A few years ago I spoke at a break-out session at a church conference that was all about unleashing the church out into the world. I honestly don’t remember exactly what I was speaking about. I think it was something about “3rd space” or some other kind of pop term the evangelical world was into at that moment in time. What I absolutely do remember was reading a blog post to a bunch of pastors. I remember the silence and a few tears that welled up in some of their eyes. I read to them a blog post from Patrick Lencioni’s internet newsletter “The Table Group.” Lencioni is a consultant and keynote speaker who has worked with senior executives and executive teams in organizations ranging from Fortune 500s and high-tech start-ups to universities and non-profits. In other words, he knows his stuff. So I read Lencioni’s blog post entitled “The Greatest Leader in America.” Here’s what he wrote.
I have been asked on a number of occasions, by journalists and curious clients, whom I believe to be the greatest leader in America. And I usually respond with my own question, ‘Are you asking for the name of a famous leader?’ This usually leads to a fair amount of confusion, until I explain that the best leader in the world is probably relatively obscure.
You see, I believe that the best leader out there is probably running a small or medium-sized company in a small or medium-sized town. Or maybe they’re running an elementary school or a church. Moreover, that leader’s obscurity is not a function of mediocrity, but rather a disdain for unnecessary attention and adulation. He or she would certainly prefer to have as stable home life, motivated employees, and happy customers-in that order – over public recognition.
A skeptic might well respond, ‘But if this person really were the greatest leader, wouldn’t his or her company eventually grow in size and stature, and become known for being great?’ And the answer to that fine question would be, ‘Not necessarily.’
A great company should achieve its potential and grow to the size and scale that suits its founder’s and owners’ and employees’ desires, not to mention the potential of its market. It may very well wildly exceed customer expectations and earn a healthy profit by doing so, but not necessarily grow for the sake of growing . . .
Stay tuned for the rest of Lencioni’s thoughts. You can see why the pastor’s were emotionally moved by what they heard. To think that it could be possible they actually were great leaders even though they served in obscurity was a freeing idea.