CNLP 026: Creating a Great Leadership Culture—An Interview with Tim Stevens

How do you create a great leadership culture?

Tim Stevens, author of Fairness is Overrated, talks about the essential elements every church leader needs to have in place in terms of personal integrity, finding the right team, building the right culture and learning how to lead in a crisis.

Welcome to Episode 26 of the Podcast.


Guest Links

Fairness Is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace

Vanderbloemen Search Group

Leading Smart

Tim Stevens on Twitter

Links Mentioned in this Episode

The Orange Conference 2015

Pete Wilson

Donald Miller

Jon Acuff

Reggie Joiner

Doug Fields

Jeff Henderson

Jud Wilhite

Perry Noble

Josh Gagnon

Kara Powell

Granger Church

Bill Hybles

Choosing to Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide? 

6 Ways to Control Your Calendar So It Doesn’t Control You

William Vanderbloemen; Episode 19

Tony Morgan

Things You Can Do Right Away

As a leader, we lean into what is fair, but what are the priorities we’re trying to accomplish, and what are the outcomes we’re looking for? In his latest book, Fairness is Overrated, Tim outlines four attributes of leaders that promote a healthy culture, maintain integrity and can lead during times of crisis.

1. Become a leader worth following. There are several stories of Jesus spending time with crowds, but he invested most of his time with his disciples because it was part of the legacy he was trying to fulfill on Earth. Leaders live a life of integrity and create margin in their lives. When you don’t have margin, you can’t have meaningful relationships with those closest to you, and it compromises your character. You can only hide behind a façade for so long before the cracks start to show, and no one is immune to that. But one thing that keeps you accountable is the relationship to your calendar. If you can get control of your time, and proactively prioritize the things that are the most important, you can nurture the most intimate relationships in your life while being an effective leader. A leader worth following is someone who has a hard skill set, yet is someone of character.

2. Find the right people. Tim provided some very valuable tools for finding the right person for an open leadership position in your church or organization.

  • Don’t go solo when you’re trying to hire someone. You might be good at it, but you’re not as good by yourself as you are with a team. Pull in discerning people who have nothing to lose if that person is hired.
  • Define the parameters ahead of time, so when you get the interviewees in the room, they’re not confused about why you’re hiring them, or what they’re gonna do.
  • Tim says you look beyond the resume and review online profiles. You can find out a lot about a person online, and you get a sense of their personality. Take a look at their photos, and analyze how they communicate with others online.
  • Sell your organization. You may think your organization is awesome, and we assume others think it’s awesome. But leaders have to do a better job of laying out the vision. You think a potential job candidate wants to be there, but go the extra mile and sell them on the culture, community and demographics. If you’re looking at top tier talent, you’re looking at people with options.
  • Think twice before hiring your friends, and don’t hire too quickly. Sometimes it’s hard to be objective, and that can create unexpected conflict when big decisions need to be made. If church leaders hire from within, they may bypass the reference checks without knowing someone’s reputation in their professional life.

3. Build a healthy culture. What are some of the building blocks of building a healthy culture? It comes from how you as a leader, lead. You have the type of leader who may never say this out loud, but they’re convinced they are the smartest person in the room they walk in. Building a great culture comes from a leader who highly values the team around him or her, constantly asking questions and has a lot a learn from others around them. They realize how much is at stake and how much they’re needed and valued. A good leader believes the best in you, speaks life into you, gives you opportunities to succeed, consistently wants to give credit and stands by you when you fail. That is the leader building a tremendous culture.

4. Lead confidently through a crisis. You see someone’s character, or lack of character, in the midst of a crisis. Tim gave several examples of U.S. presidents whose leadership was put to the test during times of war and economic turmoil. The leaders who stand out the most throughout history are the ones who led during conflict because there’s a link between crisis and greatness. Confidence isn’t, “I know the future, and it’s ok.” It’s, “We’re gonna figure this out.”

Want Incredible Training from Today’s Top Leaders?

Then don’t miss the Orange Conference 2015 on April 29-May 1st in Atlanta.

Learn from leaders like Perry Noble, Jeff Henderson, Jud Wilhite, Jon Acuff, Josh Gagnon, and today’s guest, Jenni Catron (and more). I’ll be teaching at the conference as well and have put together a senior leader track designed exclusively for senior pastors, executive pastors and campus pastors.

Register here today.

Quotes from Tim

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Next Episode: Brad Lomenick

How do you know it’s time to move on? Brad Lomenick explains why he thinks many leaders stay on too long, and shares why he stepped back from leading a world class organization when he was just 40.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 27.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Zachary Verbracken on March 23, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Love this podcast with Tim. It’s been one of my favorites, and I haven’t even been able to finish it yet. Fascinating stuff about team building (“finding the right people”) especially. I’m not in an executive position at this point, but I feel like the info on hiring/firing, staffing, staff positioning, etc. will make me a better leader in the future.

  2. John Mulholland on March 13, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Carey- solid stuff. I loved that you touched on working for/with a toxic leader. I’d love to hear an entire episode devoted to this- I’m not there now, but I was.

    Like the conclusion that you guys drew in this podcast (ultimately, people will leave) I’m learning that this is true. But…is there anything else?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 27, 2015 at 11:18 am

      What do you mean John. I’d love to answer your question. 🙂

      • John Mulholland on July 14, 2015 at 10:29 am

        What I meant was, “is there any way to deal with the toxic leader (as his/her subordinate) besides ‘leave’?”

  3. Joe Robideaux on March 10, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Thanks so much for the interview with Tim. I’ve become a big fan of his over the last few months and I thought he was a great interview full of very practical wisdom.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 27, 2015 at 11:18 am

      He’s packed solid with great insights, isn’t he?

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