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Dr. G. & Friends  |  

Leadership 101

Here’s what we know: no organization, be it a corporation, firm, or congregation, will thrive or live fully into its purpose with the absence of effective leaders.

Leadership is the singular irreplaceable element in the formula for success, effectiveness, and organizational health.

I enjoy leadership books that revisit the basics.

I always find it helpful to be reminded of the fundamentals.

Whenever I’ve managed to get myself in trouble it’s because I’ve forgotten or ignored a basic rule of leadership.

Whether one is CEO of a corporation, a supervisor in a non-profit, or the pastor of a congregation, here’s a non-exhaustive list of Leadership Fundamentals 101 that are worth remembering.


Do the right thing.

The most expedient thing is not always the right thing.

During a crisis, or when under the fear of actual or perceived threat, it’s easy to forget principles and corporate values and make decisions or find solutions that alleviate distress or make a problem “go away.”

The paradox is that in doing so, the problem really hasn’t gone away, it just creates a new problem: violating the integrity of the organization, failing to act courageously, failing to cultivate responsibility in the system, and, just kicking the problem down the road.


Your best people are your organization’s most valuable asset.

Effective leaders invest in their best people.

Wise leaders do not invest in those not willing to promote the health and well being of the organization.

Remember that you can only lead the willing.

Trying to motivate the unmotivated is a bottomless pit; it doesn’t change them and it only frustrates you.

Your best people will not be motivated by more money, incentives, or bribes.

They do the job because it is meaningful, because they believe in the mission, and regardless of how difficult, they derive joy from the job.

For the unmotivated, no amount of incentives or bribes will change their attitude or increase their level of commitment to the work.


You are primarily responsible for your stewardship of the organization, not for the needs or happiness of everyone in it.

In difficult and complex matters you will never make a decision that satisfies everyone.


Foster responsibility and do not cater to the weakest in the system.

Leaders who tolerate poor workers and poor performers will lose their best people first.

Challenge promotes growth, coddling promotes dependency and immaturity.

Promote maturity, taking personal responsibility, and commitment to clearly held principles.

Those promote courage.


Leadership is 100% effort done 100% of the time.

It comes with the job.

The day you decide you’re too tired to be the leader, someone else becomes the leader.

It is said that an organization eventually becomes a reflection of its leaders.

Through the influence of personal relationships, the practice of corporate virtues, and the persistence of vision, leaders shape organizations and the people that are attracted to it.

The leader sets the tone for the organization.

Leaders who want integrity, transparency, loyalty, and honesty in their organization need to embody them first.


Leaders are not defined by their business card nor their paycheck, rather, by their character and their actions.

Beware of leaders who are more interested in titles and position than in actually doing the hard work of leading.


There is high risk in getting into a business that’s not your business.

Don’t be confused about the business you are in.

Constantly seeking the illusion of innovation, chasing trends, and trying to be an industry leader can derail your mission and exhaust your resources.


Finally, remember that leadership is a calling to stewardship for a time.

When you leave the organization, leave.

The future and welfare of the organization are no longer your responsibility—nor, your business.

At the end of it all, leave the organization, or church, in better shape than you found it.

Accept with humility that once you leave 80% of what you accomplished will go away.

The next person will shape the institution according to her or his values, vision, and perspectives appropriate to that part of the story.

Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.

His books on education include Academic Leadership: Practical Wisdom for Deans and Administartors, Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).


Dr. G. & Friends