demands damages relationships. Instead, talk about what you desire.

Show respect and tell him how you feel – don’t tell him how you think he should feel. And above all, don’t be demanding.

3. Explain the why behind the what.

As Simon Sinek has so rightly pointed out, people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Your best argument is not the what (we need to completely transform our church) or  the how (here’s how you should do it).

It’s the why (I think I’ve discovered a more effective way to reach families in our community and help parents win at home…can I talk to you about that?)

The more you explain the why, the more people will be open to the what and the how.

Lead with why. Season your conversation with why. And close with why.

4. Stay publicly loyal.

Andy Stanley has said it this way: public loyalty buys you private leverage.

It’s so true. If you start complaining about how resistant your senior leader is, not only does that compromise your personal integrity, he’s not dumb.

He’ll probably hear about it and he will lose respect for you.

In my mind as a senior leader, the team members who conduct themselves like a cohesive team always have the greatest private influence.

Your public loyalty will buy you private leverage.

5. Be a part of the solution. 

If you’re discontent (which you should be, as I wrote about here), it’s not that difficult to drift into the category of critic. Unless – that is – you decide to be part of the solution.

Offer help. Don’t end-run your leader, run with your leader on the project.

Be the most helpful you can be.

Offer to do the leg work.

Bring your best ideas to the table every day.

Offer to help in any way you can.

If you won’t be part of the solution, you’ll eventually become part of the problem.

So be part of the solution.

Those are five ideas on how to lead change when you’re not the senior leader.

Do they always work? No…human dynamics are more complicated than that.

But they often work, and if they don’t, you will know you gave it everything you had and then you can weigh your options. (Click here for 5 signs it’s time to move on.)

If you want more on change, I wrote about effectively leading change in my best-selling book Leading Change Without Losing It.

Non-senior leaders, what would you add?

Senior leaders, what other advice would you give?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Things You Can Do When Your Current Team Isn’t the Right Team

So…have you got the right team?

I hear from leaders all the time who say things like

I feel like we just don’t have the right leaders in place.

I’ve got a vision, but I just can’t get it past my team.

If only we had better people, we’d see a turnaround.

Sometimes leaders will say “Yeah…sure, I’ve got a good team”.

But deep down they’re far from sure. They know it needs to change, but how?

Whether you’re dealing with a staff or volunteer situation, there are almost always people who you know shouldn’t be on the team, so what do you do?

team

They’re Not All Bad People…Just Not the Right People

It’s hard to figure out who the right people are when you’re in leadership.

In my early days in leadership, I saw things as more black and white. And I made the mistake of personalizing misalignment or disagreement.

You were in or you were out.

You were with us or you were against us.

You were right or you were wrong.

Those views didn’t always leak out publicly, but sometimes they did. And while my views were more nuanced than that, there was more black and white in how I saw opponents than was healthy.

I’ve come to see people very differently over my tenure as a leader.

Just because you disagree with me or our vision doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. It just might mean you’re not right for our team in this season.

The only class of people I think every leader needs to be extremely cautious of are what I call toxic people.

You need to stay away from them and keep them off your team, whatever the cost. The stakes are just too high.

But truly toxic people might represent 1% of the population. (By the way, here are 6 early warning signs you’re dealing with a toxic person.)

Most people aren’t toxic.  But that doesn’t mean they are right for your team.

 

Why Some People Just Don’t Work Out

It’s easy to demonize people you don’t want to work with You’re not always right…and they’re not always wrong. 

Sometimes you have the wrong people with the right gifting. That’s often a chemistry or character issue.

Sometimes you have the right people with the wrong gifting. That’s often a competency issue.

Sometimes you have great people with a different vision and different calling. That’s simply a calling issue.

They could be great somewhere else. They just might not be great for your team or organization.

In fact, they would be better off and you would be better off if they moved off.

So how do you do that?

That’s the critical question.

 

5 Things You Can Do When Your Current Team Isn’t the Right Team

The following principles really work best if you’re going to be in an organization for 5 years or more. I think long term tenure is the best option by far for impact in ministry…here’s why.

Because I’m a church leader, I’ve crafted these for use in a volunteer organization. If you were merely dealing with paid staff, you could effect change faster.

That said, you can get a new team in place within 2 years and have your culture changed radically within 5 years, even in a slow moving church culture. At least that’s been my experience 19 years into leadership.

1. Get permission to find some fresh leaders

Chances are the team you have when you started is a team you inherited.

Even if you’re working in a church plant or start up, cracks in your launch team become visible within a year. You likely want to make changes.

It’s bad leadership to do end runs around people.

