The Leadership Secret Most Leaders Haven’t Mastered

Have you stumbled over your pride in the ministry? (iStock photo)

I admit it: I'm a bit of a leadership junkie. I love reading books about leadership, hearing about the newest theories, and studying the techniques of great leaders.

My passion also means that whenever there's a new show on TV about leadership or starting a business, I have to check it out.

One of my new favorites is called The Profit, where successful businessman Marcus Lemonis partners with failing businesses to both bail them out and help them up. It resembles Shark Tank slightly, because Lemonis invests large amounts of money into these businesses. But it's grittier too.

It's not just about the money. It's about turning the business around.

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Recently, I watched an episode about a used car dealership that was about $7 million in debt. Lemonis came in and offered the owner several million dollars to start paying down his debt on the condition that he would hand over control to Lemonis.

"I'm going to be 100 percent in charge," is Lemonis's catch phrase, and it fits. He takes the reigns, fixing broken things about the business and implementing better business practices.

Of course, the owner of the company protests at first. After all, it's his business. But what it really comes down to is that the owner had no idea what he's doing and Lemonis does. This is a repeating theme of the show.

In this case, the owner of the dealership had invested a good portion of his money in big screen TVs for the waiting room and an arcade in one corner. On the lot he had about 20 cars for sale—all unique, all luxury, all overpriced. So when customers would come in looking for a car, every one of them would walk away empty-handed because the selection was sparse and the cars were too expensive.

When Lemonis took over the dealership, he really took it over. 

He completely remodeled the showroom, filling empty space with car parts and accessories, making every inch of the expansive building profitable. He sold off the few high-priced luxury cars the owner had on the lot and replaced them with a whole fleet of more moderately priced vehicles that would actually sell. He even changed the name of the business to attract customers who had come and left empty handed—showing them that it was "a new day" for the dealership.

For someone who is $7 million in debt, this sounds like a great situation: money, expertise, and help; it sounds like an answered prayer to me.

But that was not the owner's reaction. In fact, it rarely is. 

The common thread among the business owners on the show is that they're all stubborn and prideful to a fault. They have a way of doing things they think is best and even when the numbers are a flashing sign that their plan doesn't work, they refuse to change their ways.

As the viewer, it's infuriating. Even when the owner was $7 million in debt, and even when he had a billionaire investor there to help him turn things around, he fought it because he refused to believe he could be wrong.

It seems ridiculous as you're watching it. I find myself pleading with the television as if the guy can hear me. "Are you kidding? Do what he says!"

Yet when I take the time to reflect on my own behavior, I see some of the same themes.

Leaders are leaders because they have an idea of where they want to go. 

They see a problem and a way of solving it, and they run after it with all of their time, money, energy and passion. We need leaders like this—we need people who care enough to make changes, to start something new, and to take a risk. The problem comes when leaders aren't willing to adapt their course.

The truth is that being a leader doesn't mean you know more than everyone else. Being a leader doesn't mean you always know the right answer or are able to do things all on your own. The best leaders don't operate this way.

Instead, the best leaders bring a team of people around them. They have a group of confidants, advisors and people who are strong in areas where they're weak.

This is what these business owners are lacking.

They're lacking the courage to admit they don't know everything and the wisdom to bring a team around them, heeding their advice.

Admitting we can't do everything is hard on our pride, but our pride was never something to hold on to in the first place. We need a team around us helping us, guiding us, and we need to actually listen to them.

But most of all, we need to be willing to admit we don't know everything—to listen and learn from people who are able to help.

Humility can be a hard pill to swallow as a leader, but it's worth the discomfort. Because when we let go of our pride, we can take hold of so much more.

With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the founder of (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and, all while staying involved in the local church.

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