Are You Leading at the 30,000 Foot Level?

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Are You Leading at the 30,000 Foot Level?

July 19, 2013

Are You Leading at the 30,000 Foot Level or Are You in the Weeds?

Are You Doing More, but Leading Less?

Do you find yourself doing more, working harder, and at the same time feeling less energized and satisfied with your ministry life? Successful leaders need to consistently cruise at the 30,000- foot level, taking the high view of the organization and its needs. Because successful leaders are results-driven and demonstrate a strong work ethic, it is common for a leader to become absorbed with management details rather than big picture vision and direction. If you are struggling with trying to accomplish more, but instinctively know you are leading less, then it’s time for a course correction.


Periodically I find it important to take a timeout and look at my work style and my work patterns. Today, we are faced with instant interruptions; and some of those communications are valuable and some are in fact a great distraction and harmful to focus-driven results. In order to take a closer look at your work style you need to do two things.


Two Ways to Examine Your Leadership Style


  1. Re-establish focus on the main thing.


  1. Evaluate critically if your work style is encouraging activity that is leader generated or producing work that is reactive and time consuming.


It is important to periodically refocus on the main thing. What is it you need to focus on to accomplish the larger mission and vision? You are in the driver’s seat and actually have much more freedom in the work environment than you think to choose and carry out major goals. I find it necessary to weekly create a “focus list” of eight to 10 items that are critical to achieve major organizational goals and keep moving the organization forward on its course to fulfill its mission and vision.


I recommend three steps for maintaining a vibrant focus list to keep you focused on the “main thing.”


Three Steps for Maintaining a Leader-Driven Focus List


  1. Build a focus list consistent with major organizational goals.
  2. Reflect weekly to update and edit your focus list.
  3. Occasionally take time to make sure your focus list reflects the “big picture” and does not include items that are too low on the organizational ladder.


Taking time to critically evaluate your work habits and patterns can also help you make sure you are spending your energy and time achieving results related to the main thing.


The following seven items serve as a checklist to make sure you are operating as a true leader at the 30,000- foot level and not gradually getting into task and project management and failing to set direction and vision for the team. You can place your energy in leading, which takes a committed and deliberate effort, or you can take the easy path, which focuses on details and completion and fails to rally those around you.


Checklist for Leading at the 30,000-Foot Level


  1. Spend less time on the to do list and more time in prayer.
  2. Spend less time on preparation and more time on spontaneous action.
  3. Become less self-reliant and more open to God’s leading and power.
  4. Spend less time on political strategy to maneuver and gain approval and acceptance for projects and more time on vision casting and idea generation.
  5. Spend less time alone to get projects done and more time involving the team to do the work, and benefit from the team dynamics and satisfaction of timely completion of projects.
  6. Offer less constructive criticism and instead more positive energy to ignite and multiply positive, results-oriented behavior.
  7. Offer less politically correct talk; instead, offer more direct communication to “tell it like it is.”

We make choices as leaders. We can either choose to lead and ignite others for team action. Or, we can bury our head in the sand by focusing on details that may satisfy a personal need to accomplish, but doesn’t unite others and help them achieve and contribute.


Time spent leading will have positive benefits for the organization and its people. Taking the leadership role and leading at the 30,000-foot level does two basic things: moves the organization forward and actually focuses our leadership on the people around us. Maintaining a high level of leadership to reach organizational goals will transform your thinking from the “to do” list, and instead, to the development and use of people to achieve organizational success.


If we make a commitment to lead, it should transform our work style and refocus our priorities; and then, you will find that energizing others is time well spent for the betterment of others and the organization.