Leadership, Management, Spiritual Growth

By Mike Sharrow

I was in a workshop with Richard Blackaby one recent spring. During the Q&A session, a leader asked, “What do you do when you get a vision from God and you execute it, but everything goes wrong—the teams don’t follow you on that vision and it blows up due to all of the spiritual warfare?” Richard replied with a question about how clearly this leader translated vision into strategy and strategy into action plans. When the leader shared what he did, Richard then said, “Sir, please do not blame the devil for your bad leadership. He didn’t have to do anything but stand back and let you mess it up! A vision from God is not an excuse for poor leadership, management, or execution. Be careful to not blame spiritual warfare for what is really a failure to lead.” BOOM. Mic drop.

We’ve all seen it! We’ve all done it to some degree. Particularly when in a setting where we’re doing work we label “missional” or “from/for God.” (I’m curious what things are not.)

It’s one of the reasons I and so many others can get nervous when the iconic Christian fish symbol is put forward as a marketing flag for a company—does that entrepreneur believe the fish calls them to a higher standard or a flimsy excuse for grace?  

If you are a mission-minded leader, you’ve likely embarked on a mission either because you felt called in some way to a vision or anchored in an identity in Christ, seeking to do “all things as unto Christ.” That is a powerful fuel! In fact, it can be a stimulant with the hazard of any other narcotic-esque drug—sparking overdrive, excess, or negligence that creates peril for you and those you lead or serve.  

We all need to hear what Richard told that leader. Yes, spiritual warfare is legitimate. But so are sin, flesh, laziness, carnal pleasures hijacking our priorities, ulterior motives, conflicted identity, idolatry, and a host of undertow factors that can absolutely wreck an entrepreneur.  

I get to serve a team that then supports a larger network of uniquely called leaders who then directly serve over 2,500 marketplace leaders around the globe all on a faith-driven journey. We find it essential to challenge and raise the bar for how to truly build great businesses with excellence, goodness, winning outcomes, competitive results, and brand differentiation if we want to accomplish any greater purpose through these ventures.  

When I was a young professional working in a Fortune 50 company in Chicago, I began to wrestle with this “sacred/secular” divide and was asking, “How do I live out who I am in Christ here?” My first mentor was a man named Tony Barrett. In our first meeting, I asked him how I could be effective as Christ-followers in the company. He offered great counsel: “Mike, first be absolutely excellent. Crush everything you do. Do such amazing work that you are above reproach, earn the respect of those around you, and ensure your testimony cannot be muffled by performance. Then, so genuinely love Jesus in each moment and have such affection for Him that the desire to glorify God just oozes out in everything you do… So it’s not just a punctuation mark here or there in a spurt of sudden God-talk, but a consistent aspect of who you are as a leader.” Honestly, that sums up a dozen books you could read on the topic pretty darn well!

So, in the spirit of wanting this to be a site that spurs marketplace saints on to “love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24), let me invite you to wrestle with some universal business scaling issues and offer a few free resources with tools and actionable content to help you move the needle in your business right away:

How do you interview and hire for fit to your team and mission? 

How do you price and position your product for maximum value and margin alignment? How do you think about profits biblically? 

The best way to grow sales is to keep happy customers, so how do you cultivate loyalty for exponential growth and “good profits” along the way? 

Early on, “entrepreneur” is French for “I do everything,” but as you scale an organization what is the non-delegatable job description for you as a CEO? 

Try those out. Seek God. Live out of a robustly eternal perspective. Let’s not let our identity or vision be an excuse for bad leadership but rather the fuel and motivator for great leadership. One of my agendas in the work I do, frankly, is to redeem the brand dignity of “Christian business leadership” to be associated with the very highest standards in society.  

Lead well. It matters!

This article was originally published on the Faith-Driven Entrepreneur blog and is reposted with kind permission.