Sustainable Leadership

There is leadership for a brief season. Then there is sustainable leadership. Take a look at Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church or Andy Stanley at Northpoint Community Church for example. These guys have staying power.

This week’s big leadership news is on the other side of the coin. I follow United airlines. I’ve been a Continental/United frequent flier for about 12 years. I’ve seen it in good times (when Gordon Bethune was CEO), sliding to mediocre times (when he was replaced by Larry (?) a bean counter), and then straight downhill under Jeff Smisek (a mergers & acquisitions lawyer).

Suddenly this week, Smisek is out. Along with two other senior executives.

It’s been building for a while. There have been technical glitches. Employee morale is in the tank. Now there are discussions in the New York Times about ethics problems.

Bethune at Continental and Herb Kelleher at Southwest Airlines both focused on the customer and the employees. They did things to boost morale. They focused on customer satisfaction. This month’s Leadership podcast from Andy Stanley features Frank Blake retired CEO of The Home Depot. He also discussed customer focus first, employee focus next, and CEO self-focus last.

Sometime you get the idea reading the news that CEOs spend more time negotiating their own pay and perk packages than on thinking about how to lead the company.

Ethics problems continue to bring down high level executives, yet, many think they are immune. Until it all hits the fan.

I’ve seen church leaders flit from one program to the next. No sustainable initiatives. Worse, no focus on the customer (people to bring into the church) or focus on the “employee” (people who volunteer to help the church and are used, abused, and discarded.

Solution? Focus on your customer. Know what business you’re in and what value you provide. Then provide it–with a loyal staff that feels supported and empowered.

You might get your millions, but how do you and your wife face the folks at the country club in the morning?

Sorry, that was a cheap shot. But you get the point.

Ethics and focus on others. Gee, that sounds familiar. Maybe I read it in a Gospel or something!

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