Four Obsessions and Church Leaders

The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive and Church Leadership

Patrick Lencioni has made his mark in the world of business management help by conveying simple principles through a short but memorable fable. His approach and ideas have also resonated with pastors and other church leaders over the last several years. In Lencioni’s 2000 book The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive (New York: Jossey-Bass), the author uses the fable involving two fictional CEOs to demonstrate the four principles or obsession that an extraordinary executive of an organization will have.

The Four Obsessions
1. Build and maintain cohesive leadership teams. Teams are tight enough and comfortable enough with one another to fight. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are not afraid to deal with tough issues. They make sure resort to personal attacks but are always willing to ask the tough questions.

2. Create organizational clarity. This is the place where the group knows who does what, what the organization does and why it does what it does. In other words, everyone is supposed to be on the same page.

3. Over communicate organizational clarity. Communicate OC repeatedly in different ways. And do not complicate the message!

4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems. Everything from the hiring and performance to rewards and recognition and yes, firing should be done with the baseline, the OC, in mind.

Implications for the Church
Pastors and church leaders can learn some powerful principles to help them build better pastoral staff teams:

1. Build and maintain cohesive leadership teams. Pastors should be responsible for building and encouraging community among the pastoral staff. Whether it’s having them over for a cookout or meeting up at a Starbucks, pastors need to take the initiative. A transparent pastor is also a plus he or she is encouraging the supporting staff to follow suit. Trust is important because all ministries and churches will have to ask tough questions. Pastors who don’t want tough questions addressed aren’t worth following. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the ministry.

2. Create organizational clarity. Churches know who they are, what they do and why they do what they do. In other words, the “one thing” your church does should not be too complicated. How many churches are struggling because no one understands the purpose and mission of the church? Every ministry of our churches should be on the same page with the vision God has given the pastors and their staffs. Know what you do and do it.

3. Over communicate organizational clarity. In other words, cast the vision repeatedly in different ways throughout the organization. Andy Stanley does it. Bill Hybels wrote of casting the vision of Willow Creek repeatedly so that members remember what their church is called to do. Face it: people have bad memories. Too often, we forget God’s plan and become distracted by the “next big thing.”

4. Reinforce organizational clarity through human systems. Bottom line: you hire, assess, reward and even fire based on the big idea or mission of your church. Why bring in people who have a competing agenda simply because he or she is charismatic? There are staffs I wanted no part of simply because I knew I would not buy into the vision and mission of that church. Why waste that church’s time? Doing #4 helps a church stay healthy, focused, and committed to Jesus and what Jesus wants to do through the local church. To reinforce organizational clarity, however, takes courage and the willingness to stay the course and not stray from the vision.


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