Posted on 4/2/2013 by Stephanie Jackson in the Learnings Blog

Recently Mark Miller, Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness for Chick-fil-A, spoke at a gathering of church leaders at Leadership Network.

Mark is also the author of several books including The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do, The Secret of Teams: What Great Teams Know and Do, and Great Leaders Grow: Becoming a Leader for Life.

His latest resource is a field guide and workbook for The Secret of Teams, available absolutely free here

For this particular presentation, Mark talked about the five keys to creating a leadership culture (you can read a synopsis here).

After his presentation, I had a chance to sit down with Mark and ask him more about his thoughts on leadership.

Stephanie Jackson: What do you enjoy most about working with church leaders?
Mark Miller: I believe what Bill Hybels said years ago, “that church is the hope of the world, and its leaders are its stewards.” When you help a church leader grow, you help a church grow; and when you help a church grow, you impact a community, you impact lives, you impact families and I think there’s no more strategic group to partner with.

How do you identify potential leaders?
What our HR professionals have been trying to teach me over the years—behavioral based interviewing—is that the best predictor of a future performance is past performance. So we actually look for the SERVE practices in someone’s past, which gives us confidence that they can demonstrate that in the future. What we have discovered, is that with younger leaders, particularly teenagers, this is sometimes difficult. Because of the opportunities and the life circumstances, it may be hard to find past examples. At that point, I think you have to start looking at the character traits of a leader, and I think those are present, even in their teenage years.

Character formation, as you know, is a long process, often disguised as parenting and that’s really what parents are trying to do. So if we can’t find past examples of leadership behavior, then we start looking at character issues. Because we really think that 90% of leadership is about character—it’s really about the heart.

A particular passage that I like is Psalm 78:72 about David. It says, “he shepherded his people with integrity of heart, and with skillful hands he led them.” I think that there are 5 primary traits that you’ll see in leaders that represent the heart of a leader:

  • Hunger for wisdom
  • Expect the best
  • Accept responsibility
  • Respond with courage, and
  • Think of others first

I think that’s the heart of leadership.

What’s the most important leadership principle that you want people to understand?

Great leaders serve.

What else do you want to say about leadership?
I really do believe that our capacity to grow determines our capacity to lead. I’ve been encouraging leaders for many, many years to make their personal growth their number one priority. Tragically, it’s nowhere on the radar for many leaders. And you think, “Why is that?”, because if you ask them what they believe about their growth they will say that it’s important. But then you look at their calendar, and their checkbook, and they’re not investing time or money into personal development and you wonder, “Why not?”

Sometimes I think it’s a pace issue, we get to going too fast. Sometimes I think it is a priority issue, we’ve not made the hard choices to raise it on our list of priorities. Sometimes it’s pride, and I hope that’s rarely the case, but you can probably think of some examples where a leader’s not growing because he or she doesn’t believe they need to grow. But I think the consequences are devastating if we don’t grow. I say, “Think about when you’re on an airplane and they talk about putting your oxygen mask on first, before helping others, because without it you’re of little value to others.” And I’m trying to  get leaders to put their own mask on first, and make growth their highest priority.

Each Friday Mark does a blog series called “Today’s Challenge” where he answers questions from leaders around the world. You can read Mark’s blog