When I started 19 years ago leading three small churches that were (honestly) dying, we started with an honest conversation.

We talked honestly about the need for a new day, and they bought into the idea of creating a new team to run alongside them filled with the best leadership I could find in the church. The purpose of the team? To create a plan for a better future for our church that they, the elders, could approve or revise.

I realize a lot of you might think “that will never work in my context.” I get that.

But doing an end run around your current leadership behind the scenes creates a culture of mistrust you will never escape.

And if they say no after you have an honest, humble, prayerful set of conversations…well, you then know where you stand.

Maybe you’re the member of the team that doesn’t fit. And it’s time to move on.

But you’ll be surprised how often they see the issues you see, and are relieved you’re leading them to a new day.

2. Find the kind of leaders you can build the future of the church on

Sometimes you need to work outside the existing leadership to build a better future.

Do it honestly and openly.

I built a vision team when I first started in those three churches. I found the most future-thinking kind of people I could find and called them together with our most progressive existing leadership to carve out a future.

My simple criteria: are these the kind of people we can build the future of the church on?

If you start asking that question, you’ll be amazed at how clarifying it is about who you need to recruit into leadership.

3. Affirm people. Attack problems.

Your attitude is as important as the action you take when leading change.

It’s easy to attack people. That’s always a mistake.

Affirm people, attack problems.

If you do this, you will win over many friends, leave people with their dignity AND you will learn something in the process. You’re not always right.

Best yet, when you attack problems, you can often find that some people who were off-mission become on-mission because they are galvinized around a clear problem and call to action.

You’ll be surprised at how many great things happen when you attack problems, not people. I explain this concept in great detail in my book about how to lead change in the face of opposition.

4. Honour the past without living in it.

You will feel a temptation to dismiss everything that happened before you became the leader as ‘bad’ or inferior.

Don’t.

Stay in leadership long enough, and you’ll realize you’ve done some things that are actually bad or inferior too.

The people you inherited as a leader were often doing their best.

The team you have now probably cares deeply about what they’re doing.

Honour that. Affirm that.

Even if they are not the kind of people you can build the future of the church on. Let them know how much you appreciate their hard work, commitment and dedication. Here’s the truth, you would not be standing on anything right now as a leader if they had given up long ago. At least you have a foundation on which to build.

So honour them.

Honour the past without living in it.

Leverage what has been to help usher in what will be.

We ushered in massive change in the first 5 years of my leadership in a local church. We changed pretty much everything.

Some people left. But many stayed. At a conference I did one year, we brought up everyone who had been at the church when I started and celebrated them as ‘The Originals” —people who paved the way for a better future and were committed to bringing it about.  They got a standing ovation from the crowd gathered that day.

Even though most of them were no longer in the leadership role they used to be in, they felt honoured because they were honoured.

5. Find new seats for people.

Just because someone shouldn’t be on staff anymore, or isn’t an elder anymore, people of character will stay on and serve in different roles more suited to their gifting if you give them the chance.

Sure…some will leave.

A friend of mine once told me “What people become involved in becomes the mission.” And this is true. That’s why so many people leave a church when they no longer serve in it (I wrote about 9 reasons why this happens in this post).

Your job as a leader is to help them find a new seat on the bus that fits them better than their current role.

The best way to do that is to honour them and keep talking about the urgency of a mission and vision.

And if the person or group you’re working with isn’t toxic, often they are excited to still support the mission and vision in a new role.

If it turns out their service was all about them and not about the mission and vision, you’ll learn that soon enough: they won’t take another seat. But again, you’ll be surprised how many will.

Do these 5 steps guarantee everyone will stay? Not a chance.

But many will.

And they can help you build a new team when your current team isn’t the right team.

And practicing them over the years has led me to the place where I am thrilled with the team of staff and volunteer leaders we have.

What are you learning about getting the right people in place?

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5 Ways Your Emotions Help and Hurt Your Leadership

I had a blah day earlier this week.

Nothing terrible happened. There was no direct trigger.

I just didn’t feel great emotionally.

Chances are you have more than a few of those days yourself.

Sometimes they’re provoked (a nasty email, conflict on your team, a difficult meeting) and sometimes they’re not. For me, my blah day wasn’t provoked by anything I could see.

Sometimes bad days and seasons just happens. As John Mayer so poignantly puts it:

When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask.
It just walks in, where it left you last.
And you never know, when it starts
Until there’s fog inside the glass around your summer heart.

So many leaders I meet live in that space for more than a short season.

I believe misunderstood and unaddressed emotions sink more leadership potential than most of us realize.

And I also realize if I don’t jump on a bad day quickly, it can lead to a bad season.

