5 Essentials for Those who will Shape the Future


Andy Stanley

Multnomah Publishers, 2003, 161 pp



Like his father, Stanley is an excellent communicator.  A natural leader from his youth, he now leads a church of 12,000 in North Atlanta.  In this brief, nugget-rich book he distills the necessary qualities of tomorrow’s leader to five areas:  competence, courage, clarity, coaching, and character.



Accomplish more by doing less.  Working within your giftedness accomplishes more than working more hours.  Avoid being driven by needs.  “Only do what only you can do.”  Ask what “success” is for the person in your position.  Focus and leverage your energies where you will excel and where you will add the greatest value to the organization.  Work within your core competencies.  Play to your strengths and delegate your weaknesses.  Narrow down what you must do.   “The secret of concentration is elimination.” (Howard Hendricks)  What would it “not be right” for you to keep on doing?  (17-33) 


“Devoting a little of yourself to everything means committing a great deal of yourself to nothing.”  “There is no necessary correlation between how busy you are and how productive you are.” (34)  Increase the proportion of your time on the few things that produce the most benefit. 


Discover your core competencies in three ways.  One, ask yourself some questions such as, “What do you do that is almost effortless from your perspective but seems like a daunting task to others?” or “What do you do that elicits the most praise and recognition from others?”  (36)


Two, ask a couple of people who know you well to answer a few questions, such as, “If I came to work for you for free, where would you want me to focus my attention?”  or “If you had an opportunity to advise my boss on how to better utilize me, what would your advice be?”  (37)


Three, write your ideal job description with special attention to the kind of environment and the kind of responsibilities where you would thrive.  (40-1)


Help the leaders in your organization discover their competencies and delegate accordingly.  (42)



Leaders love progress.  Progress requires change.  Organizations resist change.  Leaders look at what could be and have the courage to act on what they see.  “Courage establishes leadership.”  “If the pathway to the future were well lit, it would be crowded.” (49-53)


Leaders’ regrets often reflect missed opportunities more than risks taken. (55)


When leaders tell their stories you hear more about seizing opportunities, often surprise opportunities, more than you hear planning and goal setting.  (60)


“There is a difference between acting courageously and carelessly.”  Courage requires both confidence and caution.  Fear often comes disguised as caution.  “Careful is fueled by information; fearful is fueled by imagination.” (61-3)


Don’t retreat for lack of money.  “Capital follows courage, and what always precedes how.” “Don’t let how intimidate you.” (67-8)


Courage is expressed in three ways:

1. The courage to say no.  “Opportunity does not equal obligation.” (Mike Nappa)  Don’t let many good opportunities spoil your chance at one great one.  Choose opportunities carefully.  (69-71)


2. Face reality.  “An accurate, insightful view of current reality is as important as a clear vision.”  Leaders want and need to see things as good so many are tempted to “put a positive spin on everything imaginable, while ignoring evidence to the contrary.”  “Be relentless in your quest to know the truth about what is happening around you.”  (69-72)


“Designing and implementing a strategy for change is a waste of time until you have discovered and embraced the current reality.  If you don’t know where you really are, it is impossible to get to where you need to be.”  “Leadership does not begin just with vision.  It begins with getting people to confront the brutal facts and act on the implications.”  (73)


3.  Courage to dream.  Dream often.  Dream big.  (74-5)



Uncertainty never goes away.  “Uncertainty is not an indication of poor leadership; it underscores the need for leadership.” (79)  Develop the art of being clear in the face of uncertainty, of giving explicit and precise direction in spite of limited information. (80)  The higher the level of leadership the more uncertainty there will be.  The tension is negotiating uncertain terrain while casting a clear and compelling vision.  (86)  We cannot afford to be unclear. (88)


“Saying ‘I don’t know’ when you don’t know is a sign of good leadership.  Pretending to know when you don’t know is a sign of insecurity.” (94)  Seek wise counsel.  (95)


“The leader who refuses to scrap or revise his plan rarely reaches his destination.” (96)  Change plans as needed in order to progress toward the vision.



“I believe providing feedback is the most cost-effective strategy for improving performance and instilling satisfaction.” (Ken Blanchard, 103)


You may be good, but you won’t be your best without coaching.  Age and experience may confirm us in a rut rather than making us better.  (104-5)


Counseling resolves past issues; coaching deals with the future.  Consulting is for specific problems; coaching enhances performance.  Coaching is all of mentoring but is more proactive with on-site watching. (108-9)


“Great leaders are great learners.  But learning assumes an attitude of submission.”  “If you are not teachable, you are not coachable.”  You must submit to the counsel of others.  “Wisdom seeks counsel.”  (110-11)


People don’t follow rulers; they follow leaders.  (115)


A leadership coach observes, instructs, and inspires.  The coach must be in a position to watch you lead.  Most bosses reward and reprimand instead of coaching.  Good leadership coaches are teachers.  Coaches often tell their own stories to illustrate key truths. (119-121)


To help, coaches may need to be brutally honest.  “The painful truth is the fast track to increased performance.” Good coaches instill a mental image of what you could be as a leader.  (122) 


Potential coaches often feel unqualified.  So to get one started involved ask the individual to observe a specific facet of your leadership and give you their opinion. (124)



“You can lead without character.  But character is what makes you a leader worth following.” (131)  “Your character will determine your legacy.”  The number one characteristic employees desire in leaders is honesty. (132)


Character is the will to do what’s right, not to avoid the consequences but because it’s right, even when it’s hard, regardless of the cost.  “Virtue is not a means to an end.  It is the end.” (133-8)  “Predeciding to do what’s right will cost you…time, money and opportunity.  It may negatively impact your reputation…at least for the short term.  It may actually be an obstacle on your career path.” (136)


“It is on the mountaintop that leaders often abandon the convictions and humility that got them there.” (136) 


“What hangs in the balance is your moral authority.” (139)  “Inconsistency between what is said and done inflicts a mortal wound on a leader’s influence.” (140)  “To be a leader worth following there must be alignment between the values you preach to your organization and the values you live out in every facet of your life.” (141)


“Doing the right thing when it costs something is the essence of true heroism.” (142)


“There is never a reason to violate the principles of God in order to maintain the blessing of God.” (148)


“Talented, charismatic, visionary people will almost always have a following.  Whether they are worth following is a different question….” (151)


“There is no cramming for a test of character.  It always comes as a pop quiz.” (153)


“Have you determined what you want to become?” (154)


“Ultimately, success is defined in terms of who you are and how you treat the people around you.” (155)


Accountability.  “Better to expose my weaknesses early to a handful of people who loved me than to run the risk of being exposed publicly to people who couldn’t care less.”  (157)  What is your biggest temptation?  Who have you told? (159)


“Your character is reflected in every decision you make and every relationship you establish.” (157)


“Your legacy will be reflected in the live you influence and the leaders who follow in your footsteps.” (162)