Craig Groeschel - Extreme Qualities of Leaders Who Have 'It'
When you look at different leaders, you may think, some leaders have it and some don't. Same with organizations. When you look at an organization that has it, that something special, it's always led by a leader that has it. What is it? How do you get it? How do you keep it? In today's episode, we're gonna look at the extreme qualities of leaders that have it as we learn how to Lead Like it Matters. Hey, welcome to another episode of the "Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast" where we're passionate about helping you grow in your leadership because we know that everyone wins when the leader gets better. If you're new to our leadership community, we drop a new podcast on the first Thursday of each month. And I just wanna tell you, subscribe wherever you consume the content. Also, I promise you want to get the Leader Guide. In the Leader Guide, we've got additional content. We've got tips. We've got questions that you can go over with your team. How do you get it? Well, go to life.church/leadershippodcast and get the Leader Guide. We'll send it to you every time we drop a new episode.
Now, if this content is helpful to you, it's a real gift to me, and I'm gonna work hard to bring valuable content. If you could rate it or write a review wherever you consume the content, that would be amazing. Also, thank you so much to those of you that are sharing on social media. A shout out to a few of our loudest podcast community members, Brittany Lee, and Nicole Potts-Gumble, and Joseph Kellogg. I see you out there. Thank you for inviting others to be a part of our community. If you do post, be sure and tag me, and our team may repost you as well. All right, let's go into some content. In 2008, I wrote a book called, "It". And I'm super excited to release a very revised and very expanded version of the book called, "Lead Like it Matters: 7 Principles for a Church that Lasts". And the book is out now. Available anywhere that books are sold.
This is a book on leadership. And just to be super clear, it's specifically on church leadership. But what I wanna do is I wanna tell you and give you a promise that the leadership principles do transfer. Honestly, I learn from business books all the time and apply them to church leadership, and leadership principles work wherever you lead well. And so, I do wanna encourage you, no matter what you lead, I believe this book will help you grow in your leadership. Buy a bunch of copies, and I can tell you that because it doesn't benefit me financially. My family is very honored to donate 100% of the proceeds to help start more churches. And so, buy, buy, buy, buy, buy, buy. Buy them for your whole team, and I believe it'll help you grow in your leadership. The story behind the book. This is really, really interesting to me, and I'll tell you how it came about. We had some observations that turned into a case study.
If you go back way back to the mid 2000s, I lead a church along with a lot of great leaders that oversee a church, but it's not just really a church, it's actually a collection of churches that still functions as one church. So, back in the mid 2000s, we had around seven or so different locations. For context today, we have 43 as of the time of this recording. When we had seven, what was fascinating is that they were in very similar buildings. The buildings were designed the same way. If we blindfolded you and dropped you in one, you wouldn't know where you were. The worship style was exactly the same. All of the staff members were hired under the same processes. They were trained in the same culture. We had the same systems. The volunteers were trained in the same way. The teaching was exactly the same.
So we had almost the same inputs, but the outcomes were shockingly different. It was bizarre. We would do the same things in the same way in different locations, and we'd have very, very different results. And so, what happened is, we would walk into one church and we'd say, this place has it. This buzz, this vibe, and the anticipation, there's something special. And then we'd walk into another church with almost the exact same inputs and say, this one doesn't have it. We noticed the same thing on different teams in our organizations. We've got tons of different teams and different departments. And you'd walk into one team meeting, and it'd be humming. There'd be this sense of vision, direction, momentum. And you say, this team has it. And then you'd walk right across the hall to an entirely different team. And you'd say, where's the passion? Where's the vision? Where's the vibe? Where's the camaraderie? This team has it and this team doesn't.
If you think about this across any type of organizations, you can name the churches, or the businesses, or the nonprofits today that have it, that something special. You can also name the ones that had it and lost it, and they're all around us. So that raises the question, what is it? And the answer is, I don't know exactly. Like, you wrote a book on it and you don't know? It's something that's kind of elusive and I wanna try to unpack it for you. What we know about it is this, that it's not a model, it's not a system. It's not the result of a program. You can't program your way to it. What's interesting is we studied it. Is it's rare that one person can bring it, but as you probably observed, the wrong person can actually kill it. It's something that can't really be taught. I can't say here's the three steps to get it, but it's something that can be caught. When you're around it, there's something contagious about it.
