How to Lead Leaders: 13 Core Principles for Managing Players (and Pastors) Blog Feature

By: Brian Dodd on March 27, 2019

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How to Lead Leaders: 13 Core Principles for Managing Players (and Pastors)

Leadership | Church Culture | Ministry

Healthy churches are led by leaders who are intentional about coaching up and leading others on their team. But how do pastors do this well?

In Tom Verducci’s classic book, The Cubs Way, he chronicles the team’s owner Tom Ricketts’s acquisition of Theo Epstein to head all baseball operations, the subsequent construction of the team, and manager Joe Maddon’s leadership style, which he calls his “13 Core Principles Of Managing.”

Following is Maddon’s list of principles for managing a ball team. You’ll see applications to your leadership responsibilities in ministry as well:

1. Make a Personal Connection First. Everything Else Follows

The greatest responsibility of a leader is to create a positive environment that promotes growth and success. Your team gets to know you. Then they trust you. Then you can openly exchange ideas. Only then, after connection, trust, and the exchanging of ideas, can you effectively discuss methodology and ideologies.

The same is true for pastors. Unless you take time to know your staff, and you give them a chance to know you, it's tough to build trust. Build in time to connect personally with your team.

2.There Is Only One Team Rule: Respect 90

If a player respects the 90 feet between the bases by running hard all the time, good things flow from this attitude.

What's your attitude in ministry? Are you pursuing ministry goals with diligence and an anticipation of positive outcomes, or are you modeling negativity or complacence? Your attitude can make all the difference to the success of your whole team.


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3. Freedom Is Empowering

Rules inhibit freedom. Rules inhibit creativity. Don’t have too many rules.

Churches can be notoriously rule-oriented. Where can you offer your leadership team grace and freedom to perform their roles in ways that are individualized and inspiring to them?

4. Never Hold a Team Meeting in Your Own Clubhouse

Maddon feels 99 percent of meetings are unnecessary. The more meetings you have means you are pretty bad.

Do a quick audit of meetings at your church. Are they purposeful and productive? Is there a way to eliminate some to free up time in everyone's schedules?

5. Do Not Have a Fine System

Maddon says nothing breaks down trust and morale like messing with someone’s money.

In professional sports, players are often charged a fine if they break a rule. Most churches probably don't use this tactic, and according to Maddon, it's a bad method for discipline. What form of accountability do you use for your leaders? How do you discipline them if they fail to act in keeping with your rules and expectations? You may not charge your staff money for breaking a rule, but do you penalize them in other ways that may be breaking down trust and morale? 

6. Whatever You Think Makes You Look Hot, Wear It

This speaks to building up players' self-image and confidence. Confident players perform better than non-confident ones.

What's the culture like at your church when it comes to expectations about appearance and dress? Do you encourage your leaders to dress in ways that are appropriate for their role in the church and that help them feel good about themselves?

7. Empower Your Coaches

When someone shows up to work, they need to feel they can make an impact.

What are you doing to empower your team to be great coaches to others? Do you have a system for mentoring your staff so they, in turn, can coach others into leadership roles?

8. Don’t Allow Coaches or Veterans to Be Harsh on Young Players

As a leader, you’ve got to coach your coaches and not permit them to carry a message that is not your message.

Nothing dims the eagerness of a new leader like being treated harshly by someone who's further along in their career. Are you communicating a value for mutual respect across your entire organization? Have you created a culture of grace and encouragement throughout your church?

9. Question Data with Feel

There is a healthy tension and balance between art and science, between data and gameday strategy. Sometimes as a leader you have to go with your gut and instincts.

Do you typically make decisions with your head or your heart? Are you rigid in your decision-making? Sometimes you need to set aside the plan and change course on the fly. 

10. Pregame Work Is Excessive

Save your best energy for the game itself.

Pastors sometimes make the mistake of over-preparing for Sunday. Do your best to get ready for the big day, but when Sunday comes, bring your best energy and trust that your preparation will carry you.

11. Keep Signs Simple and to a Minimum

Do not have paralysis of analysis. Simplicity frees up top talent to be creative, innovative, fast-thinking, and able to react quickly.

Don't micro-manage your team with complicated details or over-explain how to do things. You'll grow strong leaders if you can let them respond to situations and learn from the decisions they make. 

12. A Lineup Card Is About All a Manager Needs in a Dugout

Maddon prefers working with paper rather than iPads while the game is going on. Why? It is all about speed and efficiency. Paper is faster than a tablet. In the moment, you need paper.

What's your preferred tool for jotting impromptu notes before a sermon or during a worship service?

13. Forget “The Book.” Making A First or Third Out at Third Base Is Okay

Going by “The Book” encourages passivity.

As leaders, sometimes you just have to try doing things your own way, even if conventional wisdom says otherwise. Pastors: Don't be afraid to experiment with new methods, processes, and systems for leading your ministry team, even if they're different from what you've heard from the latest leadership guru.

So what are the results of Maddon’s often counter-intuitive leadership style? For starters, the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. Drop the mic! Epstein and Maddon know how to lead leaders!

What is one thing you learned from the list above which will help you lead your leaders at church?


About Brian Dodd

Brian Dodd is the author and content coordinator for Brian Dodd On Leadership, as well as the author of the critically acclaimed book, The 10 Indispensable Practices Of The 2-Minute Leader. He also serves as Director of New Ministry Partnerships for INJOY Stewardship Solutions where he helps churches develop cultures of generosity.