8 Secrets to How to Lead & Still Have a Life


H. Dale Burke

Harvest House, 2004, 239 pp.   ISBN 0-7369-1399-8


Burke is successor to Charles Swindoll as senior pastor of Fullerton Evangelical Free Church.  He also does “Less is More” seminars for pastors and business professionals.  This book is important because of his focus on the heart of a leader, the inner core of spirituality – one clear voice, uncompromised core values, a compelling vision from God.  “Life is always lived from the inside out.”


“May there be less of me, and more of You, in all my life and leadership.”



       The Inner Ring—The Heart of the Leader – Convictions & Servant-leadership

       The Middle ring – Imagination, Mobilization, Specialization, Innovation

       The Outer Ring – Execution – Concentration, Determination


Every leader’s dilemma is feeling like someone caught your leash in the car door and took off – running for your life.  (11) There’s a better way.  “We were created to work, but we were also created to rest, to relate, and to walk with God.”  “I work for a ‘branch of a global enterprise’ ... whose mission is to change the world....” (17)  “Jesus Christ is the ultimate model for leadership with a life.” (19)


“People have higher expectations than ever before—in both the business world and in churches.” (29)


“When Jesus picked His firs followers, He was choosing the leadership team who would launch the church.  These small groups of men and women were to lead the charge to plant the church not just locally, but globally.  Global outreach and growth was, and remains today, a key component of the mission and mandate for the church.”  His instructions:  “...whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26) (31)


The tension of a servant leader: “Followers want comfort, stability, and solutions from their leaders, but that’s babysitting.  Real leaders ask hard questions and knock people out of their comfort zones and then manage the resulting distress.”  (32, quoting Harvard Business Review)


“Growth produces more work.” (38)  “Health leads to success.  Success produces more ‘stuff.’  Stuff requires more management.  The leader is distracted from his ‘main thing.’  The leader hits his or her overload zone.” (39)


“...God wants you, the leader, to maximize whatever resources he has entrusted to you—for your benefit, for the good of the lives you influence and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.” (41)


Less is More Leadership is God-centered, proactive, adaptive (vs. static), doable (vs. just ideas), and a philosophy of life including both growth and health.  (43)


The Inner Ring: The Heart of the Leader

“Great organizations are built on great leadership.”  Begin with the heart, “for from it flow the springs of life” (47, quoting Proverbs 4:23)  “Life is always lived from the inside out.” 


“First, spirituality—the power of convictions stabilizes the leader at the core of life, strengthening character and providing the moral guidance so necessary for great leadership....”  “...simplify the life of the leader by focusing on fewer people to please, a few core values to protect, and a clear vision to pursue.  Life is now coming into focus.”  (47-8)


“How, in practical terms, do I bring Him into all I do as a leader?”  “No man can serve two masters....” (52)  “Your relationship with Him ... at the center of your leadership paradigm ... will simplify your life. (53)


“The secret to being effective in the now is staying connected to what is eternal.” (55)


The voice, vision, and values of God “transcend who you are as a person, they transcend the it, your organization or ministry, and they even transcend the now, the demands of your culture or times.” (57)


“Rather than turn to contemporary culture, I need to go to the eternal principles of Scripture so that I hear God’s voice, picture God’s vision, and adopt God’s values for this...church.” (57)


One clear voice will provide a guide heard over conflicting opinions.  Clear core values (nonnegotiables) will guide you whether you are helped or hurt in the marketplace.  A clear and compelling vision, anchored in eternal principles, will be forever relevant.  (57-8)


Steps to listening for God’s voice: daily time with God, memorizing key verses on life and leadership, weekly time in worship with expectation, weekly meetings of friends committed to integrating God’s values into all of life, monthly refocus times, annually retreats for rest, reflection, and relaxation with God. (61)


“Remember, God sees both the global and the eternal consequences of every decision you make.” (63)


Core values are “the Master’s eternal guidelines on how to do business, ... convictions you will not abandon even if they threaten your success.” (63)  [They] “will help protect you whenever you face the temptation to compromise.” (64)


A compelling vision is “the big picture of your life, ...you at the finish line of life, ...the man or woman God wants you to be.”  (65)


The second half of the Great Commandment – and the second half of great leadership – is about relationships.  “Relationships are important so we must guard them and make them the best they can be.” “Don’t place business or ministry ahead of people.” (67-8)


“Jesus said whoever wanted to be a great leader needed to be a servant.  Serving others in humility does not lower one’s leadership potential: it actually increases it!  “Less ‘me’ in my leadership makes me more of a leader.  Less is more!” (71)  “Humility is at the core of great leadership.” (73)


A great leader, in good times, goes to the window (looks out at the team and shares the success), and in bad times, goes to the mirror (and accepts responsibility). (74-5 referring to James Collins)