There's bad news and there's good news about it. The bad news is, if you have it or if your organization has it, it doesn't mean that you're gonna keep it. The good news is that if you don't have it, you can get it. And I wanna try to help you get it in your organization with some principles that I've learned as we've studied this extensively over a period of years, our biggest takeaway is this, and I promise you, if you see a church that has it, a business that has it, a school that has it, a nonprofit that has it, whatever, if you see any organization that has it, it is always led by a leader that has it every single time. Your organization is a reflection of leadership. If your organization has it, that something special, that vibe, that vision, that momentum, the profitability, the ministry impact, whatever it is, it's always led by a leader that has it.
Now, what I wanna do is I wanna give you in this episode and the next episode, exclusive content that is not found in the book. So if you get the book, you're gonna get different content. I'm gonna give you very fresh content that I'm incredibly passionate about. It is fresh off the presses. Hot off the presses, I've been studying this. I wanna tell you my research, the findings that we discovered, in studying the leaders who have it. What we did is we looked across industries, the leaders that have that something special that moves the needle. They've got respect, they've got integrity, they've got momentum, they've got consistent movement over time. And we studied them to look for what are the qualities that they had in common? And part of what we discovered, we completely expected. And part of what we discovered was very, very shocking and honestly confusing.
So let me tell you what we did expect. What was not confusing is that these leaders that have it, they all have extreme qualities. Meaning when you look at them, they're not good at a lot of things, they're great at a few things. And these qualities are very, very extreme, like almost annoyingly extremes at time. And that's no surprise because we know greatness is always found in the extremes. Don't try to work away your extremes, embrace them because that's where greatness is found. That was not a surprise. Here's what was shocking, very confusing, is that these leaders that had it, they had extreme qualities that seemed to contradict one another. They would have one extreme quality on one side, and then, they would often have almost the exact extreme opposite quality. It was almost like extreme opposing qualities. They'd be really, really, really on one side with this quality and then have almost this exact opposite extreme quality on the other. And I couldn't figure it out. It bothered me. It confused me. I looked at it, I analyzed it, and we saw it over, and over, and over, and over, and over again.
Now, if you don't know, besides teaching leadership, my first calling is I'm a pastor. And so, I went to look at the one that I talk about when I'm preaching sermons, and that is Jesus. And what I realized about Jesus is, guess what? He's got some extremes. And guess what else? He has what appears to be very opposing extremes. Think about it. Jesus, according to scripture, is on one side, He's fully God, that's an extreme. And at the very same time, He's fully man. Opposites and extremes, and they both coexist. What is He? He is the lion and He's the lamb. Opposite extremes. He's the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. His teachings were extreme. He'd say things like, "To find your life, you have to lose it". "If you wanna be great, you serve". And so, all of the sudden, I recognized that sometimes those leaders that have it, they have what I'd call a leadership paradox.
Here's my definition for leadership paradox. You won't find this anywhere else. I made it up. What is a leadership paradox? It's contradictory leadership qualities that together create a synergy of undeniable leadership impact. Let me say it again 'cause it takes a minute for this to sink in. The leaders that have it, they often have these apparently opposing extreme qualities. It's a leadership paradox. It's contradictory leadership qualities that together create a synergy of undeniable leadership impact. As we looked at leaders, what we did is we identified eight of these paradoxes, and I'm gonna give you the eight now. We're gonna talk about two today. I'm gonna tell you where to find information on some of the other ones. And then in two weeks, I'm gonna give you the final ones. Here's what we discovered about the leaders that have it, these paradoxes. For one thing, on the extremes, the leaders that have it, they are simultaneously very, very confident. And at the same time, they're humble. There's confidence and there's humility.
A second paradox is that they're very, very, very driven, strong work ethics, but they're also very, very healthy.
Another paradox, they are focused, incredibly focused, and they're also very flexible. It seemed like opposing, but they're both there. We'll give you all of these in the Leader Guide, so just please get that and you don't have to take notes.
Pull over your card, number four is this, the leaders that have it, they are both optimistic. They see the possibilities, and they're realistic. They tell the truth.
