Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embrace Our Future Together (Part 3c CEO)

A Healthy Leader


Over the course of twenty-five years as a leader, and a lifetime observing leaders, it is interesting to me how organizations/churches take on the personalities of their leaders. Healthy leaders often lead healthy organizations. Unhealthy leaders often leave in the tracks broken dysfunctional organizations in the end.

As the Baptist General Convention of Texas looks for a new leader I believe it is critical that our search committee select a “healthy” leader to guide us into the future. When I say a healthy leader I am not speaking primarily of his physical health although that does play a part. I am speaking of a leader who is spiritually and emotionally healthy. A leader’s spiritual and emotional health colors how he or she leads and relates to people. Leadership boiled down to its basic element revolves around relationships. Healthy leaders develop and maintain healthy relationships. Dysfunctional leaders may look good in the spot light, but behind the scenes they leave in their wake broken relationships.

Leading a complex system as large as the BGCT is not a task for the faint of heart, nor is it the task for the man who thinks he is “superman”. The BGCT does not need a hero. The BGCT needs a humble, servant leader. We need to remember Jesus taught great lessons on leadership. He pointed out “the greatest of all is the servant of all”.

Jim Collins in Good to Great reported his findings from studying a number of the greatest corporations in the world. His team of researchers were instructed to avoid the temptation to attribute corporate success to a great leader. However, their research revealed y that great companies were led by healthy leaders. They coined the phrase “Level 5” leaders. These leaders were a study in duality: “modest and willful, humble and fearless”. These leaders were very humble, yet have a tremendous ambition for the organization’s success. Simply put, when you lead like Jesus taught good things happen. We need a leader who is more concerned about the effectiveness of the BGCT than about who gets the credit. Collins noted that when things go wrong Level 5 leaders “look in the mirror and take responsibility” and when things go well they “look out the window and give credit to others”.

Another aspect of being a healthy leader is being at peace with yourself. Peter Steinke in How Your Church Family Works notes that good leaders are those who are “differentiated”. They are able to separate themselves from what they do and the organization they lead. All leaders have struggled from time to time with the temptation to “over-function” or to take on too much responsibility for the group. Healthy leaders realize their value in life has to do to with their “being” rather than their “doing”. Steinke described a healthy leader as one who responds to the challenges in an organization with maturity revealed by a willingness to accept proximate solutions to insolvable problems, the ability to wait, seek support of others, use systemic thinking, acknowledge impasse, look for due process, set clear goals, loosen grip, relax and make clear decisions with specific actions (Steinke, How Your Church Family Works). Steinke looks at churches and organizations from the perspective of systems theory which in essence suggests all organizations function more like organisms than machines.

Edwin Friedman led in the application of systems theory to churches/organizations. He argued that a pastor (CEO) served like the father of a family and that everyone in the church/organization has a connection or relationship to him. When an organization faces conflict or a storm it is critical for the leader to be a “non anxious presence”. In other words, how the leader responds to a crisis will create the weather for the organization. If the leader gets up tight and begins to panic or to be reactive the system will be inflamed, but if the leader remains calm the storm will diminish and pass in time. In light of the critical crossroads we face in the BGCT it seems obvious we need a leader who calms storms rather than creates unnecessary storms.

Looking for this kind of leader demands probing deep into the heart and motivation of the leader. When the LORD went looking for a king he found him not in the palace nor in the halls of state, but rather a young shepherd boy who had a heart after the heart of God.



Filed under BGCT, Leadership

8 responses to “Baptist General Convention of Texas: Embrace Our Future Together (Part 3c CEO)

  1. Jerry Howe

    I agree with your assessments about the direction we need to be taking
    in the selection of anew leader for our BGCT, but the question is, is that
    the kind of leader the committee is looking for? I know its the kind of
    leader we need and the kind of leader the people desperately want, but
    I just don’t know if that is the overwhelming concern of the selection
    committee. God help us.

  2. Ernie

    Great comments. It takes a quality person to be confident enough in himself and in the Lord to be a great leader. The saying that “trials do not create charactor it only reveals charactor” comes to mind. Thanks for your blog David, See you in May.

  3. Jerry,

    I believe God is at work in the process. There is too much at stake for the sake of the Kingdom. I don’t personally know all those on the search committee but those I do know have a heart for the Lord, and I am confident that every member of the committee desires to see the BGCT to become all that it was meant to be.

    Our prayers and support will be our best course of action at this time.


  4. David, more and more I see in you your dad and his philosophy of church and denominational life. If he were a bit younger (Unfortunately he is my age) he would be an ideal candidate for our next exec. I am beginning to wonder if the Search Committee wouldn’t do well to interview you. I could not agree more with all you have written in these posts on Embracing Our Future Together. You have a great feel for who we are as Texas Baptists, but more than that, you have a great feel for where we need to go. You seem to have all the qualifications needed for the job. You have a pastor’s heart, you have good experience in our most important priority (starting churches), and you have served on a mission field. I’m sure I am not the first to wonder about your availability for the job.

  5. spiritualsamurai

    I had the privelege of studying with Rabbi Friedman in Wichita. I would love to talk with you some time about his leadership model as it applies to systems theory. We are in need a self-differentiated leader. How do you communicate that to people who will make the choice?

    I also have lecture notes of Friedman on Fundamentalism. He relates it to brain theory (Bowmen).

    I have some other sources of material for grasping the non-linear aspects of social groups. leadership, and theology. Thanks for your words.

  6. Ken,

    Thank you for your kind words. I have had the honor of sitting under a great mentor. My dad taught me by his words and actions. His sermons hit the mark, but his life made an impression on me that has changed me and how I see the world.

    I am confident the Lord will raise up the leader we long for, but whoever he may be he is simply the servant–we must remember Jesus is King.

    David Lowrie

  7. David,

    I would enjoy visiting with you about Rabbi Friedman. I know him only from the printed page. It would be a joy to sit with someone who sat at a table with him. He has insights into community life and leadership we could all learn from in our day.

    David Lowrie

  8. spiritualsamurai

    Dr. Lowrie,

    Texas Baptist only thing I can be caustic! But with Dr. Friedman the insults were worth the insights. I once saw a group get up and leave the Rabbi’s seminar because he told them they were there to play games and he had already grown up. (lol) He was quite the self individuated person. He did look up to Bowman though.

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