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The Next Faithful Step



Think of this section of the website as a book made up of short articles or blog entries. Each article is only a couple of pages long; it takes just a few minutes to read. Each article stands on its own; and each one is part of a larger whole. There are six chapters to this book, plus the introduction. You can see the chapters listed in an outline on the left side of this page. Feel free to start with any of the chapters—or with the introduction below. To the right of each article is a list of tabs. Each tab gives a range of articles that connect to the one in the center of the page. There's no need to explain it here; poke around a bit. You'll get the idea.


1. Leadership Begins With Listening

Most people think that leaders tell people what to do. But the first faithful step in leadership is listening to people long enough that the leader knows what to say and when it is time to say it.

2. Cultivated Instincts

Leadership is a cultivated instinct. None of us were born knowing how to lead any more than we were born knowing how to drive a car. But each of us can learn to lead as instinctively as we drive a car.

3. The Ways We Lead

There are three basic ways that leaders work.


…see the world in terms of organizational roles and responsibilities. They work well in meetings and are task oriented.


…see the world in terms of relationships. They work well with people and are people oriented.


…see the world in terms of values and beliefs. They work well with ideas and are story oriented.

4. The Problem Of Plateaued Leaders

Most leaders have developed as much as they are going to develop. They have reached a plateau and are not sure how to proceed.


They can become proficient at one of the three ways to lead. They experience the three ways as "styles" and need to figure out what their natural style is so that they can get good at it.


They can reach a threshold competency in any of the three ways to lead. They experience the three ways as "frames" because they can adopt the frame that is most pertinent to a situation.


They experience the three ways to lead as "layers" because they know that all three layers are present in any ministry moment. They are accomplished at working in all three frames at the same time. And they know the frustrating secret that sometimes the only way to alleviate a problem in one frame is to make matters worse in another frame.

5. How Wisdom Works

Think about talking with a valued mentor. Mentors rarely tell someone what to do. When asked for advice, they either ask questions or they say one of two things. They either tell a story ("That reminds me of a time…") or they quote some aphorism (e.g. "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality."). This site has been built around insights that come in the form that a mentor would love. We created short summaries of the ideas and surrounded them with lots of stories.

    • Note on Dueling Aphorisms: Mentors often give advice that holds two ideas in tension. We are used to this in society. For example, "the early bird gets the worm" but "haste makes waste." John Wooden famously captured this tension by saying that his players should "be quick but don't hurry." The tension between the ideas is more important than either idea on its own.

6. The Next Faithful Step

Leaders cannot help their people take the next seven steps of development. All they can do is help a person take the next faithful step. And once the person takes that step, then they can take another. There are two kinds of next steps:


The next faithful step on the same path. This enables the learner to get better at something s/he already can do or understand in a rudimentary way.  We will eventually call this "technical change."


The next faithful step along a new path. This enables the learner to discover something that changes how s/he sees the world. We will call this "adaptive change."