Daniel Harkavy: 7 Perspectives That Shape Leadership—Part 2

“If you continue to operate like you always have, chances are you could hold the church back. The best leaders are the most humble, hungry, lifelong learners.”

In Part 1 of our interview with leadership expert Daniel Harkavy, he talked about his leadership coaching company, Building Champions, and how his “Seven Perspectives” leadership framework can help business and church leaders navigate the uncharted waters of 2020, and soon 2021. In part two of the interview below, he takes a deep dive into the seven perspectives, outlined in his latest book, The 7 Perspectives of Effective Leaders: A Proven Framework for Improving Decisions and Increasing Your Influence (Baker, October 2020).

Your book is written from a secular vantage point for leaders across all industries, businesses and organizations. What’s different about the framework in a spiritual, Christian context if a church leader is considering applying it to their situation?

I served as a church elder for 20 years, so I’m always very cautious to not run the church as a business. A church is a house of worship, and the role the church plays in the community is so unique. There are leadership truths that pastors can learn from business that will help them more effectively lead the church, but it’s not a business. I’m a man of faith, though, and there is nothing in the seven perspectives that would conflict with anything in the gospel.

Perspective one: You better understand current reality. What that means for a pastor is you need to understand the very real circumstances of your congregation. What are they dealing with? What are their concerns, fears and worries? You need to be able to relate. And then on the church business side, what are the trends? Where are you at from a capacity perspective? Are we seeing more or fewer people coming, and why? You must also have a grasp on the key metrics that matter most for managing the business side of the organization.

Perspective two is the perspective of long-term vision. My good friend Dr. Henry Cloud says this is where you as a leader “make the invisible visible.” You see a better tomorrow. This is easy for church leaders, because the whole gospel is about a better tomorrow. It’s a promise of hope. The best church leaders right now will be articulating what it is they see for their church. We say a good vision will answer the three B’s: What do we belong to, who will we become, and what are we going to build?

Then you create strategic bets. That’s perspective three. Businesses create strategic bets to move them from current reality to future state. These strategic bets in the business world are disproportionate investments in strategies that you believe will pay off but they’re not guaranteed. That’s why they’re called bets. And when we look in the business world, most businesses fail at execution and strategy because they weren’t grounded in current reality, and they aren’t anchored in long-term vision. They therefore build strategies around some shiny new opportunity or some challenge that’s painful. If you prayerfully take the time to create strategic bets that move your current reality toward that future state, you’ll be much more inclined to engage the heads, hearts and resources of the people on the team who are going to be required in order for you to move your organization forward and to see those bets from ideation to fruition.

The first three perspectives have to do with the planning and execution of leadership, and I believe they have application for church leaders. The next four all have to do with relationships, and they’re also completely relevant for pastors.

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Perspective four is the perspective of the team. This is the one I see church leaders struggle with the most. Where pastors get in trouble is when they think they need to have all the answers. No leader can do that today. So this is about the importance of meeting with the team and saying, What do you think? What do you see? What do you need? When people have a voice and know they’re being heard (even though you may not act on everything they share with you), then they can buy in. The best leaders spend regular time listening to the perspective of their teammates. This then equips the leader to make better decisions while growing team influence as the result of being listened to and included.

The fifth perspective is the perspective of the customer. In business we need to understand our customers. How do they engage with our product? What do they like, and what do they dislike? What do they see for the future? I think this is very relevant for the pastor, especially right now. Pastors can spend time Zooming in or calling different congregants and saying, Hey, how are you doing? How is the church experience for you? What would make it even better? I guarantee you there is an opportunity for pastors to make better decisions and have more influence if they would call people they actually don’t know but who call your church home. If pastors spend regular time doing that, it would energize them, and it would build their church’s confidence in them. Influence with the people would grow, and the guaranteed byproduct of that is more effectiveness.

The sixth perspective is the perspective of your role. Do you see your role the right way? Do you really see who you need to be in order to best lead today, but also how you need to grow in order to be the leader your vision will require you to become? If you continue to operate like you always have, chances are you could hold the church back. The best leaders are the most humble, hungry, lifelong learners.

The seventh perspective is the perspective of the outsider. I started the coaching ministry back in 1999 because I had such a burden for the role of the pastor. Some of my dearest friends were pastors, and I saw them getting taken out, and I still do, because we as the church have put unrealistic expectations on them. The burden to keep it all together, to marry, to bury, to preach, to lead, to worship, to manage, to have your family intact and keep your kids well behaved and lead amazing board meetings and have all the finances in order … I mean, come on! The responsibility is huge. At a healthy church, the pastor should be able to go to the board and have individual board members on the team who can play this role where they so care about you and love you and the church that they’ll help you to think things through. But sometimes you might need somebody outside the board because you don’t want to taint thinking or belief of the board, because that could have negative ramifications. So who’s that safe outsider who wants to journey with you? They have the competence, the trust, the empathy, the ability to journey alongside you to really help you to be all God called you to be. You’re okay being vulnerable with them. They’re not judging. They’re there to help you process, to pray and to move forward.

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Unlike a secular business, a church is unique in that success is measured in the saving of souls. Though you can use metrics like attendance and giving, those don’t tell the whole story. How do you account for that when you’re coaching a church leader?

That’s going to come down to individual pastors. You have some pastors who say, We aren’t going to measure anything as long as we see growth in a few areas, then we’re going to feel good. I would never tell a church what they need to measure in order to determine success. When you look at the Great Commission, we’re all here for one reason: to make disciples of all nations. You have different church leaders with different styles. You’ll have some church leaders who have KPIs, all the strategic bets, all the metrics, and their spreadsheets. They’re dialed in. They’re measuring the number of people in community groups. The number of people in one-on-one discipleship relationships. The number of people coming to the 9:00, 11:00, 1:00 and 5:30 services. Then you have others who are saying, You know, we’re going to love, we’re going to serve, we’re going to preach the Word, and we’re going to trust. I would never tell a pastor what’s right or wrong.

Is all of this just as beneficial for a small-church leader as it is a megachurch leader? What about other leaders on a church’s staff besides the lead pastor?

I think it is. The framework in the Seven Perspectives can help all leaders, regardless of the type or size of their organization.

Any parting thoughts?

I hope this makes a difference with church leaders. I have a passion for them. I think there are a lot of transferrable principles. So many church leaders today desire to be students of business so they can improve their overall leadership. I’m not saying this is going to be the cure-all, fix-all, but if leaders want to improve leadership effectiveness in these crazy times, I’m confident this model can help.