If you don’t understand your emotions or know how to manage them, you will never reach your leadership potential.

So how do you do that?

emotions, leadership

There are at least five ways emotions can help you or hurt you in leadership.

Understanding how emotions can work for you or against you is key to becoming a healthy leader and cultivating a healthy culture on your team.

2 Ways Emotions Help You

Emotions can be great friends to any leader. Here are two ways your emotions can make you a better leader:

1. Emotion fuels passion.

Who wants to follow an emotionless leader?

There is no passion without emotion.

As John Wesley said

Light yourself on fire with passion and people will come from miles to see you burn.

That’s just true.

You are attracted to people who are passionate, or at least you can’t easily dismiss them.

When you lead with passion, teach with passion and preach with passion, your leadership becomes far more magnetic.

Plus, passion ends up fueling you. It’s what makes you get out of bed in the morning and drives you on.

When your emotions are healthy, passion comes more naturally.

2. A fully alive heart generates powerful leadership.

When your heart is engaged and alive, you become a better leader.

When you feel a full range of emotions (both positive and negative) you can empathize with people who are hurting and celebrate with people who are celebrating.

You can walk with a group or congregation through a hard time and celebrate joyfully in the great moments.

To do that, you need to keep your heart healthy and in tune.

I wrote about the top 10 habits of leaders who effectively guard their hearts here.

3 Ways Emotions Hurt You

Often, the negative impact of emotions exacts an incredible toll on leaders and the people who follow them.

Here are 3 ways emotions can hurt your leadership:

1. Emotions can distort reality.

When you’re having a bad day, you convince yourself it’s over when it’s actually just beginning.

You see negative things more negatively than they should. You take things personally when you shouldn’t.

Even positive emotions can hurt you when they are detached from reality. If you’re overly positive, you can ignore reality, miss impending dangers and gloss over problems that actually require your attention.

That’s why keeping a healthy heart is so important.

2. Negative emotions make everything about you.

Bad days or bad seasons are most often fuelled by pain. A stinging email triggers a deep hurt. A bad staff situation eats away at your joy. A season without momentum erodes your self-confidence.

You end as a leader in pain. And pain is selfish.

In the same way that stubbing your toe makes you forget about whatever else you were doing until the pain is resolved, your emotional pain (no matter its source) makes you more selfish as a leader.

People in pain

Don’t listen well to others.

Withdraw and sulk.

Blame others.

Eventually turn every conversation to a conversation about themselves and their needs.

Want others to share their misery or sadness.

Seek attention.

All of that behaviour is selfish.

And selfish leaders are never effective leaders.

The best way to get rid of your selfishness? Get rid of your pain.

Pray about it. See a counsellor. Drill down on your issues.

3. Emotions make you do things today that you’ll regret tomorrow.

When emotions drive decisions, you almost never make great decisions.

For sure, great decision making is a combination of the head and the heart.

But think about all the terrible decisions you’ve made when you were emotional:

You said terrible things.

You fired someone you wish you hadn’t.

You hired someone you wish you hadn’t.

You lost your temper in a meeting.

You broke up.

You ate too much.

You drove so fast you got a killer ticket.

You almost quit.

You did quit.

Years ago—largely because I learned not to trust my emotions—I made a decision: Don’t base tomorrow’s decision on today’s emotions.

Now when I’m having a bad day (or one that’s unrealistically good), I just don’t make decisions. I wait until I’m feeling more healthy. And, I’ve learned to always draw in other voices and decision makers into important decisions (here’s how to do that).

That’s what I remind myself when I’m having a not-so-good day, or whenever my emotions aren’t firing properly.

I’ve also realized that if that seasons continues for more than a few days, it’s probably a sign God has further work to do on my heart or even go back to a counsellor. I outlined other steps you can take to get off the emotional roller coaster of ministry in this post.

What helps you get through a season when your emotions aren’t reliable?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Reasons Churches That Start Small Stay Small

So…you want your church to grow, right?

When I ask ministry leaders whether they want to see growth, almost every leader I’ve ever talked to says yes.

Sure…there are some house church movements that want to stay small. And some long time or xenophobic churches have lost their appetite for growth. And there are always a few people who think big=evil.

But most leaders want their churches to grow…and for good reasons most of the time. They want to reach people with the life changing love and forgiveness of Christ.

That is awesome.

But most churches don’t grow.

And most churches that start small stay small.

Why?

iStock_000003969312Small

 Almost Nobody Starts Big

Well first of all, almost no church starts big. There are a few exceptions, like North Point.

But that’s the rare exception—almost all of churches start small. Even mega churches most often start with 5 people meeting in a living room and grow from there.

