“In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.  I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.” – LeBron James

On Friday, June 11th Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins posted a letter from LeBron James announcing his return to the hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.  To say James is a high-capacity leader, a high-capacity performer, a high-capacity influencer and high-capacity giver is a gross understatement.

Pastors, while you may not have LeBron James in your church, you do have high-capacity leaders and James’ essay gives you great insight into how these type of individuals think.  The following are 21 Lessons Pastors Can Learn From LeBron James About How Your Church’s Top Leaders Think.  I will give my thoughts on each item followed by the James’ quote from his announcement.

  1. Your Church’s Top Leaders Remember The Sacrifices They Made To Become Successful – Struggle is necessary for strength.  “Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son.”
  2. Your Church’s Top Leaders Want To Make A Difference In The Lives Of Others – Top leaders have matured and no longer care about titles, positions or parking spaces.  They want to make a difference.  “I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can.”
  3. Your Church’s Top Leaders Think Big Picture – High-capacity leaders must see how their efforts help make a larger vision become reality.  “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball.”
  4. Your Church’s Top Leaders Have The Courage To Make Hard Decisions – There are perks to leadership and there is a price to leadership.  One price leaders must be willing to pay is hard and unpopular decisions.  “I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating.”
  5. Your Church’s Top Leaders Learned From Their Mistakes – Leaders cannot be afraid to fail.  They must simply be willing to learn from their failures.  “If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently.”
  6. Your Church’s Top Leaders Are Grateful To Those Who Have Invested In Them – Top leaders know they did not get to where they are without the help of others.  They are deeply grateful and remember fondly those who helped them along the way.  “These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home.”
  7. Your Church’s Top Leaders Desperately Long For Authentic Relationships –  Top leaders are collaborators.  They want to serve in the context of community.  Many are actually lonely.  Your top leaders want meaningful friendships.  “I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to Rio. I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that’s exactly what we did!…We are brothers for life.”
  8.  Your Church’s Top Leaders Want To Control Their Own Message – The internet and social media has provided top leaders an ability to become their own media outlet.  “I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted.”
  9. Your Church’s Top Leaders Desire Influence, Not Attention Or Position – Top leaders do not want a position.  They want influence.  “I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.”
  10. Your Church’s Top Leaders Focus On Accomplishment – Smart pastors create opportunities for high-capacity leaders to accomplish something INSIDE their church rather than forcing them to seek those opportunities OUTSIDE the church.  “When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two…My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”
  11. Your Church’s Top Leaders Are Deeply Loyal – Leaders understand the importance of investment.  What they have invested their time, financial resources and life in matters deeply to them.  “I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there…I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland.”
  12. Your Church’s Top Leaders Are Most Influenced By Their Family – When dealing with top leaders, always remember how important decisions will impact the leader’s spouse and children.  In our household, if you win over Sonya and Anna Dodd, you have won over Brian Dodd.  “To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom.”
  13. Your Church’s Top Leaders Do Not Burn Bridges.  They Build Them. – Great leaders put the success of the organization over their personal feelings and understand the importance of long-lasting relationships.  “I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?”
  14. Your Church’s Top Leaders Want To Know If Projects And Initiatives Are Actually Achievable –  Your top leaders deal in reality, not fantasy.  Commitment will be low if they feel projects or initiatives are not achievable. “I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way.”
  15. Your Church’s Top Leaders Want To Invest In Next Generation Leaders – Few things excite leaders like the opportunity to invest in other leaders, especially younger one.  “I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters.”
  16. Your Church’s Top Leaders Will Passionately Own The Results – Your top leaders will take their responsibilities seriously.  So give them tasks worthy of them getting involved with.  “I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously.”
  17. Your Church’s Top Leaders Want To Impacting As Many People As Possible – Making an impact in a single life is important and cannot be discounted.  However, top leaders want to impact large numbers of people.  “I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up.”
  18. Your Church’s Top Leaders Care About Leaving A Lasting Legacy – Top leaders care about their legacy.  They want to accomplish something great with their lives and are intentional about it. “Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business…Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.”
  19. Your Church’s Top Leaders Are Attracted To Big Vision – Churches with a big vision attract top leaders.  Churches with a small vision do not attract top leaders.  “In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.  I’m ready to accept the challenge.”
  20. Your Church’s Top Leaders Love Your Church – “I’m coming home.”
  21. Your Church’s Top Leaders Want To Be Appreciated And Loved – Pastors, LeBron is idolized in Cleveland.  Now you don’t want to go as far as idolatry but you do want to prioritize thanking and showing appreciation to your top givers, your top volunteers and the top leaders in church?  Be aware, if you do not consistently show appreciation, they may return to their own Cleveland – a place where they are loved.

Pastors and church leaders, which of these lessons resonated the most with you?

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