Another quality that we see in many of them, not every leader has all of them, but most of them have some of these qualities, they're both direct, very, very direct in their communication. And yet, they're kind. They have empathy.
Number six, these leaders, and I can't wait to talk about this one because it seems confusing and you may argue back, but it's very true, they're both empowering. They trust people. They delegate like crazy, and they're controlling. Isn't controlling a negative? Not always. They're both empowering and they're controlling. What else are they?
Number seven is they lead with urgency. They're urgent like crazy and they're patient. They have both short-term urgency and long-term mindset.
And then finally, this isn't for all of them, but many of them, especially founding leaders, they're both frugal, like massively frugal, and they're abundant. They're gonna pinch pennies and they swing for the fence and they have these apparently opposing qualities. Now, a little bit of context. I shared the first three, and I'll give you a quick overview on them again, at the Global Leadership Summit. And that talk will play at about 1,400 sites all through the year, translated into 61 different languages.
So, that talk's gonna run. After it runs its course, we're gonna drop that content later on on the "Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast". If you do sign up for the Leader Guide, I'll give you an overview of those three that we're not covering today, but a real quick summary of those three today would be this, there is confidence and humility. They're confident enough to know how to maximize their strengths, but they're humble enough to be keenly aware of their weaknesses so they surround themselves with the right people. They're driven and they're healthy.
In other words, listen, if you're not driven, you're never gonna get it. But if you're not healthy, you're not gonna keep it. They're focused and they're flexible. What do we know about being focused? The essence of great leadership is actually choosing what not to do. They're radically focused, and they're flexible. The mission is fixed, but the methods do change over time. Now, for the remainder of this episode, we're gonna do a deep dive into two of the paradoxes, and then we're gonna cover the other ones in a bonus episode that drops two weeks from today.
So, let's dive into a couple of paradoxes in detail, and you're gonna want to evaluate where do you stand and what do you need to develop? The leaders that have it, they're both optimistic and they're realistic. They have optimism and yet, they tell the truth. I like what Walt Disney said. Disney said, "I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I'm realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter". Optimism and realism. Let's start with optimism. Now, why do you need optimism to have it? Why does it matter so much? The reason is because for many leaders, fear is the dominant default emotion. Let me say it again because you may identify with this. For a lot of us, insecurity, fear, worry is a dominant default emotion.
Think about it. If you're awake at 2 in the morning, you're probably not awake going, how am I gonna manage my leadership blessings? You know, how am I gonna seize all these opportunities? Chances are if you're awake in the middle of the night, you can't sleep because you're worried. You're worried how the economy's gonna impact your business. Or you're worried that you're not gonna measure up or that your ideas aren't good. Or you're worried that they're gonna know that you don't know what you're doing, right? To have it, a leader must be optimistic. You wanna be able to see what's possible when others don't see it. And the challenges for many of us is, many of us are not naturally optimistic. For a lot of us as leaders, it needs to be a developed trait. And honestly, it is for me. I'm not proud of this. I don't like to admit it, but I'm actually biased towards seeing the negative. I tend to see what's wrong first.
And here's how I've developed optimism in my leadership, and some of you, this need to be something you develop. Anytime I see a potential problem, my mind tends to race toward the negative. Oh my gosh, this is bad. Here's what's gonna go wrong or whatever. And what I've done is I've trained myself to see problems as opportunities. Let me say it this way. I tell our team all the time, problems are opportunities in disguise. I'll say it again. Problems. What are they? They're opportunities. They're the potential to do something better, and they're often in disguise. And I wanna just say, this isn't some cute quote that you're gonna tweet. This is true to the core. What is every business? Every business is a solution to a problem. That's what it is. What is every ministry? Every ministry exists to solve a problem. Therefore, problems are opportunities to see something great.
If you lose a staff member that's really good, oh my gosh, this is horrible. Actually, it can be an opportunity to upgrade that staff member. What do we do as leaders? What's our title? I did a couple of episodes on the podcast in the past. I said that you are a CPS. You're not just a CEO, or a CFO, or a CTO or a whatever O, but you're a CPS. You're a chief problem solver. In fact, if you wanna dive into content on problem solving, episode 66 and 68 go into great detail, but here's a powerful thought. The value you bring reflects the size and the scope of the problems you solve. Think about it. How valuable are you in your organization, in your nonprofit? Well, the value you bring reflects the size and the scope of the problems you solve.