Big doesn’t have to be the destination for everyone.

But clearly, if you want to reach your community, growth is a natural by product of a mission being fulfilled.

 

I Don’t Want to Start Another Debate

Before we get to the main point, a qualifier. The last thing I want to do with this post is to start a debate on small church v. large church. We’ve had them before on other posts and keyboards have been set on fire on other blogs over this issue. No more, okay?

So, for the record:

There are lots of great small churches.

There are lots of great large churches.

There are some bad small churches.

There are some bad big churches.

There is no perfect or biblical number for church size.

No one can claim moral high ground in this discussion.

Can we agree on that? And even if you have different views, can we please not be disagreeable?

Once and for all, size doesn’t determine how significant your ministry is.

Rather, size becomes relevant only for those who are attempting to reach their community.

If you’re going to reach your community, you’re going to grow.

And if you’re going to grow, you have to figure out why certain things make a church grow and why certain things curtail growth.

5 Reasons Churches That Start Small Stay Small

For sure there are more than 5 reasons (I outline 8 related but different reasons why churches never grow past 200 here).

But just know there is no silver bullet.

Doing these 5 things is no guarantee your church will grow.

But the opposite is true.

If you don’t pay attention to these 5 factors, there is a very good chance your church won’t grow. At least not substantially or sustainably.

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5 Things Long Term Leaders Master (And Quitters Never Do)

Very rarely does success come from jumping from one venture to another every few years.

And very rarely does long term impact happen from short term tenure.

And yet in ministry and in life, people often jump from venture to venture or church to church hoping the next fit is better than the last fit, only to be perpetually disappointed.

One of the things that characterizes most leaders who make an impact in our generation is staying power. Andy Stanley has been at North Point since he started it 19 years ago.

Rick Warren has served at Saddleback for three decades. Craig GroeschelPerry NobleSteven Furtick and so many more have all had or are working on long term ministries.

 

Many Leaders Leave Before Their Critical Breakthrough

In my view too many leaders leave too often before critical breakthroughs happen.

Most people who become ‘overnight’ successes have put in a decade or more before anything really note-worthy has happened.

I’m not saying leaders should never leave. In fact, here’s a post outlining 5 signs it’s time to move on.

It’s just if you go too early, you can miss out on so much.

 

5 Things Long Term Leaders Learn to Master

Here are 5 things every leader who stays long term learns to master:

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5 Things Every Church Leader Can Learn from the Mark Driscoll Situation

So let me start here.

I struggle with pride.

Do you?

Doesn’t everyone?

Pride is at the root of all sin. It is pride—the pursuit of self, of knowing better, of being right—that caused our fall in the first place. It is a daily struggle for me.

My heart broke this weekend as I read of the latest developments at Mars Hill Church as their Pastor, Mark Driscoll, temporarily stepped down. There’s a very (from what I can tell) balanced and fair article about the events here in Christianity Today if you want some background.

I need to say I don’t know Mark Driscoll. I’ve never met him.

And this is not a post where I’m going to pass any level of judgment on Pastor Mark or Mars Hill. He needs our prayers as does his family and church (My heart really hurts for his family in a season like this. They love their husband and dad. So does Christ.)

And even as I say “he needs our prayers” I realize that often in Christian circles we say that with a sense of superiority, as though he needs our prayers or she needs our prayers in way that I don’t.

Not even close to true.

No one prays with clean hands. I don’t. You don’t.

I need your prayers as desperately as Pastor Mark. So do you. So when we pray, we need to pray as those who come alongside each other before a merciful and just God and a Saviour we all so desperately need.

We are in this together.

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13 Little Known Facts About Change Too Many Leaders Miss

You’re probably trying to change something right now.

And — if you’re honest — you’ve already thought about backing off.

Change seems too difficult.

You’ve watched friends get hurt trying to lead similar change.

You’ve heard the voices of opposition get a little louder.

You really don’t want to be afraid to open your inbox every morning.

But what if this is true?

Change is harder than it needs to be because it’s more mysterious than it needs to be.

And it doesn’t need to be quite that mysterious.
Here’s what I believe about change.

Change has dynamics; and the dynamics can be learned.

A couple years ago,  I wrote a book about leading change while facing opposition. I’m passionate about change because I’ve lived through it and can vouch for the fact that change is more than possible.

I’m also passionate because if the church (and other organizations) are going to reach their potential, change isn’t optional, it’s inevitable.

 

13 Facts About Change Many Leaders Miss

So, if you’re navigating change, here’s a short cheat sheet of 13 key principles that I hope will help you maintain clear thinking amidst the sea of emotions that leading change brings:

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10 Things Your Kids Will Learn from Your Marriage

I’m on vacation with my family, and today’s post is a guest post from Doug Fields.

