Mac Lake

  Mac Lake


Many people in nonprofit organizations are workaholics. That makes the balance between personal life and work life difficult. The physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects are always a challenge. But I like to say that the leader’s number one job is to care for his or her own soul. I’ve got to make sure that my soul is healthy. If my soul isn’t healthy, then I can’t be an effective leader who brings life change in the lives of others.

When I’m traveling, it’s particularly difficult, but when I’m home, I’m hitting the gym five days a week. I know that if my physical energy drops, then that’s going to impact my emotional energy, which is going to impact my spiritual energy, and it just sets off all these bad, negative chains of events.

I find that I need to be operating in a healthy manner. When I’m going to the gym, I’m going to be more balanced, and balance is the goal. Health is the goal. There will be alarms going off in my spirit when I’m saying yes to things I shouldn’t be.

Others are influenced by what you do as much as by what you say in this area, more so than not. I try to model my healthy lifestyle. The people in my office know my eating habits. I follow a program where you eat six small healthy meals a day, a fistful of protein and a fistful of carbohydrate six times a day, and you work out at least 20 minutes five days a week.

All of my employees are aware that, on my schedule, I leave here at 4:00 every afternoon to go to the gym. They see me eating apples, celery, and carrots. And so, I can tell them to eat healthy foods. I can tell them to only work so many hours a day. Sometimes I chase them out of the office – I tell them to go home, because I don’t want them to resent this place. I don’t want this place to burn them out.

You know, life is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. We have to pace ourselves in a way that we can do our good deeds over the long haul. A friend of mine says that, with the pace you’re currently going, can you do nonprofit work for decades? If not, you need to change your pace.

Every organization has a small handful of model leaders that exemplify what it means to lead well. They have the right skill set, they’re admired by others, and they handle situations with maturity and wisdom. They are the ones you wish you could replicate over and over.

Odds are those model leaders didn’t learn their leadership acumen from your organization’s quarterly four-hour turbo training. While they may have enjoyed it or appreciated it, that’s not where they gained the leadership character and competency that’s so evident today. If you ask them (and I would encourage you to do so), you will likely find they attribute their development to one of two things:

  1. An individual who believed in them and poured into them over an extended period of time.
  2. An opportunity they had to lead that stretched them.

Isn’t that true of most of us? You don’t have to stop offering your quarterly turbo training. But I would certainly entertain the ideas of having your existing leaders pour into your potential leaders over a period of time, and giving potential leaders stretch assignments that will challenge them to grow. When you do, you’ll find more model leaders emerging within your organization.

No one would question that leadership development is a wise investment. Time spent developing new and better leaders has a long-term payoff for the individual as well as the organization. But if this fact is so obvious, why is it so few of your existing leaders engage in the development of new leaders? Why is it they default to doing the work rather than developing others to do the work?

What can you do today to champion these new leaders today?

  • Speak life into their giftedness. I’m constantly amazed at how few people have had their leader speak significant or specific encouragement into their souls. Our words of confidence in them will expand their confidence in their own potential and help them dream bigger dreams.
  • Give them significant opportunities to lead in the context of your organization. Give them stretch assignments. Give them specific roles that will equip them for a great future in leadership. Give them assignments you wish someone had given you when you were their age.
  • Provide constructive feedback that will expand their leadership capacity. Don’t practice false kindness and avoid the essential feedback that will help them maximize their potential. Point out the critical areas they need to grow, while at the same time demonstrating your confidence in them.
  • Expose them to great books, great leaders and great environments that will expand their thinking. When young leaders are kept in one environment, they fail to develop a depth and dimension they will need to lead when they face new or different contexts.
  • Challenge them to live with integrity and dream with audacity. What if we could challenge the next generation of leaders to see further than we saw, believe bigger than we believed, or trust God for a movement of revival the likes of which the world has never seen?

Why wouldn’t we champion, challenge and resource next generation leaders this way? There are only three answers to this question: busyness, laziness or selfishness. In other words, there is no good reason not to champion next-generation leaders.

Underneath the many possible excuses, I believe there is one deep-seated reason: fear.
People avoid that which they are afraid of. So could it be that your leaders avoid the investment in others because of the fear of failure? Fear of not knowing how? Fear of being replaced? Or fear of someone’s doing the job better?

To leverage your leaders’ impact and see an exponential emergence of new and better leaders, your task is to identify and confront the fear. As you discover the real reasons behind their fear, you can begin to reconstruct their confidence as a developer by simply encouraging, coaching, and challenging them along the journey. Your greatest success will be seeing them confidently succeed in the reproduction of new leaders.

So many times we lock ourselves into a position. We say, “Oh, this is my passion. I love it here. I love this organization. I love this position. I love what I’m doing.” And we never develop anybody to do what we’re doing. It never occurs to us to get somebody else to teach and to build a team, because this is our job. Find somebody, two or three people that you can reproduce yourself in, and teach them to do what you’re doing. When you have a mindset of succession, you will have a regular practice of multiplication. By doing so, you leave a legacy in your organization – because you never know when you’re going to be gone.

Mac Lake felt called into the ministry at age 17. In 2004, God urged him to go into leadership development, particularly for the local church. He feels a sense of urgency for developing leaders who produce leaders.

This article is reprinted from Issue #9 of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today so that you won’t miss other actionable articles that will help you run your nonprofit organization with less pain and more gain!

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