So, if you wanna help more people, what do you do? You solve more problems. If you wanna make more money, what do you do? You solve bigger problems. And honestly, as leaders, a lot of the problems we face are big ones. For many organizations right now, revenue is down, morale is low. Church attendance might be shrinking. You might have a troubled team member. You might have a potential lawsuit. Or you might have lost a big client. With every problem, here's what we need to know. There's always one of two wins. Every problem, if you're optimistic, there's always one of two wins. There's always, number one, a solution to find. Or number two, a lesson to learn. Every single time, one of two wins. We'll either figure it out or we'll learn and get better as we go. Fundamentally, most people want to follow a leader who believes in a better tomorrow.
So, if you wanna have it, you need to train yourself to believe that you're capable. Your team is strong. If anyone can make it work, if anyone can find a way, you can. Leaders that have it, they're unshakably optimistic. If you're not, you can train yourself to be so. And they're simultaneously realistic. They're optimistic. And on the other side, they're extremely realistic. These leaders, they're not so pie in the sky optimistic that they failed to accurately gauge the current reality. You've been around leaders like that, right? No, they understand acutely that the market's gonna change, culture changes, the economy changes, people's needs change, their wants change, their values change, technology changes. And they understand that what is working now won't work forever. That's why leaders that have it do not ignore problems. They don't disregard the trends. They don't discount the competition. They study, they know, and they understand and tell the truth about the numbers. And what they also do is they empower their leaders with the freedom to communicate upwardly to ensure that they're organizationally aware.
So, what do you need to be both optimistic and realistic? Well, you need to embrace two truths about every problem. Number one, you can't solve a problem if you don't believe it can be solved. You have to be optimistic. Number two, you can't solve a problem that you don't acknowledge exists. You have to be realistic. And that's why the leaders that have it, they often have these two extreme apparently opposing qualities that working together, create a synergy of leadership impact. They're both optimistic and they're realistic, all right? Let's deal with another paradox. Are you ready? Leaders that have it, they're also both very, very direct in their communication. Surprisingly direct, shockingly direct. Like, I can't believe you just said that to me, but they're not just direct, they're also kind. Let's start with direct because I'm sure that some of you have worked for a leader or around a leader that kind of is not direct. They beat around the bush.
Why is it that they don't speak directly? Well, why aren't they to the point? Well, honestly, some leaders are just afraid of conflict. They're afraid you're not gonna like them. Some, they just keep all the details in their head and they don't share them plainly. Some just don't communicate well. But to be a leader that has it, we have to learn to communicate clearly and directly. And one of the clearest forms of communication is just to say it like it is, to be direct and to the point. What do we know about direct communication? Direct communication closes the gap between confusion and clarity. So often, we have have organizational confusion because we don't have direct communication. Direct communication just says, this is what we're gonna do, why we do it, how we do it, who's gonna do it, when it's gonna be done. It's very, very direct. And that closes the gap between confusion and clarity.
Let's contrast direct communication with indirect communication. An indirect communicator often tells people what they think that the people wanna hear. Direct communicators, they don't do that. They just say it like it is. They tell the truth. And telling the truth, we have to remember, is very, very kind. Indirect communicators, they're often non-committal. You'll say, hey, can you do something? And they'll say like, maybe, you know? Perhaps. I'm not sure. I'll get back to you when they really mean no, and that is very ineffective communication. Direct communicators, they say what they mean. They'll say, no, I can't do that. No is a fair and a kind response.
In fact, I tell our leaders that a clear no is kinder than a wishy-washy maybe. Indirect communicators, they expect you to fill in the gaps. And this has been one of my weaknesses that I've had to work on. It's in my head so I'll kind of say it and expect you to figure it out. No, no. I'm gonna be direct. Direct communicators are detailed, leaving very little to chance. And you can learn to do that. Leaders that have it, they're very, very direct. They just say it. If you're not doing a good job, they say it, but they're not rude about it, they're also kind.
