Monday, April 30, 2007


The Cabinet and I have been pondering our role as personnel officers of the church. It is our job to recruit, evaluate, and to place clergy. We believe that there is much that we can learn about personnel matters from those in business or other organizations. Hal Nobel, Superintendent of the Northwest District, has recently read Jack Welch’s book on leadership, Winning. Welch is the turn around king of American business. Hal shared with me some of the insights that have relevance for our Superintendents and as pastors:

Think of yourself as a Gardener, a watering can in one hand and fertilizer in the other." This is what I am doing here in my District and I understand you to be saying in Cabinet meetings. There are some great metaphors about gardening, watering, fertilizing in the scriptures. And then there’s Jesus’ parable of the unproductive fig tree that speaks of grace as cultivating, watering, fertilizing one more year, and then if there is not fruit, cut it down.

These are the one-liners in the book that excite me:

1. Leaders relentlessly upgrade their team, using every encounter as an opportunity to evaluate, coach and build self-confidence.

2. Leaders make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breathe it.

3. Leaders get into everyone's skin, exuding positive energy and optimism.

4. Leaders establish trust with candor, transparency and credit where credit is due.

5. Leaders have the courage to make unpopular decisions and gut calls.

6. Leaders probe and push with curiosity that borders on skepticism, making sure their questions are answered with action.

7. Leaders inspire risk taking and learning by setting the example.

8. Leaders celebrate the achievements of others in the organization.

Here are some quickies from the sub-heading "On Hiring-Inspiring"

  • Hiring good people is hard. Hiring great people is brutally hard. Yet nothing matters more in winning than getting the right people on the field, then guiding them on the right way to succeed and get ahead.
  • Before you even think about assessing people for a job, they have to pass through three screens:

1. Integrity - People with integrity tell the truth

2. Intelligence - Candidate has a strong dose of intellectual

3. Maturity - The ability to handle stress and setbacks, and enjoy
success with equal parts of joy and humility.

  • Then the passion - a heartfelt, deep and authentic excitement about work.
  • When you actually interview somebody for a job, make sure every candidate is interviewed by several people. Over time, you will find that some people in your organization have a special gift for picking out stars and phonies.

    Will Willimon


Anonymous said...

Bishop Willimon,

I was in your ordained leadership class at Duke Divinity, Fall 2003. I learned much from you and always appreciate your candor. That said, what I was waiting for in this post was a reference that we are leaders who have to rely on prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what separates great leaders in the secular world and great leaders in the Church.

Anonymous said...

The metaphor is beautiful, but I am sure that I am not the only one who wonders whether Hal realized the door he has opened by acknowledging his role as a spreader of fertilizer. Childish, maybe, but today that's what I need. Thank you Hal for the image.

bob bentley

lehall said...


Anonymous said...

How much do we need to begin, if we are not, teaching leadership in our congregations. Whether is it teaching in the Bible class setting, a private setting or even in lecture format; we need leaders for the churches!

Paul's pleading to the early church in Acts 22 was to the elders (leaders) of the congregation. We need leaders to stand and led; not sit and observe.

Just my thoughts.