Doug is one of the leaders who has set the pace for student ministry leaders over the last number of years, and he’s weathered the tensions that inevitably arise between leaders and ministry only to come out strong in both areas. Doug recently coauthored the book Married People with Ted Lowe.

By Doug Fields

When I speak on marriage, I’m always asked if I intentionally taught my kids about marriage.

The answer is yes… and, no.

Yes, there are times when we’ve talked specifically about marriage (either ours or ones that our kids have observed). But, for the most part, Cathy and I have been wise enough to know that our kids are constantly watching and learning from us without us having to do a lot of talking.

Our actions (both good and bad) are always teaching them about marriage.

I would be thrilled if my kids had a similar type of marriage that Cathy and I share… it’s definitely not perfect, but we’re both very proud of what we’ve developed over 27+ years.

 

10 Actions My Kids Have Caught Over the Years

Here are 10 actions that I know my kids have observed from us over the years:

 

1. Affection

Cathy & I are very affectionate and I like having my kids see me holding their mom’s hand, hugging, kissing, cuddling, etc… as often as I can.

 

2. Saying “I’m sorry”

 I want to be quick to use this phrase and I want my kids to hear me say it (and I have to say it a lot more than Cathy).

 

3. Affirmation

This is my primary love language so it’s easy for me to dish out encouraging words.

My kids get a lot of verbal affirmation, but they also hear me directing it toward my wife (which is really easy).

 

4. Attraction

I think Cathy is hot… and, I make it known around our family. I’ll regularly say, “Isn’t your mom beautiful?”

 

5. Time

Our kids know that we like to spend time together. When they see us steal time away to sit in the backyard and talk, or go in the hot tub, or go on a date night, or sneak away for the weekend…that’s a good message I want them to see.

 

6. Laughter

We laugh a lot in our house and my wife’s cute sense of humor cracks me up. I like having my kids see that my wife makes me laugh.

 

7. Respect

Opening the door for Cathy, saying “thank you” and “please” and showing her simple signs of respect.

 

8. Faith conversations

We’re not always praying in front of our kids, but they hear and see our faith conversations and know that we’re always talking about Jesus and what it means to be a follower.

 

9. The value of friends

Our house is well worn from the traffic of friends in/out of our house.

We love having people over and the Fields’ house is a regular hangout for some incredible friends.

 

10. Servanthood

I know my kids have had a better example in Cathy than with me because she’s the ultimate servant. Always asking, “How can I help? What do you need to make life better?” Serving one another is seen in the daily, little things and there’s many opportunities to serve.

 

Kids are always watching their parent’s marriage and yet too many marriages underestimate the power of modeling!

Children are taking daily recordings of what a marriage looks like and those recordings are definitely influencing and shaping their view of marriage.
Question: Do you have intentional actions that you’re modeling to your kids? Do you have some actions that are different from the ones I’ve listed?

If you do…leave a comment!

Special Offer This Week

My friends over at Orange Books are offering some great deals this week.

You can get any of the deals, any day this week, but, as a leader who’s passionate about people’s marriages, I wanted to highlight today’s featured deal:

 

9780989021333.ePUB

Buy one copy of the book Married People, and get all of this:

• “Why Marriage Ministry Is Doable for Every Church” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Ted Lowe, audio file)

• “Married and in Ministry” (Orange Conference 2014 breakout by Ted Lowe and Doug Fields, audio file)

• an annual subscription to MarriedPeople E-ZINE

Plus, when you tweet or share any of the deals on Facebook, you’ll be entered to win a prize.

Just go to to orangebooks.com, click on the Married People book and place your order.

So…what are some things your kids are picking up…for better or for worse? Leave a comment.

7 Ways for Young Leaders to Beat the Slacker Generation Label

Do a quick google search for the phrase “millennials are…” and the autocomplete adds “lazy”.  Burn.

As a leader in my 40s, I personally love working with younger leaders. I think it’s a two way street. I learn from them, and they also learn from those of us who are ahead of them in life.

But what about the reputation millennials have for being slackers?  It’s fairly pervasive.

Despite most younger leader’s incredible passion for life and desire to make a difference in the world, the reputation persists.

Personally, I think it’s as much about skill set as it is about anything.

In fact, the skills missing in millennials today are to some extent the same skills I needed to learn when I was in my 20s as a lawyer (my first calling) and then as a young church leader.

7 Habits That Will Help Young Leaders Overcome the Slacker Label

So…want to banish that label for good as a young leader?  Great. Me too!

Here are 7 habits that can help you do that.
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