Leading Change
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What’s Great for the Masses Can Be a Hindrance for Leaders

Steve Blank, a lifetime entrepreneur and Professor at recently blogged about his visit to Finland and the start-up culture in the country. 

“What makes Finland such a wonderful place to live and raise a family may ultimately be what kills it as a startup hub. There’s a safety net in almost every part of one’s public and private life – health insurance, free college tuition, unions, collective bargaining, fixed work hours, etc. And what’s great for the mass of society – a government safety net verging on the ultimate nanny state – makes it impossible to fail.

stone wall

For entrepreneurs failure is a crucial ingredient for success–failure fuels learning and drives innovative thinking. If it’s impossible to fail then it’s impossible to develop significantly innovative products and models that are different enough from the main stream solutions to lead to disruptive change.

The challenge for growing ministries is to create stable and safe programs and activities to encourage the masses while still providing disruptive and innovative places for leaders to step out boldly in faith and grow in their capacity to tolerate failure.

Often times “healthy” and “growing” ministries will repel the very leaders that they need to transition to the next stage of growth, especially when the majority of opportunities to serve are focused on maintaining rather than challenging the status quo. Even worse, the masses have no idea they are creating a culture that’s hostile to entrepreneurial leaders, which leads to a lack of sympathy and understanding on both sides, further isolating the entrepreneur and establishing the masses.

These patterns can be broken from both the top and the ground:

From the Top:

  • Executive leaders must continue to soften the masses to healthy, redemptive, and future focused change. This is a significant challenge since the masses far outnumber the leaders, and significantly outnumber the entrepreneur.
  • Resources (time, money, and expertise) must be specifically allocated towards programs or activities that develop and allow entrepreneurial leaders to emerge.

From the Ground

  • Entrepreneurs must lead without a title.
  • Take the time to serve in maintenance roles in order to establish credibility and build trust. Although most entrepreneurs see little or no value in existing and stable operations, the masses and executives do. Consider how to apply entrepreneurial giftings towards existing programs and new ventures. Entrepreneurs enjoy starting new projects but often times the best way to see new ventures happen in a ministry context is by investing time growing an existing program.

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