The Three Rungs of Successful Leadership

Just being a pastor, or being the boss does not make you a leader.  Being a leader simply means having followers – now that doesn’t mean you are the next Jim Jones and people follow you blindly – it is much more mundane, but also much more amazing than that.  Being a leader simply means you influence people on purpose.  We all influence people – we make people think and act in certain ways that they wouldn’t if we weren’t about.  For some people that influence is accidental, we are moody and grumpy and go to work and make the whole place moody and grumpy.  We are offended at an elder in the church, so we go to church and gossip and affect the behaviour of the church and corrupt the place.

But leaders – and everyone is called to be a leader – influence people for the better.  They reckon the shyest person on planet earth still will influence over 10,000 people in his lifetime, and the average person influences a dozen people a day.  You influence your children, your friends, everyone.  Leadership is just becoming better at influencing people.  So let’s find out about leadership and how to climb the three rungs of leadership.

The first rung is called RELATE.  You have to get to know people.  You have to build relationships, you have to find out about people. There’s an old saying: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care, and it is true.  You need to care about people.  If you relate to people, they will love you!  People are lonely in this world, and we are not designed to be alone.  If you are the boss, go for a walk around the office and ask how people are doing, find out how their children are doing, find out what they enjoy, what they like doing outside the office.  Go and make some friends – let people know you care.  That’s the first rung and if you get it right, people will like you!  If you are unable to build healthy relationships, you will never be able to lead long-term – that’s a fact!  To be great at this rung, have a genuine love for people.  Care about the success of the people you work with.  Make sure people are more important than procedures.

The second rung is called RESULTS.  You have to be someone people can respect to get the job done.  If you are the manager at work, get your department making some money!  If you are the pastor, get the church doing something God honouring that attracts new people to the service.  On the first rung (RELATE), you get together because you get together.  But good leadership then takes the next step to RESULTS and gets together for a purpose.  You need to become results-orientated to become a good leader.  In certain fields (football and sales, for example) it’s obvious what makes a good result.  In other fields (church life for example!) you need to also clarify what a good result is and celebrate it.  For example in our church, we are about making disciples who dream big. So when one of our guys met a couple in the car park who were going to a miracle service and prayed for them and got them healed before they ever got to the miracle service, we celebrate and tell that story because we are celebrating the win.  When people get born again, or we have record attendance, or new people get released into leadership, we clarify to people: look a win.  That helps them know you are getting results.  At this rung, people respect you.

To do well at this rung, do things that cause growth – use some initiative.  Have a dream, scheme and theme for your business, church, organization.  Develop a system of accountability for results – including your own!  

The third and final rung is called REPRODUCE.  This is when you start to succeed as a leader – a great leader isn’t great because he is great, he is great because the people he leads are consistently great.  You invest yourselves in the life of others and you reproduce success and life in them.  People come to your church and they have no or little social skills, and you bear with them and help them develop social skills.  That is reproduction.  You are a great preacher and you break down the process of preaching so that some around you become great preachers.  That is reproduction.  If you step onto this top rung, people will be loyal to you naturally because they know they owe you part of their life because you poured it into them.  At this stage you become a leader of leaders and are now helping others climb these three rungs to leadership.  As you do, never forget the lessons from the first two stages: don’t suddenly become aloof and let success insulate you from the people who you should be relating too.  Spend some time reading the annual reviews of your entire team.  Read all the connection cards yourself, and email a personal response to everyone.

To be valuable on this final rung, realize that people genuinely are your most important asset.  When I started church planting I thought money would be the scarest commodity – but it’s not, it’s good people.  Be a model for others, help your key leaders grow and surround yourself with an inner core of people that complement your giftings and who love leadership and love your dream.

Remember to still get results, but now you get results as a team, not just as a one-man band.  The higher you climb this little three runged ladder of leadership, the easier it is to lead.  The greater the growth of your business, church, department.  But never leave the RELATE step behind!

Now if you are leading a group, you may not be on the same rung with everyone, and that’s fine, but take the time to climb up! Become a better leader!  And for your leadership to be truly effective you must take people up to the third rung with you and show them how to get RESULTS and REPRODUCE.–

Published by Tree of Life Church

We are a growing network of growing churches, with services weekly in Dagenham, Guildford, Watford, Croydon, Brentwood and Dorset. We are also planting churches in Cambridge, Suffolk, West Midlands and Hemel. Find out more at, and

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