Now, anytime I talk about kindness in leadership, I typically hear two push backs, and I wanna address those. Number one people are gonna say, well, if I'm kind, won't I come across as weak? And lemme just say clearly, kindness isn't weakness in leadership. Kindness is always a strength. In fact, research is fascinating. Research shows that 90% of employees say that empathetic leadership, kindness, empathy, it leads to significantly higher job satisfaction and lower turnover. You want your people happier. You want them more engaged. You want them to stay. You lead with direct communication and with kindness and with empathy.
Now, the second pushback I'm gonna hear people say, and they're sort of correct. They're gonna say, well, I know leaders that aren't kind that get all the results. And I have to say, that's true. We can look at all sorts of examples of unkind, uncaring leaders that may get strong results, for a while, but not forever. If there's not empathy, if there's not kindness, if you don't care about your people, you're not gonna get results over time. I say it all the time, you'll never be a leader that people love to follow if you aren't a leader who cares about people.
What is kindness in communication? Well, it's talking in a nice tone. It's being polite. It's giving positive feedback. Yes, yes, and yes. But I want you to understand that kindness is also setting clear expectations that's kind. Kindness is giving truthful feedback even when the feedback may be more helpful than positive. Kindness is listening. It's putting yourself into other people's shoes.
And here's the problem where it often breaks down. Let's say you've got a team member that's struggling and not doing well, here's what often happens. You as a leader, that person frustrates you, and so you're nice to them and you don't coach them, and you don't say much, and you don't make suggestions. And if you do, your suggestions aren't really clear and the results aren't measurable. And so, that team member continues to frustrate you and you continue to be nice, and you tolerate their bad behavior until you finally can't take it and you explode on them, or fire them, or whatever. And what I wanna say is, that's not good leadership. That's not kind. Kindness is being direct and being empathetic and telling them, things aren't going well. You're not hitting the target. And telling them very kindly, I wanna help you change and here's how I'm gonna help you.
And then telling them here's what needs to happen by such and such time. And I hope you get there. I'm gonna try to help you get there. And if not, we're gonna need to make a change. What is that? That is direct and that is kind. I like what my friend Dave Ramsey says, "Clarity is kind". And here's what we know, when we study the leaders that have it, they often have these apparently opposing extreme qualities. And one is that they're very, very direct and they're very, very kind.
My question for you in your leadership is, of these two paradoxes we talked about, optimism and realism, direct communication and kind communication, which one do you need to develop? And as you look at these opposing extremes in all the paradoxes we talk about, what's gonna be most common is that one of them is going to be natural for all of us, and one of them we typically need to develop. And I would ask you this, which one do you need to develop? Because you can't develop what you don't define. Define it clearly, and then work on it.
Now, that's all we're gonna cover today. We're gonna finish the other paradoxes in a bonus episode that releases in two weeks from now. Let's do a review. All organizations that have it, they're led by a leader that has it. My question is, do you have it? If you don't have it, do you want it? If you want it, get the book. I promise the book will help you in your leadership. It's called, "Lead Like it Matters". Available anywhere books are sold. And a real simple piece of advice would be this, any time you're leading, dig deep into the why behind what you do. Fall in love with the why. This is why I'm here. This is why this matters.
If you can fall in love with the why, you can get others to join your what, and then sell out to it. Embrace your extremes. And well, I really wanna encourage you, so many people wanna be like, well-rounded. I don't wanna be around well-rounded people. I don't want leaders that are pretty good at a lot of things. I want some weird people. I want some extremes. Embrace your extremes and let it flow. The bottom line is, you won't get it being safe, you won't get it being comfortable, you won't get it being complacent because greatness is always found in the extremes. And that's why I wanna say a big extreme thank you for being a part of our leadership community. You will want to get the Leader Guide, I promise. There's information that's gonna help you. And you can go through some developmental conversations with your team. Go to life.church/leadershippodcast.
Again, I'm gonna work hard to bring you good content. And if you rate it, write a review that helps increase exposure or sharing on social media means a ton. Now, we'll be back in two weeks to cover the rest of the content on this subject. And then, on the first Thursday of next month, I'm gonna drop one of my favorite interviews that I've done in the history of the podcast. I spent a lot of time with Tim Tebow, and we talked about things we've never covered on this. And you wanna talk about world-class leadership filled with integrity and wisdom. That'll drop the first Thursday of next month. Keep investing in your leadership, why? Because we know that everyone wins when the leader gets better.