How a Simple Organizational Leadership Equation Can Change the Way You Lead

On September 27, 1905 an obscure clerk in the Swiss Patent Office published an article that changed the world. Although few of us can explain the premise of the article we all recognize the clerk’s revolutionary equation, E = mc2. The amazing thing about Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity is both its elegant simplicity and its massive implications.

Einstein’s ability to take the complex and turn it into something simple has always intrigued me. Anyone can find complex solutions to complex situations, but finding simple (not easy) solutions to complex problems is rare. If the solution is simple enough it applies across multiple environments and bring significant change. E = mc2 changed the world.

What if we could find a simple but elegant theory of organizational leadership? There are thousands of leadership books with tens of thousands of leadership principles, and every day hundreds of blog posts adding to the cacophony. It is easy to get lost in the weeds. I wonder if there we can take basic concepts woven through the literature and create a simple but robust model? Something like Einstein’s theory of relativity or Newton’s laws of physics applied to organizational leadership.

I am certainly no Einstein, everything I know about physics I learned on Beakman’s World, but I’d like to take a stab at a simple organizational leadership equation. I’m not trying to create new leadership principles, but to synthesize what we know into a simple, replicable equation. I’d love to get your feedback and suggestions. We may not change the world, but we might end up with something useful.

Here is my first draft of an organizational leadership equation:

GeoffSLship1

Terms

Mission: What are we trying to accomplish?

I have heard mission and vision defined a hundred different ways and I always wind up confused. Most of the mission statements I’ve seen are long and don’t really say anything. I agree with Guy Kawasaki who prefers mantra over mission. Here is his definition of mantra:

Forget mission statements; they’re long, boring, and irrelevant. No one can ever remember them—much less implement them. Instead, take your meaning and make a mantra out of it. This will set your entire team on the right course. (The Art of the Start)

Some of my favorite church mission statements/mantras:

  • Willow Creek (back in the day) We turn unchurched people into fully devoted followers of Christ
  • Community Christian Church (Naperville, Illinois) We help people find their way back to God
  • Southeast Christian Church (Parker, Colorado) We make daily disciples

Success always begins with a compelling mission.

Values: What is important in our culture?

Core values are often another leadership cul-de-sac. One extreme is making everything a core value; a church sent me a list of 21 core values, that seems a tad too many. The other extreme is using universal catchphrases for core values. I think every church in America has authenticity on their value plaque. At the risk of contradicting what I just said here are my top five values for staff culture.

  • God-centered
  • Fun
  • Collaborative
  • Candid
  • Safe

A truly successful mission is executed within the values of the culture.

Results: How do we know we are accomplishing our mission?

A mission without measurements is a mirage. Measurements, however, have to go beyond the easily quantifiable. One of the biggest mistakes of the Vietnam War was confusing the daily body count with winning the war. Churches make this same mistake when they rely solely on hard counts like attendance, giving or small group participation.

The hard work of accomplishing the mission begins with learning to measure the right results.

Goals: What part of the mission does each team member own?

Dividing the mission into individual goals is where the magic happens. Great leaders help every team member see how their goals connect directly to the mission. The questions leaders continually  must ask is, “If a task, activity or job isn’t tied directly to the mission then why are doing it?”

Individual goals are where the mission is accomplished.

Accountability: How do team members know they are accomplishing their part of the mission?

Every team member, from the leader to the part-time custodian, needs to know how they are doing. Consistent, honest feedback is a major key to high performance as well as healthy morale. There is nothing more demoralizing as feeling like no one in the organization cares about what you are doing.

Accountability is why the mission is accomplished.

Putting it all together

So my simple organizational leadership equation can be abbreviated like this:

GeoffSLship2

The MISSION of an organization is accomplished when measurable RESULTS, divided into individual GOALS for which each team member is ACCOUNTABLE, are achieved in a culture faithful to organizational VALUES.

Does any of this make sense? What would you change? Could it be helpful in leading in an organization?

>> Read more from Geoff.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoff Surratt

Geoff Surratt

Geoff lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife Sherry (CEO of MOPS International). Geoff and Sherry have two awesome kids (Mike and Brittainy), a wonderful daughter-in-law (Hilary) and the most beautiful granddaughter on earth (Maggie Claire) Geoff has served on staff at Seacoast Church and Saddleback Church. He is now the Director of Exponential and a freelance Church Catalyst and Encourager.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Tim Johnson — 11/17/14 6:43 am

Good point. another equation for you: Simplicity = Doable. Our church's mission, vision, purpose, values, and goals are stated in 5 words, our internal explanations are in parentheses: Laugh (have fun with each other), Love (God), Learn (what He says), Live (do what He says), Lead (others to Him).

Recent Comments
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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