As president of the Southern Baptist Convention and a pastor for 37-plus years, Ronnie Floyd has become convinced that pastors must engage in future and forward thinking.
In a new book, "Forward: 7 Distinguishing Marks for Future Leaders," Floyd outlines what he sees as essential characteristics for those in leadership positions currently or in the future.
"Forward leaders rise to lead people to a better future," Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, said in a Q&A with Facts & Trends magazine about the book from B&H Publishing Group. Facts & Trends and B&H are part of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"Forward [the book] is about a new kind of leader who must rise up to lead in the world of today and in the world of tomorrow," Floyd said. "Forward is a call, a process, a direction and a change."
Facts & Trends: What are the greatest lessons you've learned as a leader?
Ronnie Floyd: Every hill is not worth dying on. Leadership is not about being right or having the last word; leadership is about taking people with you to a future that's better than the current reality.
I've also learned the importance of leading with absolute clarity. If a leader is not clear, people are unable to align with the leader's vision.
I've come to understand the importance of simplicity, too. A good leader takes the complex and makes it simple. While there are a myriad of things a leader can do, a leader must do the right thing at the right time in order to lead effectively.
And I've learned the high value of seeking to become more teachable. The longer I lead, the more teachable I want to become. Leaders who don't keep growing personally will lead in the wrong direction and eventually forfeit their influence.
FT: Why is now a crucial time to raise a generation of forward leaders?
RF: I would answer your question with these two questions: Where are the influential leaders today? Where are the leaders who are willing to step up now and lead big, keeping their message so big they create a movement of people who want to follow them? … I believe most leaders forfeit the opportunity to lead big because they're limited by their own too-small thinking and preferences. They listen far too much to the applause of their "groups" or "tribes," forgetting they're a part of something bigger.
Every segment of society needs a new kind of leader to emerge. The field is wide open, and regardless of age, gender or ethnicity, the future awaits to be claimed by effective, influential leaders.
FT: How would Christianity in America look different if church leaders adopted the principles outlined in "Forward"?
RF: We would see leaders who lead by truth and with trust instead of only by style and a smile. I also believe we would see leaders with a multi-generational appeal, going beyond the interests of their own generation.
A forward-looking leader will have to be culturally sensitive, aware of different ethnicities and practices. Failing to do so could be very costly.
And we would have leaders who are motivated by compassion. They would be able to see what others see, hear what others hear and feel what others feel. The personal price can be high, but the return is worth it.
I believe these marks can equip leaders of all ages, ethnicities and vocations to seize the future before them.
FT: What's it like being a ministry leader and a husband and father? How do you balance the two?
RF: Leaders have to be driven by their priorities, not by their preferences. Besides my daily walk with Christ, my family has always been the next priority. I practiced this when my kids lived at home and still do in my marriage. And I attempt to make my six grandchildren a priority, too.
I have chosen to say no to lesser things in order to say yes to the right things. This is what future leaders do when they lead by their priorities.
FT: How do you envision pastors embracing these lessons?
I believe pastors who read this book with openness and a willingness to change can take away several things that can improve their leadership and expand their Kingdom influence across the globe.
I believe we settle for the status quo too often. Even some of us who have been entrusted with leading larger churches and organizations lead too small at times, limiting our influence and impact. …
I really believe when a pastor implements a few of these principles, church members will be thinking: Our pastor is growing in his leadership. You see, even after someone has been at the same church for as long as I have, 28 years, you want your people to be able to say this about you.