Posted by: everynation | May 18, 2011

Leadership is…Getting Out of the Way

By Steve Murrell

I recently realized that at some point in my life – and I’m not exactly sure when – but a major shift happened in the way I approach ministry, leadership and maybe life in general.

I used to be obsessed with trying to learn to be a good leader.

Since I am not a “natural” leader, I knew I had to somehow obtain those elusive leadership skills. So, I read leadership books. I took seminary classes. I studies church, political and business leaders. I sought mentors. All of this helped, I think. But it seems like I still had to learn most of my lasting leadership lessons the hard way – by taking a risk, falling flat on my face, getting up and trying again.

As time went on, leadership books and seminary classes gradually started to bore me. I was no longer pumped about being a better leader. I am not sure whether that is good or bad, but that is the truth.

I got bored with Kouzes & Posner, Noel Tichy, Jim Collins, Robert Clinton, Aubry Malphurs, Patrick Lencioni, Hanz Finzel, John Maxwell and all the other leadership gurus and their books. I just couldn’t take another paragraph about leadership.

Again, I don’t know when or why it happened, but my new obsession became, not how to be a better leader, but how to help those around me become better leaders.

Once I got bored with leadership books and my obsession changed, it didn’t take long for me to realize that in order to help others become better leaders, I would sometimes have to get out of their way so they could actually lead – so they could take a risk, so they could fall flat on their faces, so they could start over and try again, and again, and again.

To become better leaders people need the freedom to succeed and fail without our interference or intervention. With all due respect to the leadership books and seminary classes, I think I really learned leadership through trial and error and trying again.

I remember a t-shirt I had back when No Fear was a cool new brand. It said something like this: “Lead, Follow, or Get the #&$%@* Out of the Way!”

I think those No Fear people were on to something with that “get out of the way” line. For several years I have been trying the “stay out of the way” leadership development strategy, in order to help those around me become the best leaders they can be.

That seemed to be what Jesus was hinting at when He told his disciples that it was better for them that He go away. They had a hard time with that plan, but it worked out OK, their countless leadership mistakes notwithstanding.

All that to say, Leadership is…Getting Out of the Way.


Steve Murrell is the senior pastor of Victory Manila, Philippines; a director of the Real Life Foundation ; and the co-founder and president of Every Nation, a worldwide family of churches and ministries.

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