“People are drawn toward and stick like glue to humble leaders.” (79)  “The message you want to send as a church or a business is, ‘I’m here to serve you, not use you.’” (81)


Pride blames others and denies the obvious, becomes defensive and rigid, results in low morale, high turnover, and mediocrity, and becomes out-of-touch and overworked.  (82-3)


Five basic phrases:  Hello, Please, Thank you, Can I help?, I’m sorry. (83)


Listening to others helps you see your weak points and brings accountability to your life. (88)  “Find someone who can give you honest feedback, and be willing to listen.” (89)


The Middle Ring: The Heart of Leadership

The four disciplines: Imagination unleashes the power of vision.  Mobilization lightens the load.  Specialization taps the power of unique abilities.  Innovation harnesses creativity. (97-8)


The three vision questions:  Where are we going?  How do we plan to get there?  Why bother (is it worth the cost)?  (104)


The vision cycle:  1. Assess the past against the mission.  2. Envision the future. Challenge your leadership team to write a description of five years from now.  3. Adjust the present. What needs to change to get us moving?  “Remember to off-load before you reload...” (118)


Mobilizing others and letting go is the “lead more, manage less” principle. When you release leadership to others, you actually increase your leadership potential.  (2 Tim 2:2) (125) “Lead others now only into service but into leadership.” (126)


“Let them dream with you.”  “They are much more likely to get excited and help lead.”  “Let them do it.”  “Let them go.”  “Be their cheerleader ...and turn them loose.” When someone else can do it 80% as well as you, let them do it. (128)  “Keep your eyes and ears open for latent leaders disguised as humble servants or managers.” (132)


Lead from your strengths, your “main things”.  To accomplish more, do less.  “You will serve your people best when you lead from your unique abilities.” Specialization means doing more of your best stuff instead of just stuff. (144-45) Instead of growing your circle of activities, shift your personal roles and responsibilities toward your zone of unique abilities. (151) Move more of your time and energy toward the center of your target.  Less is really more. (157)


“Mr. Status Quo chairs most boards....” (161)  “Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.” (163 quoting James Collins)  Status quo leaders “have too little compassion and too much contentment.  “The future belongs to the leader or organization that learns the art of flexing their forms without forgetting their core values.” (165)


“The real goal for twenty-first-century leaders should be to foster a culture of innovation that encourages and rewards creativity even when everything  seems to be just fine.” (166)


“Innovation requires thinking and thinking requires time.” (168 quoting Margaret Wheatley)


Four innovation questions: Me? (personal question), It? (structural question), Us? (relational question), Ah!? (strategic question).  Start with self: It’s time to change me.  (169)


Who am I spending my time with?  Meet new people; discover new mentors.  Reserve some relational space for people who can stretch you. (172)


“Is there one strategic initiative that, if we were to accomplish it, would take us to the next level?” (172) 


Time to think includes: Rest - Sabbath rest time, Results - blocks of undistracted time to concentrate on your “main thing,” Response - blocks of time dedicated to the needs of others, and Refocus – half or full days for assessing, evaluating, and adjusting your plan.  (179)


“Guard your core vision and values with a passion.” (183)


“The need to learn to juggle various demands is a fact of leadership.”  “Jugglers begin by choosing what they are going to juggle.”  “The demands of leadership are best juggled one type at a time.”  The four types:

·        Rest (your health, spirituality and marriage),

·        Results (the ‘main things’ that advance the mission),

·        Response (cleaning up and following up your ‘stuff’),

·        Refocus (adjusting what and how you should juggle).  (195-96)


Plan your week in larger chunks, like half days.  Arrange your week in terms of the four kinds of activities so you can tackle related activities together.   (197)


Sabbath days off are essential, a full 24 hours.  When you rest, really rest.  “And when you get away to refocus, allow yourself plenty of time to listen to God, reflect, and rethink how you want to approach the coming week, month, or year.  But during your refocus time, leave the cell phone at home, or at least out of sight!” (198)


What is your priority short list, the one, two, or three top priority items that trump everything else?  “My number one thing is my weekly teaching of the Scriptures.”  “I jealously guard most of my Wednesday, every Thursday morning, and every Friday morning for prayer, study, and prep time.” “Time with my leadership team of six and my larger staff of 27 is my second priority.” (205)


Refocus weekly, monthly, and annually.  (209)


An essential trait: determination, resolve, perseverance.  Hope is leadership hardiness, resilience, persistence. (216, 218) “There is a fine line between the impotency of hype and the power of hope.” (221)


“Spirituality is the foundation.  Make Christ your one Master and listen to His voice, follow His values, and pursue His vision.” (234)