By Rob Jacobs
McDonald’s, wanting to increase the sales of their milkshakes, hired researchers to help them determine the characteristics the customers seemed to care about the most. They wondered should they make the shakes sweeter, or thicker, etc.
The researchers observed customers buying shakes and realized something strange. Many customers weren’t buying them as a dessert item to go along with a meal as most might assume, but rather these customers were buying a single shake in the morning.
Seems customers, who were on the morning commute to work, were buying shakes to drink for breakfast. McDonald’s had never thought of shakes that way, so it was surprising to them. McDonald’s had “hired” their shakes to do the job of a dessert item, but many customers had “hired” the shakes to do the job of an easy to drink breakfast.
The key to understanding what was going on was to stop viewing the product in isolation or your understanding and notions of what it was “hired to do”, and instead look to what the customers had actually “hired it to do.”
And, just like the milkshake, there may be a gap between what you need leadership to do and what the organization demands of leadership. Leadership has been “hired” to do a job as well. Organizational leaders (people) “hire” leadership to do certain things, but the organization’s culture, realities, pressures, circumstances, and unstated expectations may have “hired” leadership to something very different.
The leaders “hired” the leadership to cast vision.
The organization hired leadership to execute someone else’s vision.
The leaders “hired” leadership to stand out front.
The organizational realities “hired” leadership to serve from behind.
The leaders “hired” leadership to direct and command people.
The culture hired the leadership to develop people.
The leaders “hired” leadership to grow people.
The organizational pressures hired leadership to grow programs.
The leaders “hired” leadership to move fast
The unspoken expectations “hired” leadership to move slow.
The leaders “hired” leadership to celebrate the inculcate positive values.
The organization “hired” leadership to ignore values in pursuit of results.
The leaders “hired” leadership to maintain the status quo.
The circumstances “hired” leadership to innovate and act as a change agent.
While we “hire” leadership to accomplish something the organizational culture, realities, pressures, and circumstances also “hire” leadership to achieve something too–often something very different.
Organizational leaders would do well to understand the powerful social and cultural impact organizational realities have on leadership.
Failing to understand these gaps partially explains why so many pastors and ministry leaders burn out. Addressing leadership issues without addressing organizational issues of culture, circumstances, pressures, realities, unstated expectations, etc. creates a gap…and too many leaders end up falling lost into the gap.
The gap often looks like a difference between how success is measured. What leaders “hire” leadership to do and what the organizational realities, culture, pressure, and circumstances “hire” leadership to do often creates difficulties in what is measured. If the metrics used to judge people, do not take into account the realities in which these people lead, a gap will inevitably open.
When you “hire” leadership … remember, the organization along with its culture, pressures, unstated expectations, and circumstances is “hiring” them too.
Rob Jacobs is the Pastor of Spiritual Maturity for Saddleback Church. He is responsible for leading and overseeing discipleship processes and programs, leadership development, and leadership development programs.